Every week over 2,000 new businesses start life in a garden shed, at a kitchen table or another corner of someone's home. Research from Enterprise Nation, which provides advice for homeworkers via www.enterprisenation.com, shows that home is now the most popular place in which to launch a new business.
Home has many advantages. You save time and money by avoiding the daily commute - and in the process reduce your carbon footprint. You can spend more time with your family and might even be able to persuade them to lend a hand.
You won't waste time looking for premises and you'll keep overheads low. Homeworkers also report that they're much more productive than if they're sharing an office with others.
It's never been easier to start a business from home. Emma Jones, editor of Enterprise Nation, says all you need is:
• Dedicated space in your house or flat
• A good office desk and chair
• A laptop or PC and a telecomms package
Spare rooms, attics, conservatories, garden sheds and garages are easy to convert to office space. Jones, who has herself started two businesses from home, reports an increase in businesses set up outside the house:
"Garden dwellers are working out of sheds and specially designed offices and we hear almost weekly from new companies starting up to meet the demand for garden office accommodation. The offices are stylishly designed, fully insulated/heated and, with only the birds as background music, you can see why a move into the garden has become a popular choice."
But even if you don't have that spare space you can launch a business from home. Rob Law started his business which sells Trunki, a ride-on piece of children's luggage, from a desk next to the bed in his flat (see www.trunki.co.uk).
Others work from wherever they can take their laptops - whether it's a cafe, car or library. JK Rowling famously wrote her first Harry Potter book in a cafe.
Can I try this at home?
Jones argues that you can run any business from home and points to examples such as a radio DJ, iron forge maker or designer of fancy outfits for ferrets. She says the fastest growing businesses run from home include:
• Professional services such as accountants, lawyers, IT consultants, web/graphic designers, architects - Stephen Cree set up his own website design business (www.orangecrushdesign.co.uk) from his home in North Yorkshire while he was working for the communications division of West Yorkshire Police.
• Personal services: party planners, outside caterers, virtual assistants. urbanmobilecreche.co.uk for example, runs mobile creches and childcare services.
• Retail; jewellery and fashion designers/retailers (for example, www.eatos.co.uk), cosmetics producers.
• Online businesses; eBay, blogging. Earlier this year Norwich was named as eBay capital of the UK, with 44 per cent of its adult population registered as users.
The tricky ones
Some businesses need a bit more thought before you start them at home. Consider the following before taking the plunge:
• Insurance - does it cover staff, dangerous substances or customers?
• Neighbours - will your business affect them?
• Safety - contact your Health & Safety Executive or local authority for an assessment. Consider all aspects - whether you'll be dealing with young people and need Child Protection clearance, for example.
• Mortgage - will your lender or landlord mind?
Meeting clients need not be a problem. You can travel to them or meet in a hotel or coffee bar. Many will enjoy visiting you.
Jones says: "My ground floor dining room doubles as a boardroom and clients always comment on how much they enjoy the meeting that comes with a homely, yet still professional welcome."
As you won't be able to impress clients with a grand head office pay more attention to your image through use of your website, logo, voicemail and letter headings.
Think carefully, too, about stock. You may want to extend your home or pay for self-storage units.
As your business grows Jones suggests you consider parts that you can outsource so that you don't need to move. She suggests you consider paying for outside help with accounts, some aspects of marketing and admin, such as filing.