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Sometimes businesses at trade shows would snub Renae Christine when they found out her company was run out of her home. "They were only interested in brick and mortar businesses," she says.
But that was in 2006, pre-recession, and with the recovering economy she has seen a shift in attitudes. So many people have since been interested in how she built a six-figure-income business in her home that she began to teach people how to set up a home business. She did it first in the blog RichMomBusiness.com in 2012, and now it has expanded into her primary at-home business.
In addition to the surge in interest in her success, a divorce in 2013 that hit her "like a semi-truck" she says, left her scared and concerned about how she was going to support herself and her three girls 4, 5 and 10 years old. "Suddenly I had to really practice what I preach," she says. "I asked myself, 'Can I really support us from home?’ ”
Like many other people across the country, Christine found that she can make enough money with an at-home business. The Bureau of Labor estimates there are 18.3 million home-based businesses in the United States. Other estimates place that number near 38 million, according to the Department of State's Family Liaison Office.
But deciding to start a home-based business isn't a choice without consequences and compromise. There may be feelings of doubt and guilt. But Christine and others say there are also compensating benefits of freedom, flexibility and even more money.
One of the more obvious reasons for working from home is the ability to be there for children. "My kids are the reason I work from home," says Orit Pennington, a stay-at-home mom who is also the stay-at-home owner of TPGTEX Label Solutions, a company that helps produce labels and bar codes for specific markets.
"I raised four kids working from home," she says. "I could go to their school activities, stay home with a sick child, etc."
Joshua Steimle agrees with Pennington's sentiments. Steimle runs his Web search engine optimization business, MWI, from his home in Salt Lake City and loves being able to see his kids grow up. "I get to eat lunch with them and interact with them throughout the day," he says. "And every day I realize that this is something most dads don't get to do, and they're missing out on so many amazing moments."
Steimle also says that because working at an office can have a lot of interruptions that he tends to be two to three times more productive at home. Pennington likes how she can be in control of her own destiny. "No one can tell me how to run my business, when to work more or less," she says. "I love that."
There are also more measurable perks, according to Andrew Thompson who runs a business training company, Peak Performance Inc., from his home in Chicago. "Overhead costs are minimized when running a business out of your home," he says. "There is no additional expenses for office space, utilities or gas for travel. We've even saved money on taxes with additional deductions."
But working from home also brings its challenges.
Although flexibility may be a benefit of a home-based business for some people, Renae Christine says that running a business can take a lot of time. Every other activity — such as volunteering at a child's school — has an opportunity cost attached to it. "If I said yes to that, I am saying no to part of my income for my kids," Christine says.
In her business that shows people how to set up home businesses, Christine says the biggest obstacle to making them work is doubt — especially among mothers. "Moms feel business and kids don't mix," she says. "Moms have a really hard time believing in themselves. And if you don't believe you can, you can't."
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