Small Biz Lady Brings Business Expertise to The Root

About the Money With Melinda Emerson: How to run a successful home-based business.

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Editor’s note: How many times in your life have you heard some version of the words “go get a job” from well-meaning parents, teachers, friends or spouses? But has anyone ever told you to “go start your own company”? Does that seem too scary, too tough or impractical? Yes, it can be hard. And yes, the prospect can be frightening. But whether it's a beauty salon, a mortgage company or an interior design business, ownership is an important block in building wealth and having something of value to pass on to the next generation.

Small businesses are also a major economic driver, accounting for about half of all the jobs in the private sector. With black unemployment still twice that of whites, one benefit of entrepreneurship is to grow our own jobs. Right now black-owned businesses are far off-pace with the population, accounting for less than 6 percent of all small businesses (pdf).

We asked nationally known small business expert Melinda Emerson to share her expertise with The Root's readers each week, with advice on how to start a business and strategies for surviving and thriving. Her column is called About the Money With Melinda Emerson.

Do you have the desire to run your dream business from home? If a life of kitchen-table lunches and conference calls in your pajamas sounds like what you’re looking for, then a home-based business could be the right move. Many folks think that building their own home-based business is the opportunity of a lifetime. We fall in love with the idea of being our own boss and setting our own schedule, but it’s a hard way to earn a living. Working at home means you need to be even more organized to build a successful business.

Every day, I see ads on the Internet and on Twitter: “How to make $1,000 a day from home” or “I made $671 today on Twitter, let me show you how.” There are a lot of so-called opportunities out there, but none of them will make you a fortune overnight. In fact, if someone tells you that, they are lying and just trying to get your enrollment fee in their program.

When I was a kid my father told me, “There are no free lunches. You get what you pay for.” In terms of business, his advice is still true. There are no legit get-rich-quick schemes. Do not be fooled. Home-based businesses are enterprises based on direct transactions, not just entities where checks start magically appearing in the mail.

Most of the self-made millionaires I know said it took five to 14 years for them to become successful. There are all kinds of multilevel marketing programs (MLM) out there, but beware of the business model that has more emphasis on signing other people up to sell, as opposed to selling an actual product.

Real thought is required to build a successful business, and much of it is needed before you ever open for business.

Develop a Life Plan

Have you really thought about what your life is going to be like as an entrepreneur? Will you work seven days a week, 14 hours a day? Do you have the energy to work like that? Do you have any competing priorities such as small kids or aging parents? Working all alone in your back bedroom or your basement behind a lonely PC could be a big adjustment. Isolation is the enemy of entrepreneurship. Working at home can also present a lot of distractions such TV-watching, noisy neighbors, personal calls phone, napping, chores, etc. How will you combat your environment?

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Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM