I came of age in a different era, part of a generation of career-oriented women who earned impressive college degrees and entered corporate America. We were ready to take on the world with our briefcases, gray suits and juggling acts.
For me, it all changed after I was laid off from my job as an investment banker. I had the corporate ladder kicked out from under me and was forced to re-evaluate my priorities. I soon realized that the bank had done me an enormous favor. It had made my decision for me: I was leaving the workplace and returning home.
I became pregnant with my first child, Leah, and began evaluating how I could create my own business from home. To start my business, I systematically called every advertising agency, offering my writing skills on a contract basis. The days were long and often discouraging. I faced constant rejection. Finally a gentleman said, "If you can come in right now, I've got a project for you."
With no time to find a baby sitter, I threw on a navy-blue suit, put Leah in her car seat and headed out the door. At the advertising agency, my baby and I sat down with the company president. My first words were, "This little girl is the No. 1 reason why I'll be the best copywriter your ad agency has ever found. I'm determined to stay home with her." He later told me that my daughter was the reason he hired me.
My goal from the beginning was to create an atmosphere in which I could have a thriving family and a successful home-based business. Over the years, I learned that it's possible to balance my family's personal and financial needs while I worked from home.
If this is something you're interested in doing, here are a few practical ideas to help you get started:
Do consider your season
Before you jump into a home business, carefully evaluate whether it's a good fit for your family. If you are a mother with preschool children, choose a business that lends itself well to success in 10 hours a week. Typically, that means joining forces with an existing business rather than starting something from scratch. Choose a company that has an established product line and does all the billing and shipping for you, so you can focus on building your customer base.
A mother with school-age children can invest closer to 20 hours a week. This creates the possibility for launching a solo business, which requires more time to develop your product or service, market your brand, handle billing and ship products or deliver a service. As the children enter high school, a woman can consider a business requiring 40 hours per week.
Don't forget to develop good communication with your husband
You can honor him by including him in the process of selecting your business, determining how much time and money the family has to invest, evaluating what your working hours will be and what role, if any, he would like to play. It's essential that both of you are on board with developing a home business before you move forward.
Do keep your priorities straight
Success from home is as simple as focusing on God, family and business — in that order. A calendar can help you maintain proper balance, keeping in mind that flexibility will be the key to avoiding frustration and guilt. Carve out specific chunks of time during which you focus your energy. You can color code your calendar: Designate yellow, for example, as time for spiritual growth, blue as family time and green for income-earning hours. That's not to say you can't take a business phone call while your children play at the park, but beware of the temptation to wear three hats at once all the time.
Typically, the best strategy is to divide and conquer, so be honest about your multitasking abilities and plan accordingly. You may need to partition your work into many small chunks of time, you may be able to multitask to blitz through your responsibilities each morning, or you may want to trade child care with a friend so you have uninterrupted work time a couple of days each week.
Don't become a workaholic
Many young mothers are finding they are actually more effective when they work fewer hours. Four hours of laser-focused effort, during which you are fresh and optimistic, will yield a far greater return than working around the clock, frustrated and exhausted. My advice to young mothers is to work no more than four hours in a single day and only a set number of days each week.
Do let God be your business manager
Take time to pray and ask Him to guide your day, ordaining key appointments so you don't waste time. Pray over every appointment, every deadline, every opportunity — and every lost opportunity.
Don't forget to include your children
Every mom knows it's easier to do the work yourself than to train your children, but it's better for the family if children learn how to run a household effectively. The same is true with your home business. Involving your children in age-appropriate ways and increasing their responsibilities as your business grows will build their character and position them for future success.
Listen to Donna talk more about working from home as well as home business ideas on a recent broadcast titled, "Supporting Your Family While Staying Home."
Cultivate Your Success
People skills — No matter what product or service you offer, you are in the people business. Treat others as you'd want to be treated, offering a quality product or service at a fair price. When people are drawn to you, you'll naturally earn more income.
Diligence — Growing a business is like growing a crop. Planting seeds always comes before reaping a harvest. You'll need to work at your business every day.
Calculated risk taking — If you want the security of a predictable paycheck, seek regular employment. But if you'd rather have the freedom to set your own hours, then the risks of self-employment are worth taking.