Many people imagine that working from home is the ideal existence: no hassles with commuting, no boss breathing down your neck and the freedom to spend your time in whatever way you want. The reality, however, is very different. Being your own boss is demanding. You must be prepared to establish and work to realistic goals, you must be self-disciplined, persistent and determined to succeed.

Working from home can involve strains; there may be social isolation or problems combining work and family life in the one place. The main challenge of a home-based business is to overcome distractions and to be productive in an environment where it is all too easy to ‘put it off until tomorrow’. You must also ask yourself 'who will take over tomorrow if I need a holiday?'

Typical home-based businesses

A wide variety of businesses are successfully operated from the home. Some possibilities include:

  • Manufacturing: crafts, food preparation, food preservation, toys, printing, dressmaking
  • Retailing: mail order services, personal network selling
  • Services: professional (doctors and vets), tradespeople (carpenters, plumbers, electricians), information services (consulting), personal services (music teacher, hairdressing, beauty care).

Is your business suitable?

Consider the following questions when deciding if you can run your business from home or if you need to find a commercial rental property:

  • Would you need to employ people?
  • Is the business noisy, dirty, smelly or otherwise likely to disrupt your neighbours?
  • Do you have a need to store bulk materials?
  • Is your home easy to locate (by clients and customers)?
  • Will parking be a problem?
  • Do you need local and Northern Territory Government permission to undertake the business from home? (See licences and approvals below.)
  • Do you have a mortgage with a restriction prohibiting business being transacted on the premises?

If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, then you should think seriously about commercial rental.

Licences and approvals

Under the NT Planning Scheme, persons intending to conduct a business at or from home (referred to as a ‘Home Occupation’) may need to obtain development approval from the Development Consent Authority (DCA). You will need to check the town plan that applies to your locality. In Darwin and the Litchfield Shire you are permitted to develop a home occupation. In other centres, development approval is required for a home occupation. However in all areas there are rules controlling the scale of the development (among others) that must be satisfied.

You should contact the Development Assessment Services on (08) 8999 6046 when intending to conduct a Home-Based Business (HBB) to ensure compliance with the relevant town plan. You can contact the Development Consent Authority on:

Development Consent Authority
Ground Floor, 38 Cavenagh Street
Darwin NT 0800
t: (08) 8999 6044
f: (08) 8999 6055

The business and lifestyle

Almost anyone who owns a business will tell you that it puts extra pressure on a family relationship. When running your business from home there is little separation between work and family, and the activities of each. You need to be conscious of how your business will affect your family and your lifestyle in general.

Before starting a home-based business you should consider how you can avoid being overworked or, conversely, under motivated, both common with business operated from home. To ensure you avoid these situations, plan for the following:

  • set hours for client contact
  • set hours for business operation
  • set breaks
  • set time for administration
  • plan activities outside the home
  • plan time for family
  • ensure you evaluate how you are managing with your home-based business, and if it continues to suit your needs.


Working from home initially offers the most economical way for many people to join the ranks of the self-employed. For some people with home commitments, it is the only way. Although running a business from home can reduce the financial risk of starting a business, it introduces other risks, such as a disrupted family life and strained relationships with neighbours.

Plan carefully if you are thinking of starting a home business. Use all the free advice available to you. Pay for professional advice where necessary. Talk it over with family and neighbours. Get official permission. Then work at it!

New tools to help home based businesses

The Department of Business has developed online business information packs to help Territory businesses find information on licences, regulations, planning and services.

Additionally, the Planning Scheme Business Information Finder can tell you the zoning and planning rules for your business location. It provides you with a tailored report that includes information about properties that are covered by the Northern Territory Planning Scheme, it gives details of the zoning of your property and whether your activity is permitted, discretionary or prohibited. If your activity is permitted or discretionary, the report also provides information about any conditions or requirements you must comply with.

The Business Enterprise Centre (BEC) has established a Home-Based Business Network to assist home-based businesses stay ahead of the latest business trends and discuss issues relating to running a business from home. To find out more about upcoming workshops and to view the home-based business database, contact BEC.

Business Enterprise Centre
Lower Level, 20 Catterthun Street
Winnellie NT 0820
t: (08) 8923 6100
f: (08) 8923 6155
Business Enterprise Centre
8 Gregory Terrace
Alice Springs NT 0870
t: (08) 8950 8107
f: (08) 8953 1058
m: 0427 970 529

Also, visit the Federal Government Business website.

For further information contact your nearest Territory Business Centre.

Disclaimer: The material contained in this web page is intended for use as a guide and for general information only. It is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional advice. The Department of Business of the Northern Territory Government accepts no responsibility or liability for the correctness, accuracy and completeness of any of the material contained in this web page and recommends that users of this web page exercise their own skill, care and judgment in the application of the information contained in the web page.