Once upon a time the so-called “home office” market was a pot of gold hidden at the end of a rainbow. Maybe it will be someday. And, maybe more important than that, home office businesses are at the very least real, employing people, getting things done and growing.

I first noticed the so-called home office market back in the middle 1980s, when I did my business from a home office (so perhaps my attention wasn’t entirely by coincidence). I was consulting for a living in those days, doing planning and related research mostly for high-tech companies. I was also writing a monthly column in Business Software magazine. And one of the markets most of my clients wanted to reach was what they called the home office.

The problem, however, was that the people who ran their home office businesses didn’t really make a market. They were out there diffused in the world, without an identity, without much in common with each other and without product identity.

What did a home office need that was different from what small businesses needed? What did a home office buy, different from a general small business? It was hard to tell. In comparison, the mobile travelers needed some predictable items and read predictable magazines. So did the students, the engineers and so on. But not home office businesses. Or so it seemed back then.

Earlier this week Steve King of Emergent Research tipped me off to new research about home-based businesses that adds a new angle on the lure of the pot of gold. In his post “The Rise of the Homepreneur,” he offers real numbers from a new report based on data from the Network Solutions Small Business Success Index. The report is available here. And some of the key findings are:

  • Home businesses employ more than 13 million people.
  • Nearly 6.6 million home businesses generate at least 50 percent of the owner’s household income
  • 35 percent of home businesses generate $125,000-plus in revenue and 8 percent more than $500,000.

So with new data from a new angle, it’s not that home office businesses are necessarily a market; it’s that they are a lot of people doing business, making money and doing (I hope) what suits them. And a reminder, as well, that “home office business” doesn’t mean inconsequential; the millions of businesses in this study are supporting people, employing people and generating real money.

And if you dig into the study, they are being taken seriously by customers and clients. And they offer lower-cost startup alternatives, too.

Now where was that rainbow?

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.