Thinking about becoming a work-from-home mom? Before jumping in, realize it will take a lot of patience, persistance and most of all, discipline.
Any mother who has ever held down a full time job has envisioned the scenario: tell the demanding boss to jump in the lake, quit the office commute, start a home-based business and live happily ever after.
The toddler will play with cars quietly in the next room and the baby will sleep blissfully while you work away at your home computer. Profits roll in, and everything is peachy keen. Right? It sounds like a walk in the park. Well, not exactly. Like all things, working from home isn’t all that it appears to be from the outside.
Certainly there are benefits, but each woman must think twice before chucking it all to join the ranks of the self-employed.
Working from home is full of the good, the bad and the ugly … just like working full time. It pays to go into it with your eyes open, though, to make sure you don’t make a huge mistake.
Where to Begin
The first step is deciding what kind of home-based business interests you. Examine your skill set. A previous full time career will usually lead to something that will fit. Someone in communications might become a freelance writer. Someone in graphic design might go into freelance web design.
It is also possible to find work as a full-time, home-based employee for an established company who doesn’t mind their employees working from home. For these women, the benefits and guaranteed pay is enticing, but working from home with children around doesn’t offer as much flexibility as most self-employed women find.
So what to do if there isn’t a clear path via previous experience? There is always the possibility to take a risk and try something new.
Lesley Spencer started Home Based Working Moms (HBWM) 10 years ago and has heard many success stories from women who have branched out into something new. Spencer felt compelled to launch HBWM after starting her own home business and seeing the need for networking and support for home-based working moms. She realized that there were women out there who were very interested in working from home, but weren’t sure how to start or what to do. Her website, homebasedworkingmoms.com, now offers support to parents who need to share information, network and support one another. The association has grown to over 600 members nationwide.
Do Your Homework
“The best advice I can give is to research the home business market and decide what you would be interested in doing,” Spencer says. “I strongly suggest that people find a business they truly enjoy. Most people who jump into a quick way to make money fail, falling victim to scams, or starting something that does not earn an income. Or they find the business they started is not something they enjoy, and making money at it becomes a real chore.”
To avoid the pitfall, Spencer created ‘Mom’s Work-at-Home Kit’ (workathomekit.com), which was designed to help moms discover their passion and turn it into a home-based business. “We each have individual strengths, interests, experience, needs and desires,” says Spencer. “In our ‘I want it now’ society, we search for instant answers and instant results. The difference between starting a home business and starting a successful home business usually lies in whether the home business is a good match for you. Find what you love to do, fill a need and the money will follow.”
For work-at-home moms, the hardest part may be a good balance with child care. The level of child care simply depends on the nature of one’s business. For instance, a woman making money reselling yard sale treasures on eBay might not need child care as often as someone calling on clients.
Kelly Gore is a Franklin mother of one who works from home. After her son, Hayden was born, Gore decided to launch her own interior design business, Studioforma. In addition, she teaches classes at O’More College of Design in Franklin. She works from her home PC a lot, but must attend classes and is frequently required to sit in on meetings with clients, architects and contractors.
“Initially, when Hayden was younger, I had a nanny for once or twice during the week when I needed to be out of the office. As the business grew, as well as Hayden, I’ve enrolled him in day care twice a week, sometimes three times a week, when scheduling requires,” Gore says. She notes that sometimes things haven’t turned out the way she would like them to.
“More than a few times, I hate to admit, child care has fallen through, so Hayden, at a very young age has already attended his share of client meetings as well as a few college courses.
The Down Side
Working in pajamas and having a 10-step commute to the office is great, but there are unpleasant elements to working from home. Most women site record-keeping as one of the biggest headaches.
The Gores had previously been filing their own taxes but decided to recently use a certified public accountant (CPA) to handle their taxes since the job of filing taxes for someone self-employed became daunting.
Royce Rhea is a Brentwood-based CPA who spends 75 percent of his time working with the self-employed. Rhea is constantly encouraging his clients to maintain good records so that they can maximize their tax benefits.
“I have a lot of clients who love working from home, but maintaining good records can be a nightmare,” Rhea states. Before becoming self-employed, people need to remember that they pay both the employer and employee share of social security and you may also pay more in medicare. On the upside, there are ways to offset those expenses using tax deductions and write-offs. You just have to know how to find them.”
Striking a Balance
Ultimately, working from a home office is all about balance. While it can be rewarding, it can alternately be a lonely endeavor and can draw time away from your family.
Beth Maaske works as an outside sales associate for commercial truck and trailer dealers and realized early on that she had to actively pursue balance in her career and home life with husband Jeff and 2 year old son Zach.
“My advice is to be disciplined. At first, I found I couldn’t stop working. I worked from when I got up in the morning until I went to bed at night. I was neglecting my personal life and family because my job was right under my fingertips. I now keep all of my work in one room of the house and I leave it and don’t look back when work is over.”
On the other hand, Maaske states, unless you make time to either call on customers or get out of the house for a while, the loneliness can be hard.
“You get such limited interaction with humans when you work from home … and you have to get out or else you will just go nuts.”
Gore echoes those sentiments. “I miss the office environment quite a bit. In most architectural offices, the group is set up like a studio. The flows of information, design ideas and general conversation with co-workers is expected. Sole proprietorship is sometimes lonely.”
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, working from home can be a blessing … if it’s done right. Take a little time to plan ahead before jumping into the first thing that comes your way. Everyone interviewed for this article emphasized the importance of research and planning, whether it’s in evaluating your skills or making plans for change with your spouse or discussing your intentions with a CPA. So take a little time to lay the proper foundation, and you won’t be sorry.
Laura Roberts is a mom and writer. She resides in Williamson County.
BALANCING WORK AND FAMILY:
- Develop a schedule that allows you focused work time. Hire someone to come in during the week if you have children at home full time. Do not allow work to interfere with your children’s needs.
- Ask your spouse and children to help out with household chores and simple business tasks. Have a meeting to discuss who can help with what. Delegate tasks and work together as a family.
- Spend time each day with your children and spend time each evening just with your spouse. Don’t continually sacrifice time with your spouse or your children to work on your business.
- Periodically review how you are spending your time. Make sure each aspect of your life is getting the attention it needs. That includes: taking good care of yourself, spouse, children, business, home, hobbies, etc.
- Know what you want from your home life and business life. Decide what is truly important to you and work towards that goal. Eliminate time wasters and things that constantly prevent you from the people and things that are truly most important.