You (or your partner) have just had a baby and you’re trying to think of ways to contribute to the household finances while juggling a demanding tyrant of a new boss (your baby).
Then a friend comes over for coffee and sows the annoyingly earworm-esque idea that starting your own business and working from home is a ‘simple’ solution to solving the stresses of a drop in family income. That tiny seed of interest turns into Googling ‘work from home business’ on your smartphone during the 2am feed. And from there it’s a short hop from ‘seed of an idea’ to ‘excited passion’.
This is the point where you need to stop.
I don’t mean ‘quit’. I mean ‘put on the brakes and get your reading glasses out’. Starting a business isn’t a ‘quick’ fix solution to a potentially short term problem. It’s a massive time and emotional investment; one that can often require significant financial funding to get you started.
So the first thing you need to do is investigate the reality of whether working from home with your on business will actually work for you.
Having been a self-employed parent for almost eight years, I’m familiar with the rose-coloured glasses phase. You think that it will be like having your cake and eating it too – you get to stay at home with the kiddies while earning an income! No childcare fees! No guilty trudging into work! Availability to attend your child’s school events! Working from home sounds pretty rainbow-y and unicorn-y doesn’t it?
The thing many of us forget to factor into this magical fairytale however is this: the need to do the actual work.
If we don’t have childcare, how will we deliver our services, make our products, service our clients? We might be physically present with our children, but will we actually be present for our children during the day? Perhaps you will work ‘when the children sleep’ – but what if they don’t? What if you have a deadline to meet and your child decides that today would be the perfect day to become completely overtired and refuse to sleep a wink? I know I’m not the only one familiar with the whine that accompanies that state of mind!
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The guilt remains, because while we are not physically leaving the house, working from home means we have to say ‘no’ a lot: no to playing tea party all the time, no to watching The (freaking) Wiggles for the third time in a row, and yes, there are some nights (too many nights) when you have been battling time management issues all day long (ie your child won’t leave you alone and you’re desperately trying to finish a job order) and you get to dinner time (at 9pm) and end up ordering pizza.
This doesn’t mean working from home doesn’t work. It just means that in order for it to make a positive difference to your family, you need to prepare, prepare, prepare.
Here are some tips to get started when working from home:
1. Talk to your partner/family about your idea and write a family plan
Just like with everything in family life, when one person decides to embark on a grand adventure, it helps to have the support and guidance of those impacted by these decisions. Write out a family plan, much like you would a business plan, to negotiate and plan out the day to day stuff together. Here are some questions to consider:
- When will you do the actual work?
- Is periodic childcare an option?
- Will your family support you and offer to care for your children when the cranky, overtired toddler monster comes to visit?
- What are you hoping to achieve?
- How many hours a day do you intend on working?
- What are your expectations from your partner/family?
Planning for how you will successfully make working from home work needs to be done before you even consider whether the business idea is viable. If it isn’t going to work for you and your family, then the idea isn’t viable.
2. Contact your local Business Enterprise Centre and start researching
So you have nutted out a plan to make your home/work life balance work. Now you need to look into the viability of your business and start the business planning phase. Your local Business Enterprise Centre will be able to sit down with you and work out your idea within a framework that translates to business practice. They will also be able to point you in the direction of your licensing needs and other considerations you need to think about as well as provide you with some important resources to help you research your options. Things to think about include:
- What do you want to sell?
- What makes you different?
- Who are your competitors?
- Who do you want to sell it to?
- How do you want to/can you sell it?
- What licences/permits/insurances/registrations do you need?
- What do you want to call your business (check web domain availability before you register the name with ASIC)?
- What financial investment do you need? Can you provide it?
- What are your long and short term goals?
3. Write a business plan
Once you have done your research and you know the answer to the above questions, write a business plan (check out the free template here). This doesn’t have to be a traditional written report if this doesn’t gel with you – there are creative ways that you can approach business plan writing that can be inspirational as well as practical (check out this Pinterest collection).
4. Take the first step
Whatever your first step is – whether it’s prototyping new products you plan to make, designing service packages or building a website/blog/app (or any number of the many other options!) – take it. Don’t look back. Don’t sweat the small stuff. AND… make sure you look after yourself, too.
Oh… and there will be the odd rainbow or unicorn. But they won’t look like rainbows and unicorns. They will be seeing your child dressed up as you pretending to ‘work’ on an unplugged old keyboard. They will be seeing your child learning to play independently. They will be seeing your child run in the Athletics carnival or getting that award in assembly or simply having the ability to volunteer at their school. They will be in hearing your child saying thank you when you buy them a special ‘just because’ gift out of the money you just earned doing something that you love. They will also be in the immense satisfaction you will feel in exercising your intelligence bone and giving yourself permission to do something for YOU. Because that’s ok, too. In fact it’s vital.