Developing a way to make money without having to work outside of the home is a great way for families to allow one–or sometimes both–parents to stay at home with the children and still provide financially. Some home businesses can operate in addition to having a job away from home. This can generate some extra income now and later grow to be a full-time career. The idea of working from home may bring to mind images of kitchen table board meetings and video gaming breaks but planning and implementing a work-at-home business should be taken very seriously. “So how do I start a home business,” you ask? Well, the process of starting a business from home is very similar to starting any small business. Here are my eight steps to start a business from home. 1.) Find Your Niche What talents or gifts do you possess? Have you created a unique product or an in-demand service? Start with your background, expertise and training to find your niche. You can learn what you can on a topic, to become an expert, or start with something you already know how to do and figure out a way to make it marketable. 2.) Make Plans There are three very important set of plans all home businesses should create. First, create a life plan. With your family, determine how the business will fit into your everyday lives. Otherwise, separating work and family time can become complicated. Next, write a business plan. While this is necessary for any financial institution, a business plan should be created for a work-at-home business whether funding is needed or not. The feasibility—or lack of—a home business can often be determined through the development of a business plan. Another important piece of starting a business from home is the marketing plan. This document will act as a guide to all your promotional efforts. Without a solid marketing plan, how will anyone know about your business? 3.) Legalize It A home business is still a legitimate business and should be treated as such to avoid legal problems. Business licenses, bank accounts, liability insurance, tax identification numbers and other formalities should be sorted out before launching a business from home. Be sure to consult an accountant and/or a lawyer to protect you and your family, and keep in accordance with the law. 4.) Policies and Procedures While we’re still in the planning phase of starting a home business, now is the time to create a set of policies and procedures. This may sound like something a big business with several employees would need but having a well-documented manual for the daily operations will not only serve as a guideline for running the business, it will help you prepare you for issues before they arise. Hours of operation, pricing, payment methods, returns/refunds and special orders are just a few items to consider when creating a policy and procedure manual for your business. 5.) Network and Partner Up Operating a home business can be solitary work and networking is not only a great way to get out of the house, it can increase your exposure and help make contacts. Community events, small business training and a local Chamber of Commerce offer excellent networking opportunities. Networking with others in your industry can potentially open the door to future partnerships. When I say ‘partner’, I don’t mean someone who provides 50% of the work for 50% of the reward. A partnership in this sense is a type of business relationship—someone in a related field to help drive customers your way. For example, if you start a pet grooming business from your home, then developing a working relationship with the local vet is a great way to boost your business. 6.) Tell the World The greatest work-at-home business idea could see an early death because no one knows it exists. Word of mouth is an excellent marketing tool but until you are overrun with customers, you will need to invest time and/or money in various other marketing methods. Start with a professional-looking website, integrate it with various social media accounts and have an identity package created complete with logo, email signature, letterhead, business cards and any other necessary branding. Depending on your type of business, the number of marketing channels could be endless. Some will work, some won’t. Use the marketing plan you created during the business planning phase, along with a marketing calendar, to track promotions and events, as well as their effectiveness. The key is to find the most targeted method that will reach your customers for the lowest price and give the greatest return. 7.) Get to Work This may sound like Captain Obvious, but a critical step in starting a business from home is actually doing the work. Whatever service or product you offer, you must be able to provide it. Too many would-be entrepreneurs get caught up with trying to find the right people to partner with or become obsessed with marketing through social media that they forget to focus on what it is they actually do. Learn your craft. Practice it, refine and perfect it. Become an expert and share the results with the world, but keep the fruits of your labor coming. 8.) Give It Time If you have a viable plan and carry out the work, it’s likely the home-based business will become successful. But it takes time so don’t give up before you give it a chance. Have realistic expectations, work hard, be flexible, give it several months—or even years—to get going and most importantly, enjoy the ride. Are you thinking about starting a home-based business? What’s stopping you from working at home? Use the comment form below to join the discussion.