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I want to start a home-based business. What do I do?

For many of us, a home-based business seems like a solution to a host of problems. We can be home with the kids, sit at the computer in our sweats, avoid the cost of office or shop space, and have more control over our day. Yet there are pitfalls that an unwary business owner can fall into:

  • New Jersey planning and zoning regulations can throw a potential home-based business into a sea of unexpected costs and conflicts. Many of these regulations were developed long before personal computers changed the whole complexion of having a small business. These laws were meant to keep noisy, smelly, high-traffic activities out of residential neighborhoods. Yet today they are being applied across the board to quiet computer consultants as well as the noisy, smelly businesses.


  • If you are entertaining the idea of having a home-based business, contact your town or county planning and zoning department, depending upon whether you live within town limits or not. Contact them before you start the business, not after. They will tell you what the requirements are for a home-based business.


  • Having a home-based business can also bring you into contact with your county assessor's office. They will assess a tax on your business furniture and equipment. This may be triggered by a number of actions on your part, such as the request for a business telephone number.


  • You may choose to use a commercial box rental service for your business address, rather than the home address, to give a professional impression while protecting the privacy of your home. Most rental companies will let you put the box number as "#100" rather than "Box 100", implying that it might be an office suite. Make sure that the U. S. Postal Service and the box rental company will permit you to do this before getting your business stationery printed.


  • A special word of caution - if you are starting a home-based business in response to an advertisement about earning money at home, BEWARE!! Before you put any money on the line, contact the Federal Trade Commission for information on scams. Also, call your local Better Business Bureau. Please contact the NJ SBDC for further information. 


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