While there are some great companies and programs out there, it's important to evaluate your true needs and desires in a home-based career. I see too many people jumping into the first opportunity they see, simply because it promises great income. Money is definitely a major part of our reason for working, but is it the most important? You need to choose the option that will serve all of your needs, not just the financial ones.
How do you know which option is best for you? Consider the typical qualities of telecommuting jobs, home business opportunities and home businesses started from scratch:
Pros - With jobs you will usually have less responsibility than a home business, plus a steady paycheck and a structured work schedule. If you are very efficient, organized and "production-oriented", this could be a good choice for you.
Cons - You will have less flexibility and freedom than you would with a home business. You will not be encouraged to "do it your way" -- you will instead need to follow your employer's instructions. Your workload is not guaranteed. Business can slow down and you'll have no work to do, which means no income. You will usually earn less from a telecommuting job than you would from a home business. If you are very creative and free-spirited, and you want to earn a big income, a job might not be right for you.
Home Business Opportunities
Pros - More flexibility and freedom than a job, more opportunity for larger income (if you're motivated), less chance for business to slow down (since you generate your own business), benefit from being part of a team of like-minded people that support you and help you to grow your business. No need to create your own products and marketing materials, as the company provides them for you.
Cons - Still less flexibility and freedom than starting your own business, as the company may have restrictions on how you run your business, how you can promote, etc. You may have sales quotas you need to meet, or other limitations. Choosing a company that has been around for a long time may result in oversaturation of the market, while choosing a newer company may result in instability or the company going out of business.
Your Own Company
Pros - Complete freedom and flexibility in the products you create or services you offer, as well as the ways in which you choose to market. No quotas to meet, build it big or keep it small. Set your own schedule and determine your own income. Be as creative as you wish.
Cons - Great responsibility. You are the President, CEO, General Manager, Sales Director, Marketing Manager, Production Manager, Comptroller, Personnel Director and everything else for your company. No one else is there to help or cheer you on, it's all up to you.
There are certainly exceptions to the qualities listed above. Perhaps you can find a great telecommuting job that allows you complete flexibility and creative work. Maybe some of the "cons" I listed above would actually be considered "pros" to you, or vice versa.
What it comes down to is what YOU want. What works best for you? Make a list of what's important to you. How much do you want to earn? How creative are you? How flexible do you want your schedule to be? What type of work makes you feel most happy?
Build a vision in your mind of the perfect work at home career for you. And then go about finding (or creating) just that!
photo courtesy of stateman.com