The last few decades has seen huge growth in the number of parents wanting to start a revenue generating business from home. The dream is to have a profitable business that they can work around raising a young family.
This can provide some very exciting opportunities and it isn't unheard off for the stay-at-home mother/father to end up earning more money than their partner who goes out to work in a 'conventional' job.
What steps can you take to achieve the dream scenario of spending more quality time with your young children? What can you do to create a good work-life balance and build a thriving business at the same time.
Here are five things to bear in mind when starting a home-based business.
1. Choose a business idea that does not (initially) require staff, a shop front of dedicated offices
Try not to start a business that will very quickly mean you need to employ people or move into a shop or dedicated office space.
There are lots of businesses that might ultimately, if they are a success, require staff and premises, but that can initially be run from home. It's amazing how many hugely successful corporations were started using nothing more than a table top in the kitchen.
If you're in any doubt that it is totally possible to start a business on your kitchen table or in your garage and end up as a Fortune 500 company check out the histories of Amazon, Apple, Disney, Google, Facebook, Dell, eBay, Facebook (okay, this was in a Harvard dorm room rather than a kitchen or garage), Harley Davidson, Nike, Yankee Candle, and YouTube.
Okay, you may not have aspirations to be the next Apple, but it just goes to show what can be achieved by people starting a business from home.
If your home-based business eventually starts to fly in a major way, you can always look at taking the next step then, but if remains manageably small then you can sleep at night knowing that you didn't over commit yourself.
Also, it is worth remember what your objectives are. Lots of people who start a home based business want to do so because it gives them freedom, a stress free way to earn a living, and the flexibility they've always dreamed off to pick up the kids, attend school sporting events, etc. Don't worry, you don't have to dream of being the next Apple to start a home-based business.
2. Choose a business idea that you can test out without investing too much money
In the heat of the moment it is easy to get carried away and spend your household savings on your latest brainwave, but this can be a recipe for disaster. Yes, if you have a considerable amount of disposable income or savings, you might want to pursue that crazy brainwave you had whilst walking the dog one day, but even then, it is almost always best to try to start small and grow into it.
Again, it is going to be down to your objectives. If you are just wanting to start a home-based business to earn a little extra money, then piling your life savings in to some hair-brained scheme is probably not a wise idea, but if your objective is to ultimately build a successful corporation that can develop into something very special then you may need to seriously look and how you plan on funding this and how you will take it from the initial test phase through to the next level whilst also meeting your home-based business objectives.
3. Don't be afraid of failure
This might sound strange, but it is well worth remembering. Most successful business people fail on a regular basis. It is through failures that we eventually hit the bullseye.
Often, when starting a home based business that you can work around your family life, you will have a few false starts before you really hit that home run. As long as you've not spent your life savings on those false starts it really isn't a problem. Just give it a go, see how things progress, review and then decide how to proceed.
Often the first thing you try will not be the perfect match, and that is absolutely fine. Just keep on trying until you find something that meets your objectives.
The term pivoting is often used in business. Here's how the Financial Times describes pivoting.
When used in relation to entrepreneurship, pivot (which generally refers to a shift in strategy) describes the tortured path that most start-ups go through to find the right customer, value proposition, and positioning.
So don't worry if you need to pivot from your initial home-based business idea to something else (either related or completely different) don't worry. This is just a normal part of business.
4. Be willing to persist and put in the hours
Probably the major reason why home businesses fail is that the people who start them are just not willing to persist and put in the hours necessary to succeed.
Starting a home-based business is rarely like a 9-to-5 job. It would be nice if things worked that way, but the reality is that if you are to really succeed there will probably be times when you will need to get up early, well before you need to do the school run, in order to get some business related issues out of the way before the day truly starts. At the other end of the day you will also find that there will be times when you need to burn the midnight oil. This can be particularly tough if you have already had a tiring day dropping off kids, picking kids up, making meals, and all the other things that go along with a typical family life.
The good news is that for all the burning the candle at both ends, you will also find that there are a huge number of positives. When you are one of the lucky parents to attend school functions during the day or help out on school trips. That's when it all seems worth it, as having a home-based business can give you the flexibility that those in a typical 9-to-5 can only dream of.
5. Be clear about your objectives
I've left the most important thing until last.
You must have clear objectives right from the get-go.
If you are not clear about your reasons for starting a home-based business and what it is you are trying to achieve you are likely to go off at all sorts of tangents, waste time and money, and not end up where you want to be for the simple reason that you never had a clear idea in the first place of where you wanted to be.
Your objectives can be as simple as knowing how many hours you want to put in, what kind of business you want to start, how much you plan to invest, and what you would consider to be an appropriate return on your time and investment. Other objectives you can include are timescales, staff, long term aims, and the role (if any) that your family members might play.
Take a pen and paper and jot down your initial thoughts on objectives before you invest and time or money into your home-based business. Once you've got your initial thoughts on paper you can start to fine-tune them until you have been 5 and 10 well-written objectives that you can refer to frequently to make sure that you are staying true to your original goals.
Coming up with well defined objectives is often something that you will want to consult with your family members about. Not only might your wife/husband be able to make a valuable contribution, but by involving them at such an early stage will hopefully get them to buy-in to your dreams and aspirations. If you feel it is appropriate, you might even want to involve your children or other close family members such as grandparents, aunts and uncles. There may be times when you'll need their help with baby-sitting duties or even packing parcels during the busy season, so it often does no harm just to see how they feel about what your setting out to do.
Over the years I have started numerous businesses from my kitchen table and all of them have ended up with their own offices, employees and a life of their own. I can honestly say that looking back, it is often that initial kitchen-table phase that is the most fun. It is when passions are running high, when there's a buzz in the air, and when you really feel you have a goal to aim at.
The great news is that starting a home-based business is far easier now than it has ever been. Only a couple of decades ago, very few people would have even considered starting a home-based business that was anything more involved that maybe stuffing envelopes, but now the options available are pretty much endless.
So if you have a young family and you want to start a home-based business follow the five steps above, and put your dream into practice. With the right idea and support from your family members, running a business from home can be both liberating and profitable, and it can give you a work-life balance that other occupations just can't compete with.
Here's to your success.
If you want to transform your business idea into reality check out paulsmithson.com or fill out your details below and I will keep you posted.