Tag Archives: WFH

Legal Regulations: Running a Home Based Business

I just received a question about legal regulations for running a home based business from a new entrepreneur. This article answers that question in a general way, that most of you can use. I’ve included things for full time RVers to consider, as well.

I’ve had home based businesses in several states since 1977. Our bio gives more information about the types of businesses we’ve run, which in turn, is how I came to know this stuff. The regulations are not the same for every business or location. The following points are from what I’ve learned. I do invite comments about what you have learned because legal regulations are always changing, and new entrepreneurs can always use good advice.

Where to Find Legal Regulations for Running a Home Based Business

The most important things I can advise are to check with your

  • State licensing
  • State Comptroller (re sales tax)
  • County licensing
  • CITY licensing agencies
  • Homeowners Association
  • RV Park rules
  • Any company affiliation requirements
  • Professional licensing or certification

Ask specifically about the legal regulations for all of the areas of businesses you plan to have.

Check with YOUR state’s Comptroller for tax laws. I’ve done jobs like writing gigs, video courses, grant proposals, resumes, and genealogy courses, all done entirely from computer to employer–all non taxable. I usually met with resume clients in a neutral spot (coffee shop) when not working through the Internet. Other work was refilling toner cartridges, selling video courses on DVD and similar delivery work–all taxable. I delivered these by mail. Some writing work is state taxable, some isn’t.

Even if none of the government bodies above have any regulations, your HOA or RV Park might restrict any or all home based businesses.

More than likely HOAs and RV Parks would restrict businesses that require customers/students (traffic and parking) or more than a few people coming to your home. Sometimes they restrict private group meetings because the parking infringes on neighbor’s parking. They will also restrict any window or lawn advertising. I doubt if they can restrict advertising on your car, so there is one option you might consider.

If you don’t live in an HOA or RV Park controlled area, the city or county may have any restrictions about traffic to your home, parking, or signage. When I had businesses in non HOA areas, I had to apply for a local variance wherever I expected customers to come to my home. Otherwise, since there was no impact on neighbors, parking, noise, etc. they usually didn’t have any such requirements, though some did on signage in a residential area. You may still need a city or other license simply to conduct business under a fictitious name/DBA.

If you are working through an established company (selling cosmetics or essential oils,) you also have their requirements to meet, and that may conflict with any of the above.

Make sure you don’t need a professional credential for the work you do. At one time we owned a durable medical equipment business that primarily delivered oxygen. We didn’t need a credential for that (though we did have them.) Later I taught CPR classes, and did need a credential (Instructor Certification) so that the students could get a valid CPR card.

Niche-Specific Regulations for Running a Home Based Business

I’ve taught CPR classes, even at home, and my HOA never complained. I taught them remotely (at client’s sites) and needed only my Instructors Certification training and legal contracts for service and payment agreements. These are niche-specific requirements. Make sure the laws don’t vary from state to state about credentials. I’m hearing that accountants no longer need credentials in some places. I’m not sure if that’s true, so insert another profession of equal responsibility if you can. Tax preparation is another one that may or may not require a credential. But would you trust an un-credentialed accountant over a bookkeeper? That’s something to look into.

More than Just Legal Regulations for Running a Home Based Business

If you can be held liable for anything, (and these days, people make up crazy stuff to sue over) you might want a lawyer to go over the work/payment contract you use, or write one up for you. If you’re mobile, you may need one for each state or a clause for each state.

A lawyer can help you choose the best business structure: Sole Proprietorship; LLC; one of the Corporate statuses, etc. These laws change so the advantages of being one or another may make a big difference to you. LLC is somewhere between Sole Proprietorship and Corporation status, that isolates your business assets from your personal ones in case you are sued. Many writers form as a LLC just for this reason.

Get liability insurance. The more directly your product affects people (skin care, child care, specialty foods, instructions, etc.) the more vulnerable you are. Network and find out what others in your area were required to do to meet legal regulations for running a home based business.

If you’re creating work (videos, articles, books, recordings, etc. download the copyright law, Title 17 here: https://www.copyright.gov/title17/title17.pdf.

If you need to file a trademark download the Trademark law here: Laws & Regulations

Legal Regulations for Running a Home Based Business Remotely

Regulations a very different from town to town, county to county, and state to state. You might even have to meet some requirements of remote areas where you sell or provide service. For example, if you are selling an item that is taxable in your home/domicile state, you will have to collect and pay sales taxes for sales to people who live in that state.

If you are working remotely, or travel to another state to work, you may be liable for income taxes to those states.

