Friday, October 21, 2011

Four home-based writing business basics

I've been a working from home mum for five years now. I cannot believe it's been that long!

I love having my own writing and editing business, but I've struggled to fit it into my life since having kids. I've been frustrated about not being able to grow it as quickly as I would like. And I've also found it hard to come to grips with the inconsistent work flow which can come with solo freelancing.

The truth is, it's been a struggle the whole time that I've continued to work while having two, then three, then four children. Even when, or maybe especially when, it's only been for a few hours a week. Because when you spend three or four hours a week on your business, you question why you're bothering at all.

Then when it suddenly jumps to a 20-hour week you have to squeeze in between everything else, you want to shut yourself away from your kids and husband, and turn off the phone, until it is done.

But I think the struggle has been worth it. I've finally got to a point where I feel I've got the hang of this thing. Working from home, or near home, in your own business can really be a lovely lifestyle, whether you have children or not.

Today I have realistic expectations about work flow and can manage its unevenness. With five years experience under my belt I am much more confident in my abilities than I was when I started out, I'm more organised, and make much better use of my time.

Here are the four most important things I've learnt about running a home-based business:

1. Do something you LOVE

Choose to do something that if you won the Lotto tomorrow, you would still do for free. Then do it, and don't worry too much about the money. If you're good at what you do (and if you love it that much you probably are) then the money will come.

I've done work which bored me almost to tears, and while each completed job paid well, it turned out to be a poor return per hour of effort as I forced myself to concentrate on the task. So I don't take on jobs solely for the money any more. I will take on jobs out of my niche but I have to find them a little bit interesting as well.

2. Work out how much money you actually need to earn

Don't just pluck a figure out of the air to aim for, like I have done. It might feel exciting to aim for a six-figure income over the next year, but you're doing yourself a disservice if you're not being real. How much do you actually need to live on, or save to put towards that specific goal you're after?

You might find it's a lot less than what you think, and that frees you up to be more creative with your business and build a reputation and a niche. It's better than a scatter-gun approach of grabbing what work you can in order to make lots of dollars at once.

2. Get a grip on basic household tasks

It makes life a lot easier if you have the basics of your household covered - especially meals, laundry and basic upkeep. You get these things slide if you've only got adults at home, or it's just you, but you have to keep on top of them if you have young children.

You can either do it yourself (in which case a schedule helps), or outsource it. If outsourcing, just keep in mind that you have to earn well in front of what you're paying for help. You get taxed on what you earn, plus you might pay a tax upon outsourcing household chores. It adds up, and you don't want to be working mostly to pay for your cleaner and takeaway dinners.

If you have sympathetic family near by, delegate making a dinner or two a week, or a basket of ironing, taking children to swimming lessons, whatever they wish!

3. Turn off the computer every day

When the kids come home from school just love them. Take them outside. Play with them. Cook with them. Take an interest in their homework. Have their friends over.

Don't have kids? Catch up with a friend over lunch, go for a walk with a neighbour, drop a little thank you present at someone's front door. The idea is that you do something most week days to get you away fom the computer and connect you with the people in your life.

Also, meditate, pray, exercise, get a massage, do whatever you do to nourish yourself and return you to gratitude for your life. Book it in a few times a week, if not every day.

You might get (financially) rich a little slower, that's all. It's worth it. Enjoy the flexibility that you give yourself in a home-based business.

I've learnt all these things the hard way. It's simple commonsense but it can take ages to actually put commonsense ideas into practice can't it? Five years in my case!

There are lots of other things I think are important in a home-based business like mine, and I might write about them in other posts. What have you learnt from trying to work from home? Any tips?

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  1. I did family day care as a home business when we only had 4 children. Over the years I did learn a bit.

    It really was pretty different to the type of work you do at home. At first, I thought I had to be attentive the the children I had in care from the moment they came, to the moment they went home. This was so impractical because I had school children after school and pre schoolers during the day. After about 6 months of running like this, I actually started to leave the children much more to play among themselves and do some of the household chores. I did do some organised activities especially with the pre schoolers but not as many as I had when they first came. They also liked coming more when I left them to their own resources.

  2. To do something well you have to like it. That idea is not exactly novel. We've got it down to four words: "Do what you love."

  3. Therese, my friend did family day care as well. It can be a great home business, and such a God-send for the mothers using the service. I bet the kids had lots of fun at your place.

  4. All your points are right. These tips can help home-based business owners in a lot of ways. People usually think that running a home-based business is less stressful, since the business owners have the luxury of their homes near at hand. But this venture still requires skills to carry out.

  5. Getting involved in a home based business can enable women to make earn money while still being able to attend to many of the responsibilities they may have at home.

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