Making a home mean business

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Between the 1990 and the 2000 census, the number of people working at home grew by one-third, and it’s expected to be a lot higher in the next population count.

While some tout the joys of toiling in one’s pajamas, there are problems with home-based work environments that are a bit too casual.

Put noisy kids and pets at the top of the list. If you’re trying to establish a professional reputation, it can’t sound as if you’re doing business in a day-care center or a pet store. Granted, keeping a quiet environment may be easier said than done, but it’s essential to project a business image.

Perhaps the most essential thing for a home-based business is to have a separate, dedicated place for work. That means a spare bedroom, the basement, anywhere but the kitchen table or other hub of family activity.

A desk, filing space, maybe even a lockable door help a lot.

According to Barbara Pachter, a specialist in business communication, here are some additional wise choices:

?Invest in a work-only phone line.

If that’s not financially possible right away, be sure to change the greetings on your home landline or cell phone.

That means no music, no silly greetings, no children’s voices ? nothing to suggest anything other than work. And that means that during work hours, you answer the phone.

?Create a Web site for your business, using a businesslike domain name.

Don’t worry about flashy graphics. Just make it look clean and give the basic information about who you are, what you do and how to contact you.

?Set up an e-mail address that uses your domain name.

For example, if you’re doing business as John Doe Tree Trimming, you optimally want something like www.johndoetree.com for your URL and jdoe@johndoetree.com for your e-mail address.

?Set up LinkedIn and Facebook accounts to help spread the word about your business.

And remember: All your posts should be designed to enhance, not detract from, your professional image.

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(c) 2009, The Kansas City Star. Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.