Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Fall and Rise of the Home-Based Business

Home-based businesses are not new. In fact, throughout most of human history, people have earned their living working from where they lived. It was technology that got people out of the house and into separate workspaces, and it is technology that will bring us home again.

Before the industrial revolution, most people worked from home. The butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker all lived on top of or behind their businesses. And all businesses were small as well, at least by today’s standards. Everyone shared in the effort of maintaining the living/working space. It was fun for the whole family, except that it wasn’t that fun.

When the industrial revolution arrived in the 18th Century, it brought new technologies that changed the way people earned a living. With the rise of mass production, and the expansion of markets, it became more practical to concentrate economic endeavors in centralized places, like a factories and offices. Also, businesses could grow to the point where the owner would need employees, people who he had no personal relationship with. This model came into it’s own with the 20th Century, as corporations spread across the country and across the globe, in so doing creating legions of wage slaves, cubicle dwellers, and middle managers.

By the late 20th Century, the economy of the western world started to shift away from manufacturing towards services. Machines started taking jobs from people, and soon enough it only took a few people to build a car, and small crowd to get the car to consumers, and an army of people to tell them why they needed a new car in the first place.

It was a functional way of doing business, and fighting two world wars, but new technologies once again upset the apple cart, and gave us new way to sell the apples. In the early 1990’s, personal computers arrived at work and at home. Almost immediately, computer and software manufacturers began peddling dreams of working in sunny loft spaces or the beach. The rise of the Internet fueled that fire, promising the ability to operate a business with no more than a computer and a website. It was a pretty persuasive promise. Hey, I fell for it.

Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet, or any promise made by computer and software manufacturers, but you can believe this: the return of the home-based business is here, and it will once again dominate the global economy. You can believe it because that’s where the technology is headed. So if you’re working from home today, work hard. The future is yours.

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