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Wellbeing / Work & family

Home-based business: Avoiding the mumpreneur pitfalls

As a self-confessed mumpreneur, I’m adept at juggling work calls on the school run, networking in the playground, and creating an illusion of always being available but only actually working the hours I want to.

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There are many benefits to home-based business, but I’ve also learned the hard way that you need to plan ahead for the following five challenges.


1. Not being taken seriously


My father-in-law only started talking about my ‘work’ once I moved it out of the spare bedroom and into a shared studio. Before that, a home-based business didn’t count in his eyes. Similarly, a friend is frustrated that her in-laws dismiss her financially successful business as a hobby.


Another friend struggles to take herself seriously because her business doesn’t generate much revenue. Yet it’s taking up increasing amounts of time and has enormous potential.


It dawned on yet another fellow mumpreneur that while her partner took her home-based business seriously, the kids didn’t. She started making sure she talked about her day over dinner, and they soon understood that she wasn’t just making their beds while they were learning their times tables and swapping Pokemon cards.


2. Putting unrealistic expectations on yourself


“Yes! I can turn that job around by tomorrow!” I used to be so utterly grateful for any work that came my way, I’d respond too quickly, create too many deadlines, and have no one to delegate to.


Before you pounce on an opportunity, think about what you can actually achieve – and what your client really needs or expects from you.


3. Squeezing work into naptime


While it’s been suggested that a sleeping child could be the ultimate time management tool, I couldn’t disagree more. Just when you think it’s all under control, the routine shifts. One moment you can count on a three-hour daytime nap, the next there’s no naptime at all. And this change usually occurs without warning, resulting in an over-tired toddler and a very cranky parent.


I used to rely on a few hours of work at the end of the day, but now that we all eat dinner together and the kids are still awake at 8 o’clock, that window of opportunity is firmly shut. Besides, I’d rather settle down in front of MasterChef with my family than catch up on emails.


The needs of a baby or toddler are different to those of a kindy kid or teenager. Plan ahead for change and set up childcare or after school arrangements to fit. Talk to parents with older children to see how they manage challenges such as the never-ending school holidays and fitting ballet, AFL training, kickboxing and chess club into any ‘spare’ after school hours.


4. Working on everything at once


New website, school homework, PowerPoint presentation, planning and cooking dinner, meeting clients, cleaning the bathroom, developing a marketing strategy, booking the plumber, chasing invoices, and whipping up a sponge for the P & C cake stall… that’s pretty much a typical day for a mumpreneur, especially if you have a home-based business.


If you constantly combine home duties with work duties, you may feel like you’re not covering either task very well. I found that once I stopped working from home, the boundaries were much clearer. And my dear husband hung the washing out and cooked dinner more often.


If working away from home isn’t possible, you need to be very firm with your time. Dedicate solid blocks of time to the work at hand before thinking about the next cycle of washing. And hire a cleaner. 


5. When it all goes pear-shaped


This is also known as ‘when your child gets sick’.


One of the advantages of being a mumpreneur is meant to be that you no longer feel guilty calling your boss to take the day off because your child needs to go to the doctor, hospital or dentist.


Instead, you’ll feel guilty calling your clients to advise them you’ll need a little longer on their project. And that’s an even harder phone call to make when you consider the effort it took to win their business.


When children are small, they take a long time to shake off nasty viruses and there are many weeks (sometimes entire winters) where you feel like you never get to work on anything at all.


If your partner can share the load on this caring responsibility, let them. If you were working in an office, they’d have to. But if not, factor this possibility into pitfall number two and don’t promise that job by tomorrow, just in case your little angel comes down with gastro tonight.


Is building your business around your family going the way you’d hoped? What nasty shocks have you encountered along the way? How did you overcome them?

Sara Howard

is the Principal and senior writer at Writers Australia. She loves nothing more than pulling apart corporate waffle to find the hidden gem of an idea – and then bringing it to life so it resonates with customers, staff, donors or the general public. Connect with Sara on Twitter and LinkedIn

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