If you are traveling and conduct your business in different locations, be sure to find out how these regulations will affect you, well ahead of your arrival. Get your legal requirements in order before you conduct business. This would be important for vendors at fairs, farmer’s markets, and similar events. Some places actually require you to make a permanent address in their state if you are there over 30, 60, or 90 days. That involves registering your vehicles, getting that state’s driver license and other complicated and expensive actions. If you’re not intending to relocate, find out how to do business without changing residences. Check these out before committing to longer-term venues.

Other Thoughts on Legal Regulations for Running a Home Based Business

In Colorado, I needed to register my business with the State (something like $5/year then.) And through that registration I was able to obtain business bank accounts, business memberships to places like Costco and Sams, file as a sole proprietorship within my personal Federal Tax Return, and obtain many business advantages just because of that registration.

In Texas my sales a tax license was no cost but was required. Otherwise, business registration isn’t required by the state or county. Texas has no income tax so this affects all Texas business laws. The city required a registration of my DBA (Doing Business As) name–cost $20. I used my city registration to obtain the same business benefits as in Colorado. If I were using my name, there was no requirement, but that would not provide any official document to show that I’m an established business.

If you’re working under your own name, and don’t need any licenses, consider getting one anyway, just for confirmation that you are a business and entitled to business benefits, memberships, discounts, checking, etc.

And one final, most important thing – ALWAYS KEEP SEPARATE RECORDS. If you don’t and are audited, you open yourself to a personal audit of all of your deductions, not just those for business. Keep accurate records of home deductions with specific percentages allocated to work space, mileage records with notes stating the reason for the trip, and accurate percent of computer use for business.

Depending upon the work you do it can take a lot of planning, but doing it right the first time saves much headache later.

  • MAKE A LIST of these things and follow through ASAP
  • Join business networks–keep learning
  • Call government offices and ask as many questions as you can think of about licenses/requirements/variances.
  • You just need to talk to those that govern the requirements.

Best wishes for a successful business.


Ad Hoc Group Work at home

Our Ad Hoc Group business promotes training for legitimate businesses (writing, resumes, graphic design, photography, marketing, and similar skilled work–how to prepare professional work in those niches; how to run those businesses; get clients; get payment; etc.) I’ve used may of these courses to incorporate skills into several of my services successfully.

Choosing a Web Hosting Service

work-from-home startup-photosAs a new business owner, especially a mobile business owner, having a web presence is essential. Let’s talk about web hosting services.

Yet, choosing the right web hosting service isn’t an easy job. There are hundreds to choose from, with a wide range of fees and services. And it’s hard to know what your needs are before having any experience with this.

So, along with a checklist and some descriptions I’l give here, also check with anyone you know who has set up a website. Their comments about their experiences and web hosting services they’ve used will be invaluable. The reason that counts so much is that web hosting services can change over time. I started out using Network Solutions. At the time (around 2008) they were one of the best services, and reasonably priced. But over time I realized that it was impossible to get tech support help that was worth anything. It seemed like they couldn’t make sense of what I was asking. Either that or they had no idea what the answer was. After five years with them I began looking at their reviews. They started out pretty good, but clearly, over time the complaints grew more frequent and more serious.

POINT 1: Look for reviews about each service that you are considering.

I followed my own advice looking for reviews, referrals, and especially warnings about my next hosting service. I was particularly interested in MacHighway, thinking that they were Mac-focused and would naturally be a better choice for Mac users, like us. I checked those reviews, asked for references on social media sites, and it all looked good. But, to be cautious, I signed up for only one year. That was a smart move, because within eight months they started having problems ~ periods of downtime, hackers were getting in and scrambling sites, and, every time something happened, they made excuses and promised it would never happen again. They actually got sarcastic and demeaning with me because I didn’t know as much as they did. Really! As part of the tech support, designed to help the less informed, why would they expect any of their subscribers to be knowledgeable of this tecchy stuff?

POINT 2: Sometimes great reviews aren’t enough. There are things you can learn only by taking a risk, that is, your own experience.

POINT 3: Services that were once good and went bad might turn around and improve their quality. Be careful, in case they haven’t, but don’t write them off completely.

My next attempt led me to several great services, thanks to referrals from dozens of people who were using these. Whittling it down to just one was my problem. The ones that looked good for my purposes included:

There were many others, but I didn’t keep notes. I ruled them out based on features, price, or some other factor. I eliminated 1and1 and Arvixe on price, and Hostgator and Weebly on features or limitations. These were reasons three years ago, so again, my needs have changed and they may have changed prices or services.

