By Susan Baroncini-Moe
Working from home is the Holy Grail for stay-at-home moms, right? You get to stay home, earn some extra money from your kitchen table, and you're still right there for the kids and your hubby. But running a business from home isn't as easy as it sounds. So before you decide to jump into working from home, there are a few questions you should know the answers to:
1. What are your priorities?
When you start a work-from-home business, you must set your priorities and make sure you know what comes first. A home business, when marketed effectively, can grow to the point where it can start to encroach upon that all-important family time. If you don't have your priorities straight and don't know what comes first, the business can start to take precedence, leaving your family behind.
Even if you don't have children, it's still important to have your priorities in order before you get involved in a work-from-home business, otherwise, your marriage is likely to suffer when you start spending too much time working and not enough time with your spouse.
2. Will your spouse be on board?
One of the most important things you need to know about starting a work from home business is whether you have consensus with your spouse. Your business, whatever it is, will take at least some of your time and energy away from your family, and that means you really do need your spouse's blessing.
You'll want to create a plan for how you can manage both a business and your family without letting that business negatively affect your familial responsibilities, whether you come up with that plan or let your spouse help you figure one out. For example, you might work in the mornings before the kids are awake or when they're at school, or use a slow cooker to prepare meals once in awhile so that you can get more accomplished in the day and have more time to sneak in a little work at night a couple of nights a week.
3. Will you enjoy running a business from home?
One of the most important factors in any business is that you should enjoy doing what you do. When you enjoy the work you're doing, it's easier to get motivated - when you love what you do, it feels less like work.
But don't be fooled. Just because you love what you do, it doesn't mean that's all you'll do. For example, let's say that you want to start a small crafting business. You won't spend all of your time crafting. You'll spend maybe a third of your time doing what you love, but the rest of the time you'll spend photographing the new items you've created and adding them to the website, managing orders and responding to emails, packaging and shipping your sold items, and, yes, marketing your business in various ways. So you have to decide if you'll really enjoy all of the aspects of running a business from home.
4. Can you create a space for a work-from-home business?
Running a work-from-home business requires concentration and a physical space where you can work. Physical space has a huge impact on how you work - if you're working from a carved out corner in the bedroom or living room, you may be surrounded by distractions like laundry that needs to be done, toys that need to be put away, and a beckoning television.
One way to handle distractions is by planning your time well, so that household tasks are done and don't distract you from your work. For example, before I start working most mornings, I put a load of laundry in or get the crockpot cooking with dinner, so that I know those things are still getting done while I'm working on my business.
Another way to handle distractions is by creating a physical space that's just for work. It's ideal if you can transform a spare bedroom into a home office, but if that's not possible, you can use foldaway screens to create the illusion of a separate workspace that minimizes distractions, even in a corner of the living room.
5. How much time (and when) can you commit to growing a business?
"Get rich quick" isn't real: growing a business takes time, especially if you want that business to become profitable and really bring a solid income stream into your home. If your kids are still at home, though, you may not be able to devote much of your day to your business.
On the other hand, if you just want to add a couple hundred extra dollars per month, then starting a small craft business and using a site like Etsy means that you can do your crafting and add items to the store at any time of day or night. You'll still need to do some marketing, but there are lots of online marketing strategies that you can do any time of day, too. And these days, if you want to offer a service but can't work when most of your potential clients are available, you can create and sell digital products that educate and inform, and sell those instead of individual services.
There are literally thousands of businesses that you can start and run from home to bring in extra income, and many of them can be managed so that you don't take valuable time away from your family. But knowing what you're getting into and making sure that you've set up plans and strategies to keep your priorities in order is the best way to keep your family on track.
Susan Baroncini-Moe is the author of Business in Blue Jeans: How to Have a Successful Business on Your Own Terms, in Your Own Style, a business and marketing strategist, and a Guinness World Records(r) titleholder. She regularly speaks to audiences of all sizes, and she and her businesses have been featured in Redbook Magazine, USA Today, MSN Living, Investor's Business Daily, Yahoo Finance, and American Express Open Forum. You can find out more about growing your own business at BusinessInBlueJeans.com. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com