Balance in the home

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In my research on home business, more and more women are giving up the daily traffic jam and the sense of rejection that comes with “jobs for the boys” promotions.

Balance in the home

Jane Shelton

On Friday Amanda Gome wrote about the newspaper headline: “Where are the women?” which looks at the abysmal record of large Australian corporates to get women into their boardrooms.

Home business is a different story. Gender is not an issue, and there is no difference in success for men and women in home business. The barriers that women face in big business they do not face at home. The world is their oyster, they can generate big incomes and run successful businesses from home.

In my research on home business, more and more women are telling me they’re giving up the daily traffic jam, the sense of rejection that comes with “jobs for the boys” promotions and the pressures of getting to the child care centre – which takes a huge slice of their wage-slave earnings – before it closes.

Just the time saving and reduction of frustration of not having to drive in peak hour traffic or imitating a sardine on a train. I’m still expecting the state government to invest in the Japanese tradition of train pushers who squeeze more commuters on to the trains before they close the doors – now there’s a policy.

Women are getting into home business to fill market spaces in outsourcing, being creative and innovative in response to market needs, wants, hopes and expectations.

We’re working from home for convenience, to look after family members, building on hobbies and interests, saving dollars and not paying hideous rents, creating a job – instead of finding a boss, stopping the wage slave treadmill and being fed up with the daily grind.

These women are not only taking up the option of getting into the freedom of running a business from home, they are carving out a new economy. You’ve got the freedom to operate your home business in an effective market, and with access to take your ideas, products and services from your home-based platform to your customers – once you’ve got that in place (and your payments system in order) you’re away.

It’s hard to get figures about home business because it’s not considered important enough to be measured. More statisticians and academics should be looking into home business and getting the facts. They’d be finding out what we home business operators already know – we’re helping to grow the economy and it’s great to be in home business!

The figures we do have show that home business is growing and making a significant contribution to economic growth.

Here in Australia, home business is booming. Women who describe themselves as “small business owners” (SBOs) working from home represent 300,000 in Australia out of a total of 800,000 SBOs who are home-based. These women have a household income, according to Morgan Research, of more than $80,000 a year where they are the sole trader and over $100,000 a year when they build up a business employing more than 10 workers.

Having spoken with Fran Bailey, our Federal Minister for Small Business at the SmartCompany Awards last Friday, she knows how important home business is for the economy. For a start, small business is 96% of all business in Australia. Figures indicate that home business is 65% of all small business. That’s a lot of business and a key driver of our economy.

Elizabeth Walker and Beverley Webster, writing in Women in Management Review (2004, p.19) reported the views of the operators regarding community attitudes towards home-based businesses in Western Australia and on the difference between men and women’s motivations for going into business and why they choose to operate their business from home.

It was evident that some sections of the community felt that home-based businesses are extended hobbies and not to be taken seriously. Elizabeth and Beverley argue that this view ignores the significant financial and social contributions that home-based businesses make to the economy and society in general and is not a view that is held by home-based business operators themselves.

But 800,000 home businesses in Australia equals a lot of dollars for the marketers of big companies to get their heads around. The members of the home business market make more business decisions, make more investment decisions, buy more equipment, are well and truly early adopters of the newest, best technology, gadget or internet portal. If it’s going to save time and save money, we’re into it.

This still leaves open the relative performance of women in home based business.

Erin Kepler and Scott Shane have just completed a major study for the US SBA Office of Advocacy, which asks “are male and female entrepreneurs really different?” They concluded: “When other factors are controlled for, gender does not affect new venture performance. However, several factors – differing expectations, reasons for starting a business, motivations, opportunities sought and types of business – vary between the genders, and these result in differing outcomes.”

Men had more business experience prior to opening their business, but their educational backgrounds were similar. Men were more likely to start a business to make money, had higher expectations for their business and did more research to identify business opportunities. Women were more likely to be satisfied with low risk/return business which they built up themselves, whereas men were more likely to have purchased a business enterprise.”

People are getting into home business in developed countries across the globe. My research shows the growth in a progressive society of home business can be an indicator of a healthy, future focused open economy that takes up technology platforms that remove the barriers and necessity to operate from a commercial centre or city hub.

The more internet savvy society, with bigger broadband backbone and information pipe, enables the flourishing growth of home business.

Our neighbours across the Tasman are no slouches either: “More than 230,000 businesses (operate) from home in New Zealand, thus making up the largest sector of the New Zealand economy in terms of number”

In the United States, they’ve wised up to the fact the home business is big business in terms of sheer numbers. estimated to be 13.8 million income-generating home businesses in 2005 (www.entrepreneur.com) – although the Pittsburg Times thought the market could be as large as 38 million home-based businesses. In anyone’s numbers, that’s a lot.

British stats tell us there are: “Now 3.1 million people are regular home-based workers. Of these 2.4 million are teleworkers – people who work with computers and telecommunications to work at or from home. The survey also found another million people working at home in the reference week who do not work mainly from home.

Growth in homeworking and teleworking: millions and % of UK workforce:





2.3 (9%)

2.6 (10%)

3.1 (11%)


0.9 (4%)

1.5 (5%)

2.4 (8%)

(Source: UK Stats 2005)

The home business market is a global phenomenon. Gone is the agricultural and industrial eras where home business was seen as sweatshops and the poor cousins of big business. The information age is upon us, and it’s enabling all of us home business operators to get a leg up and in the door of a thriving global economy that starts from your own front door and home-based website indicating you’re open for home business.

A flourishing home business sector is a good indicator for the health and vitality of our economy. We should have more incentives to be in home business – tax breaks, investment options, lower bank fees and credit card interest rate savings.

Come on big business, get with the program and target us in the home business market. Start talking to us and get our loyalty. We’re ready to listen and buy your products and services with our flourishing businesses and burgeoning bank balances.


Dr Jane Shelton not only runs a business from home but is doing business research into people working from home. She is managing director of Marshall Place Associates, Melbourne’s independent think tank, and CEO (honourary) for ‘Life. Be in it.’ International. Shelton has a Doctorate in Business Administration at the Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship (AGSE) at Swinburne University of Technology after a Master of Arts in Public Policy at Melbourne University and a Bachelor of Business in banking and finance at Monash University.

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