Understand the challenge
It’s not for the faint hearted and requires time and effort to run a business whilst juggling parenting too, particularly if your children are young – the early years, when they need more of your time and attention.
If you want to run a home based business and succeed it takes planning, hard work and a can do attitude. How do I know this? Well I raised my 2 kids on my own whilst starting and running a business and in hindsight (isn’t it a wonderful thing?) there are things I would have done differently, so I thought I would share my learnings with you.
1. Get the timing right
What your business requires of you and what your kids require of you are 2 completely different things and juggling these alone can be exhausting but in different ways.
Work requires a focus on thinking strategically and logically. Looking after children also requires some strategy, of course. But it's usually more free-form behaviour, with less emphasis on deadlines and detailed schedules.
Switching between these two modes of thinking can be tiring and stressful. So in some cases it can be worth delaying starting a new business until your children are older.
Many successful entrepreneurs take time off to concentrate on their young children for the first few years. Then they return to the world of work – refreshed and ready to succeed.
If you find yourself under-stimulated and desperate to get back to work, then that might be the right thing for you. And if your kids are happy to be left in the care of others, then this is less likely to cause them stress.
If you’re not sure, start small until you’re confident you can balance the demands of a home-based business with your children’s needs.
2. Deal with distractions
Distractions when working from home are inevitable. It maybe that you are putting together a proposal when your daughter pops her head around the door to state that she is starving and needs feeding NOW or you could be doing your accounts when your son decides now would be a good time to empty the contents of the bathroom down the kitchen sink.
Accepting that these things happen will help you prepare for them:
- Block out times in your work day when the kids aren’t around, maybe early morning or in the evening when they are in bed. Use this time for work that needs your full attention and concentration.
- Keep a short list of easy admin jobs that can be done whilst the kids are around, things that don’t require a lot of thinking about
- Book into a shared office space or co-working space if your budget and time allow. Getting out of the house will help you feel more business like and help you focus, plus you never know who you may meet that can help you on your business journey.
3. Split your time fairly
There will be times when your business needs you and times when your children do too and it can be tempting sometimes to think that the business is the priority, after all it’s what brings in the money right? The emails will wait, nothing is THAT urgent and in the long run they aren’t as important as your children’s development.
Separate work time and family time, and stick to this rigidly. The actual division will depend on your goals, but here are some suggestions:
- Work from the morning school drop-off until the afternoon pick-up, then stop.
- Don’t work on weekends.
- Maybe work an extra hour once your kids are in bed – but don’t make a habit of it.
- Remember to take proper lunch breaks.
- Don’t forget to make time for family holidays.
4. Act like a project manager
You’d be surprised how much you can get done in a short space of time, properly managed:
- Don’t use your email inbox as a way to manage your tasks with clients. That’s not what it was designed for – there are better tools for the job.
- Use a project management tool such as Basecamp to simplify client management. This can help you reduce the overwhelming flow of information and make it more manageable.
- Set timers for individual tasks and take a break when the timer ends. For most types of work, it’s hard to maintain solid concentration for more than about 35 minutes at a time. Taking short, regular breaks will help you be more productive.
- Keep everything client-related in one place, separate from other tasks. This will help you create a clear, uncluttered environment.
5. Develop a consistent schedule for your home-based business
Running your business isn’t the same as building it. Both are important, but once you’ve reached a certain workload it’s easy to ignore business development.
So pick one day a week for working on (not in) your business. In other words, you might spend that day:
- planning social media marketing
- writing blogs
- following up sales leads
- networking with potential new customers.
6. Automate wherever possible!
Computers were designed to make working life easier. With the right software you can automate some of the work of running your business.
- Standard email responses will let you respond quickly to customers while you think about a more detailed reply. A simple “Thank you for your enquiry, we will get back to you in the next 48 hours” will make potential new customers feel valued.
- Use cloud-based software to save time and effort. If you make use of software that stores data online securely, you’ll make life easier for yourself. Lower IT costs, automated upgrades, data backups that are done for you – it all helps save you time.
- Automate admin tasks. There are some things that all businesses need to do, including handling payroll and accounting for taxes. Get the right accounting software and you’ll be able to automate much of this work. That will leave you more free time to concentrate on building your business.
Learn from others
If you want to make the most of your situation, it helps to learn from people who have been there before. Luckily, there are plenty of stay-at-home parents who have written about their experiences.
You can learn from them. Find out what they did right, what they did wrong, and what they recommend for other entrepreneurs.
Always remember that you’re not alone. If you get stuck with any aspect of running your home-based business, it’s easy to reach out for advice. Make the most of all the resources available – then you’re much more likely to succeed.