We've all heard the story -- a regular guy works at a Wall Street firm studying market trends. He sees a trend that no one else has spotted and begins to daydream about starting his own business. He decides to take the leap. He packs up his stuff and quits his job.

Later, the Wall Street worker sets up a home office in his two-bedroom house feeling free at last.. He runs extension cords out to the garage to operate his computers and uses doors from Home Depot as desks. He brings his wife into the business and hits his folks up for a sizable investment.

Life is pretty chaotic, but it soon pays off. A month later, this guy is selling product in all 50 states and 45 countries. Two months later, he's bringing in $20,000 a week in revenue. The company is christened "Amazon.com."

Not everyone can make it as big as Jeff Bezos, but most home-based entrepreneurs started off by having the same dream -- the dream where they pack up their cubicles and take charge of the future by starting their own businesses.

There are some 13 million businesses currently operating out of a home, representing 52% of all businesses in the United States. These entrepreneurs fall into two distinct groups. The first are entrepreneurs who love working out of their homes. This group has made a lifestyle choice. They have flexible work hours that enable them to do things like picking their kids up from school; they thrive in a casual, boundary-less environment. They don't mind wearing pajamas (or worse) to work and they are undaunted by working alone. These folks are not interested in significantly expanding their businesses or hiring employees. They are doing well and they are clear about their priorities. In fact, the last thing that they want is to become the next Jeff Bezos.

Then there's the second group. These home-based entrepreneurs are working at home not because it is a lifestyle choice, but because it is the logical first step to getting their ideas off the ground. They want to minimize their overhead while they grow their business. Ultimately, they want to hire employees in order to increase revenues and want to be seen as a "real" business, able to compete with their more established competitors.

This second group is inspired by those who have come before them -- Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Michael Dell, all of whom started with a home-based business and then became a household name.

You probably already know which group you fall into, but if you are wondering whether or not you should consider moving out of your home office, I have compiled "The Top Ten Signs You're Ready To Escape To A Real Office" to help you figure out your next move. These quotes came from home-based entrepreneurs who entered our "Home Office From Hell" Contest.

#10: "I want to hire an assistant, but we'd have to share a chair."
If your business is expanding faster than you have office furniture or you are meeting with your clients in the hallway, you are a good candidate to escape your home office.

#9: "My husband thinks I need to get a real job."
If your husband or wife thinks that you spend your day chatting with the neighbors or your mother-in-law is convinced you are running a drug cartel out of your living room, you are a good candidate to escape your home office.

#8: "My friends think that working at home means I never miss Days of Our Lives."
If you are like Rodney Dangerfield and "can't get any respect" because your friends think you catch every episode of Dr. Phil and sleep until noon, you are a good candidate to escape your home office.

#7: "Starbucks is starting to encroach on my profits."
If you are conducting all your big meetings in the science fiction section of Barnes & Noble or you are working on your sixth grande frappachino, you are a good candidate to escape your home office.

#6: "I realized today that at 4pm, I was still wearing pajamas."
If your idea of networking is talking to the cat and you haven't been in a shower or out of the house in over a week, you are a good candidate to escape your home office.

#5: "I could die here and no one would ever know."
If you worry that it might be the smell that gets people to inquire about your business, you are a good candidate to escape your home office.

#4: "Why did God invent Oprah? How are we supposed to work when Oprah is on?"
If you are overwhelmed by the urge to climb back into bed or regularly feel a deep longing to do several loads of laundry in the middle of the business day, you are a good candidate to escape your home office.

#3: "No, the baby doesn't go in the playpen...Important papers go in there so the baby can't get at them."
If you find yourself picking Cheerios out of your laptop, chasing the kids around the kitchen while conference-calling Japan and wiping peanut butter off your client's proposal, you are a good candidate to escape your home office.

#2: "I feel like I live at the office...Wait! I do!"
If your workday ends two minutes before you drop into bed or you are taking four-a.m. phone calls from sleepless clients, you are a good candidate to escape your home office.

And last but not least...

#1: "Since you're home all day anyway, I need a favor..."
If you are picking up your wife's laundry, driving your friend to the airport or running errands for your neighbors in the middle of your workday, you are a good candidate to escape your home office.

Published on: May 1, 2006