Read these 24 Home Biz Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Small Businesses tips and hundreds of other topics.
OK, so "Super Mom" probably isn't what we need to strive towards, but as a work-at-home-mom don't forget to take advantage of the "at-home-mom" part of your title. Schedule your work so that you can be a classroom parent, field trip chaperone, or scout leader. Volunteer to bake cookies for the class party (or at least pick them up at the bakery!) Plan mini outings to the park, zoo, skating rink, or museum with your kids. While deadlines and clients are important, so is your family--and isn't that why you chose to work at home anyway?
If your children's schedules do not allow you to set regular work hours, try alternating between work and play.
*For each 15 minutes on the phone, spend 15-30 minutes playing a game or reading a story with your children.
*Set up your "To-Do" list the night before and take advantage of small pockets of time while the children are otherwise occupied.
*Make work into a game: folding socks can be a "matching game", filing papers can be a "sorting game".
For steady growth of your business layout a plan of what you must do everyday to:
>Bring in new customers
>Bring existing customers back – repeat business
>Build ‘loyalty' – branding for long term business
>How to efficiently service and fulfill the promises you've made to our customer.
Okay, now automate this plan. Put a system in place so the activities you've planned regularly happen. A system that is well organized and automated can be delegated – and because there is a plan that is followed – it's more likely to be executed by an employee, with the same professionalism that you designed it.
When working at home, we sometimes find our "work" scattered
all over the house. By designating an "office space" (you
may not have an "actual office") you will keep your work
organized and easy to find. Also, this will help when trying
to separate work-time from family-time.
Issue: You WANT to be a "better parent", but after a long day at the office you're just too tired and frazzled to deal with your children's issues the way you know you should.
Call to Action: The benefits of working at home are many. In addition to the following, how many other benefits can you think of for your family?
*Flexibility--a hot commodity when raising young children!
*Accessibility--to your children. Working at home, your kids have access to you whenever they need you i.e.: when they're sick, during a scary thunderstorm, or when they just need a hug.
*Freedom--you can decide what's important and what's not. You can visit the library or duck pond for a quick mid-day outing, or go apple-picking on a weekday when it's less crowded.
Consider the option of working at home.
So how do you make effective phone calls with children
and other "household noise" in the background?
A portable headset and a mute button work wonders! The headset
frees your hands to get juice and snacks, separate arguing children,
or prepare dinner. A mute button allows you to hear the other
person without them hearing your background noise.
Working at home is not going to be a dream all the time. On top of your career work, there looms housework, laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, errands, lost dogs, sick children, and sibling wars.
How to manage these multiple (and constantly changing) activities? Set a routine and plan your calendar week-by-week (see tips and links under Time Management).
By keeping a routine, you and the children will always know what's going on (for the most part).
Pick a day every week that is "library day" or "park day" (ie: every Wendnesday after lunch).
Pick a day each week that you go grocery shopping--and if you can't do this with the kids, then do it while they're in school or at a playdate.
Can you do paperwork or envelope stuffing at the playground while the kids are playing?
Can you set business appointments at the same day/time each week and schedule a babysitting swap with another work at home mom?
Be creative, and always remember the reason you chose to stay home in the first place!
Issue: I'm working at home, but still don't seem to have the time for my family, career, and social responsibilities.
Call to Action: Working at home is still "working." While it does provide an opportunity for you to spend time on the activities you value in life, there is still a need for balance and organization--just like in an office. Write a list of everything you are currently involved in (career, kids sports teams, volunteer) and all the activities you'd like to be involved in. Now rank these according to importance in your life. Choose which you will keep and which you will toss out. Some items may be rotated: if you are helping parent in your daughter's class this year, then maybe you can be scout leader for your son next year.
If you are trying to find time to make phone calls with
little ones wrapped around your ankles, try this:
Have a few "special activities" that are only for "phone time".
Special books, games, toys, crafts that are only taken out
during phone time allow you some quiet time on the phone
while engaging your children in something new and exciting.
Have you ever put off making business calls because your children are around and might make noise while you're on the phone?
Try these suggestions:
*Have special toys, games, activities that come out only during "phone time". Having "something special" will often keep the children occupied for the few minutes you need to make your call.
*Play "phone time" with your children. Let them have an "office" or desk space of their own and a toy phone. Let them know it's phone time and you both need to make your calls.
*Be open and honest with your clients-if there is an interruption, excuse yourself, mute the phone to handle the children quickly, and when you return apologize and explain that it's one of the small drawbacks to working at home, but that the benefits are far greater. Who knows, maybe you'll help another parent take that step to working at home!
When juggling family and business, sometimes keeping it all together is a challenge.
Create a "Family Center" in your home--preferably in a central location that everyone visits often such as the kitchen.
Your family center should include:
*a calendar: a large one with large squares to write in
*colored pens: for each family member to mark his or her activities
*important phone numbers: soccer coaches, schools, babysitters, carpools, etc
*message pads or wipe-off board: for leaving notes
*message pads: for each family member to retrieve phone messages
You can add or change things as your family needs.
Setting boundaries within your workspace can be a difficult task, but with a bit of creativity is not impossible.
Some examples of boundaries:
*An office with a door that locks will certainly keep your home life and work life separate. If you have small children and cannot be behind closed doors, try putting a baby-gate in the doorway to your office. You can hear and see what`s going on and even step over it if necessary.
*Have a visible "sign" to let others know what`s going on. Try wearing a telephone headset if you`re on a "business call". Children and others will know it`s a business call and that they need to be extra quiet. A "Do not Disturb" sign on your office door during very important calls or meetings could also be used.
