By Mel Aanerud

Former Assistant District Director of the United States Small Business Administration

Home based business: a thing of the past; a thing of the future

Home based work is the fastest growing segment of our economy, with an annual growth rate of 10% a year.  In 2016 more that 24% of working America were working at home.

When we think about it however, this is only a return to society as it once was.  Until about 100 years ago, nearly everyone worked at home. We have always had farmers, craftspeople, and child care that were done at home. The family lived next to the blacksmith shop and over the bakery.  Work was just another family activity. It was the industrial revolution that produced the physical segmentation of home and workplace.

With changes in technology and changes in our definition of work, we have come full circle, and the trend seems to point to a majority again being able to work from home. The artificial boundaries erected between life and work may be disappearing.  Work is not the place you have to go to earn enough to live.  Living and work can be rejoined.  Working at home is not just another way to make a living, but includes important quality of life issues as well as economic sustainability.

Home based work can still be working for someone else.

With a computer and communication connection in your home, how many people could do their job just as well from home as from a cubicle?

Home based work can be self-employment or selling the service a person now provide from a cubicle to the business one works for now and/or to any number of other companies.  There are advantages and disadvantages. This is your opportunity to strike down those boundaries between work and home, making your living and living your life at the same time.

The advantages, of course are a person’s ability to establish his/her own workday and intersperse it with other at-home activities.  This is integrating work, family and community.

The disadvantages, and these must be considered as important, are taking responsibility for a persons own benefits; these including social security, taxes and health insurance.  Also one should not discount the value of the social interaction that the workplace gives that might not obtained at home.  It should not be looked upon simply as a solution to childcare.

Public institutions need to change to keep up with this change in society.

As collateral based lenders, banks are still trying to cope with dot-com companies and how to lend them capital when there is little or no collateral.  Home based businesses provide a whole new set of challenges in getting capital to these very small businesses.  The growth of micro-loan programs assist in this problem, but the final solution will have to come from the established lending community.

How do people, who work at home, get the necessary training to keep up as the business community changes?

Community Education and community colleges have taken major steps in these areas, but they need to continually re-evaluate what this new market requires.

Home design, local-zoning regulations and taxing authorities have to keep pace with this trend.

The concept that if government gives tax credits to large corporations, they will invest it to provide more and better jobs does not play to this new economy.  What kind of economic development programs will government need to provide for those who will be working at home as they provide a greater share of the gross national product and the tax base?

Those who want to work at home need to beware of those “get rich quick”, “make more money at home” schemes.

Every new and changing economic trend will attract a certain number of scam artists who will make money off those who wanted the new work-style, but did not invest the time and energy to ensure that the work they were getting into was legitimate or for that matter legal.  Government must help protect those who are taken and must prosecute those who do the taking.  The important thing is that if a person who wishes to work from home finds themselves in a situation that is questionable, report it to the Attorney General.  There is no embarrassment, and the next person may be saved from the same trouble.

Any idea presented by others that allows one to work at home should be checked out with someone.  The Better Business Bureau knows about business opportunities that may not reputable.  If one is trying to figure out how to sell the talents already possessed, contact SCORE, the Business Planning Center or some other business counseling service. Talk over the ideas with someone who has had business experience and/or find the information that will help in making good choices.

The proof that this is an important new trend is obvious;

on the World Wide Web companies are pitching their concept of home based work.  Gather the best information one can, but don’t make commitments ‘on line’ until there is some assurance that those ‘opportunities’ are the good and legal.

Working at home, the reintegration of home, family, community and work is a wonderful idea and may be the biggest economic trend of our time.  But like any change it can be beneficial or not, depending upon the amount of time and study a person puts into it.