I was down to BlueHost and WebHostingHub. These are shared services, meaning that an account will share a server with other site owners. There’s no overlap with other people’s accounts, though. Your site will not be accessible by anyone else. I ended up choosing WebHostingHub over BlueHost for two reasons. WebHostingHub seemed to have more features (at the time) such as unlimited email accounts (I seem to remember BlueHost having a limit of 5, but today it is unlimited.) WebHostingHub was having a sale and it’s monthly price for a 3-year contract was less than BlueHost. I’ve been very happy with them for almost three years now. I have an associate who is trying to set up a video training site for portable careers. He’s on BlueHost and, so far, is hosting streaming videos. That says a lot about BlueHost, too.

POINT 4: Sometimes you can get more than what you pay for if you shop wisely. Price does matter.

The following checklist will help you evaluate and compare web hosting services. It’ not exhaustive, but will serve you for this purpose as well as for helping you think up other questions more specific to your purposes.

  • Define your goals for having a website. It is for a blog or to sell a product or service, or all of that?
  • Do you want to use analytics and track traffic?
  • Will you have a shopping cart, take credit cards, a PayPal link or some other method of payment.
  • If you will blog, do they offer WordPress?
  • Do they offer C-Panel? If so, what is included? When we switched from MacHighway, sadly I lost a couple programs that were on their C-Panel, but not on WebHostingHub’s C-Panel. But now I don’t even remember what they were, so all’s good.
  • As mentioned above, I’m satisfied with shared hosting, but consider whether you need a virtual private server (VPS) or dedicated hosting. Ask how much space you will have, and do take time to estimate how much you will need. If their tech support can help you with this, that’s great.
  • Speaking of tech support, this is more important than it might seem. WebHostingHub tech support rocks, and is better than any I’ve come across. They’re knowledgeable, friendly, and patient with us, and that’s only one of their great benefits.
  • Read ALL of the terms of service.
  • Look up (search) any terms you don’t know. They’ll show up in the terms of service, and you do want to know what you’re agreeing to.
  • Find out what they mean by “unlimited”. Unlimited service on a shared server becomes limited when we all use up the server space. Unlimited server on a VPS or dedicated server is actually limited to the size of the server. What else is claimed to be unlimited but actually is limited. Email size? Number of email accounts? Amount of email storage? Bandwidth? FTP bandwidth?
  • Do you need a domain name, and will the service obtain it for you? Will they register it in your name (gives you freedom to move to another hosting service) or do they register it in theirs. If so, can you move it or is the name (your trademark) going to be under their ownership.
    • NOTE: I wanted mine to be anonymous at Whois.org, and by paying an additional $10/month my web hosting services registered it to their name. I have never lost ownership and am able to move my name if I need to.
  • Whois.org lets you register privately so that your contact information is private. This helps cut down on spam.
  • Is the domain registration included in the annual fee? Just for new customers or every year? How much is it. This fee can vary from $10 to $30.
  • Moving a domain name within ten days of renewing the name may take some planning. Find out what these restrictions are and plan ahead so that your site isn’t down for any period of time. One service recommended I simply have my old hosting service renew my domain name and point it to the new hosting service, as it would avoid the 10 day delay in having the new hosting service register the domain name for me. They gave me the information on pointing it to give to the old provider. So, you can actually have your domain name registered through one service, and “pointing to” or showing up on another service.
  • If a web hosting service offers more than one level of service, does it have a comparison chart of their services’ features? Some services also offer comparison charts of competitors’ services. Double check the information, but if it’s current and accurate, this can save you a lot of time. You might want to consider making your own comparison chart.
  • Especially keep notes on prices for different levels of service, and compare to other services. If they offer several levels of service, you can start small and move up to the next level on the same hosting service without disrupting your website.
  • How large can an email be? It used to be that Yahoo, HotMail, AOL, etc. only allowed attachments up to 5mb. I’m sure it’s more, now, but I don’t know the limit. I often send huge files, and my service limits me to about 52 or 54 mb per email. That can be quite a few photos, PDFs, Word docs or other files.
  • Personally, our business often sends files well over 100mb. So, we’ve added files to FTP on our site. If you need this feature, be sure to ask if you have room. The web hosting service might even have instructions on their site. WebHostingHub has an extensive library of instructions.
  • Also mentioned above ~ Check as many reviews as you can find. The ones on the web hosting sites will always be flowery. But do a search on the web hosts’ names and add “reviews” to the search (i.e. Bluehost reviews) to find other review sites.

While that’s not an exhaustive checklist, it does contain much of what you’ll need to consider. I also invite anyone who can add to that list to do so in the comments below. Thanks for following us. Until next time …

Happy Trails and Tales,

Micki B.