They are a vital, but often invisible part of the Australian economy – soloists who work from home, often in a spare room, contributing innovation and wealth well away from the top end of town.
Running a business from home can provide great freedom and flexibility, but it also throws up challenges, as the International Work At Home Person Week, which kicks off next week, will look to highlight.
So what would be on the home-based business industry wish list? Here are four things that would help boost these soloists:
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1. A bit of legislative help
The National Business Name Register only began in May last year but is already causing headaches for home-based businesses, which are required to include a physical address on the register.
The system replaces the previous state and territory services so that businesses only need to register their name with a single national register.
The new regime presents a security issue for home-based start-ups, which have to give their home address rather than a PO Box. You can use your accountant’s address, but this incurs a fee.
Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, told StartupSmart last year: “That was something ASIC didn’t foresee and they have to address that. So we have told them about it as that is a concern for privacy, especially for women working from home.”
Cas McCullough, the founder of home-based businesses Mumatopia and Support a Work At Home Person, adds: “I recently registered another business name and was shocked that I had to make my home address public online in relation to my business.”
“What’s to stop someone from stalking me at home? Governments should be protecting home-based business owners, not hanging them out to dry and leaving them vulnerable.”
2. A peak body
There is a peak body for just about every trade you can think of in Australia, along with the big hitting business lobby groups such as the Australian Industry Group and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
But while businesses in manufacturing or retail have their own dedicated peak body, there is no such help on hand for home-based businesses.
While the Council of Small Business of Australia often rails against the big business focus of government, it appears that sole traders operating from the spare bedroom or kitchen table are barely visible even to the SME community.
“There is no peak industry body for home-based businesses in Australia,” says McCullough.
“Many non-employing micro business owners simply don’t have time to lobby for change and they wouldn’t know who to go to anyway.”
Given that soloists are often targeted by scams and ripped off by service providers that see them as an easy mark, it’s clear that this group needs someone in their corner.
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