*Time boundaries (working hours) can be set so that you (and others) will know when you`re working and when you`re not. This can be more difficult to do with children at home, but setting small blocks of time for specific tasks might help: make phone calls during naptime, meet with clients while the kids are in school.
Be creative and work with your particular circumstances.
If you work at home, have set "office hours" and
stick to them. Let your employees, team members,
clients and customers know what your hours are--when
they can best reach you. Honor the time you spend
with your family. If the phone rings during dinner,
let the machine pick it up.
Some easy ways to accomplish this:
*have a separate business phone-turn the ringer off during off hours
*use caller id-unless it's someone you are expecting, don't answer it
*have separate voice-mailboxes for family and business
Too often, moms at home are taken advantage of by others who assume that if a mom is at home, she has "time." Any mom at home knows that this is not the case, but even moreso for works at home moms who are not only managing a household but a business or job as well. There are deadlines, clients, appointments, and other required tasks just as in a "regular job." Work-at-home-moms (and dads!) need respect for their positions just as any other working adult. Sometimes, however, the only way to get this respect is to demand it. Get used to saying "no" if a request conflicts with an appointment you already have or your day as it's currently scheduled.
This is not to say that WAHM's should be selfish and mean. One of the benefits of working at home is having flexibility--just make sure you're being flexible and not taken advantage of.
OK, so how do you take your child to work when you
work at home? Easy--include your child in what you're
doing. If you need to get some paperwork done at your
desk, set up a "desk" for your child. Give him some of
your old forms, catalogs, a toy phone, crayons and paper,
and let him model you. Your child will soon learn more
about what you do and can be included in other activities
as his age permits (stuffing envelopes, stamping catalogs).
You'll bond over work and have more time to bond over play!
There are some times that you just need some peace and
quiet to get your work done. Network with other home-
working parents and arrange to trade babysitting services.
One afternoon a week you take her child(ren) and one afternoon
a week she takes yours. Your kids will make new friends and
have some fun playtime and you'll get work done, errands,
or just some quiet time.
As a parent working at home, you know that there are just some things that are impossible to do when the kids are around.
You have a couple of choices:
*wait until they're 18 and move out of the house so you can get on with your business
*send them to boarding school so you don't have to deal with them at all or
*find another work at home parent and trade babysitting.
By trading off babysitting, you save money (no hiring babysitters). You are also helping out another parent in the same situation thus making the world a better place all around. Your children will have other children to play with (for them it's a "playdate") while you're able to get important business finished.
Need help with the kids, but not up to hiring a full-time sitter? Try a "mother's helper". A mother's helper is usually an older child who lives in your neighborhood. She may not be quite old enough to babysit alone, yet, but could use the practice and experience and doesn't cost as much as a regular babysitter (mainly because you are always around). A mother's helper can take the kids out in the backyard or down to the playroom and keep the kids occupied while you work. She can also help with small household tasks such as setting the table and getting snacks.
Issue: You want to stay home with your children, but you feel you need to work full-time to make ends meet.
Call to Action: The question may not be "Can you afford to stay home?" but rather "Can you afford to work?" If you calculate what it really costs you to work outside your home, you may be surprised. Use this sample formula to get started:
*Start with your "take-home" pay (after taxes & deductions)
*Add the value of your benefits (medical insurance, profit-sharing accounts)
*Subtract your expenses: Childcare, business wardrobe, eating out, train fare, gas, tolls, parking, household professionals (do you pay someone to cut your yard? Staying at home you could either do it yourself or hire a less expensive high school student who you could supervise), cost of paying retail for everything (you don't have time to shop the sales), miscellaneous requests (raffle tickets, school candy drives, office birthday gifts)
*What's left over is your Actual Pay.
Take this a step further by totaling up the hours you work, commute time, time to pick up and drop off the kids. Then divide your Actual Pay by this number of hours. Next, ask yourself, "Are you worth more than this?"
When deciding to work at home, one of the most important decisions is how and where to set up the home office. While some may think that working "around" the family won't be too difficult, stop and think about just how many different types of distractions might exist in your home.
Some things to think about when setting up your home office are:
*location - Will you on the phone much? Then you may not want to be in or near the kids' playroom or the TV room.
*equipment - Do you have delicate or potentially dangerous equipment? (computer, fax machine, cameras, paint or art supplies). Your location will need to be secure so that small children do not get into breakable or potentially harmful items and substances.
*space - Do you keep client files? Trade publications? Large equipment? Having enough space to stay organized will be vital to your home business success.
Issue: I have invested years in school and on the job in building my career. I'll never get the same respect as WAHM (work-at-home-mom).
Call to Action: Contrary to popular belief, parents who are able to stay at home and raise their children are usually envied by their peers, not looked down on. It's quite an accomplishment to go against the grain and hold your family values above society's "norms". List all of your gifts, talents, and education. Take this list and find where you can apply each of these to a life working at home with your children-you may be pleasantly surprised.
*A Lawyer-has the skills of negotiation-useful when dealing with stubborn 4-year-olds as well as hired contractors.
*A Doctor or nurse-has the medical skills necessary for bandaging "boo-boos" as well as experience dealing with insurance companies, which as a parent you will do eventually.
*Were you a math major in college? Then you will know exactly how to split the last piece of cake so that all three children will have exactly the same amount. (Also see negotiating skills!)
What are the benefits of having a home business? The list is endless. There are as many benefits to owning a home-based business as there are potential home business owners. Take a moment to define the benefits you receive from having a home business. By reminding yourself of YOUR personal benefits, you may spark a new fire of passion that will undoubtedly give you a refreshed outlook on your day-to-day tasks.