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Separating fact from fiction

Some SOHO fantasies do come true, but remember, it’s still a job. e-mail: Separating fact from fiction Some SOHO fantasies do come true, but remember, it’s still a job.

In this business, you either sink or swim or you don’t.
-David Smith

Last week I provided a snapshot of why most SOHOers like the freedom this kind of business life provides. As I hinted, my sudden conversion to SOHO surprised me not because of the differences from a corporate environment, but rather because of the similarities. This week, I want to follow that up with an exploration of some of the assumptions–some true, some not–about flying SOHO, for those readers contemplating career changes.

I can set my own hours. True, but they’d better be hours your clients can take advantage of to purchase your products and services. Picking a day during the week that your operation can close so you can be open on a weekend is half of a good idea. You can take off Tuesdays, if you like, but somebody should to be in the office or shop on that day to handle routine client inquiries.

I can dress any way I want. That’s true too, but if you interact with clients, you might want to leave the Marilyn Manson shirt at home (unless, of course, you’re in the rock and roll business). Some days, I write in my pajamas, but when I go to the big COMDEX show, I wear a jacket and tie. (One way I take the edge off this is by wearing ties that feature the late Charles Shulz’s Snoopy.

I can make a lot of money. The sky’s the limit for the SOHOer; there is nothing to hold anybody with a good idea back, and no smothering corporate structure to prevent you from success. Only a few years ago, Pierre Omidyar started eBay in his living room. In 2000, the site produced more than $430 million in revenue.

I can get away from all this paperwork. Maybe some day, but not now. The minute you hang out your shingle, you’ll be buried in paperwork from local, state, and federal governments. A single-person operation will have some government paperwork, but the minute you add your first employee–and you’re going to need them to make all that money I just mentioned–the paperwork explodes exponentially. Over time, you may be able to pass most of this work to an executive assistant, HR person, or accountant, but in the beginning, it’s all up to you.

I can focus on creating new products and service. Yes, but now you’re a small-business owner, too, and need to be aware of all of the issues that face your fledgling operation. Join a local small-business support group and check out advantages of membership in organizations such as the National Federation of Independent Business to keep up to date on how government regulations can affect your burgeoning company.

Even though I tossed around a few caveats here and there, I believe the grass is truly greener on the SOHO side of the street. Just be prepared to fertilize, mow, and power-rake from time to time.

Contributing Editor Joe Farace has been a SOHO photographer and graphic artist for more than 30 years.

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