The following guest post is from Sarah Parsons of HelpMeetYourGoals.com:
Starting a new business or stay at home work venture at any time can be a daunting task. Add in a new baby and/or small children, and you have taken daunting to a whole new level. Give yourself permission to learn as you go — on both parenting and working from home.
Here are five tips to make starting a work-from-home business successful with babies and small children in the house:
1. Set realistic, clear goals.
And then break those goals down into the smallest chunks you can imagine. Then break them down even more.
You likely won’t have long, uninterrupted blocks of time to work. This means that you need to be efficient with your time and learn to work around the small blocks of time that you do have.
For example, if you need to produce a financial statement for a client (can you tell I do virtual assistant work?) you might need to use your first block of time before baby wakes in the morning to download bank transactions into the software. Once the baby wakes up, it’s time to take a break. Jot down a note to yourself regarding where you left off. When baby takes a nap, start reconciling the account. Again, when baby wakes, just stop and take note of where to begin next time.
It is totally normal to feel frustrated with the fact that a two-hour project can take two days. To reduce or even eliminate that frustration, just change your expectations. That two-hour project is now a two-day project.
On that note, make sure that you are realistic with your clients. Underpromise and overdeliver. Tell them that project will be completed within seven days… even though it will probably be completed in five. That way, if you’re up all night with a teething baby, you have a little cushion.
2. Be creative with your work space.
Right now, I am sitting on a bouncy ball with the baby in the Baby Bjorn, bouncing away. It’s perfect (for the moment) – I have my hands free, and baby is happy to be upright and connected to me. When you work for yourself at home, you don’t have to work 9-5 at a desk. You can work around the baby’s schedule. Better yet, you don’t have to work in a cubicle at a computer all day. Try working in the yard while your child plays in the sprinkler. Or for those of us who live in the northwest, try an indoor, kid-friendly coffee shop while your child is occupied playing with other kids in the play area.
3. Realize that starting is the hardest part.
Recognize that it is harder to get momentum going than to keep momentum going.
Starting a new business while you’re also starting a new phase of parenting will be more difficult than those who are continuing an established business. If you are reading this while pregnant and working, don’t waste time by wishing you had started your business before your baby was born (or before you were pregnant).
In my case, it was easier when I was working from home a few days a week in a corporate position because I knew exactly what needed to be done each day (or each week), and got the job done. There is a lot more ambiguity when you are working for yourself with more places to procrastinate, spend time on non-income-producing tasks – or even time spent figuring out what the best income-producing steps are.
As I am starting a business with an infant and a toddler, it’s a slow build. I have to choose to look at the steps ahead, instead of what could have been, and recognize that I am one step further ahead than I was yesterday. Each step forward makes the next step easier.
4. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
If you are married, talk to your spouse about your joint priorities and where you need help. Be upfront with family, friends, and children who are old enough to understand about how you are prioritizing your time. Involve your family in your business wherever possible. Communicate with your clients or company about your realistic availability and project status – especially when that means non-traditional hours. In many cases, your non-traditional hours can be a benefit to a client.
And if you need help with the baby, the older kids, the house or meals, let someone know. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to do it all yourself. Can you swap childcare? Can your husband watch the kids while you get some focused work time? Can you afford to hire a babysitter or mother’s helper?
Do not fall into the trap of thinking that you can burn the candle at both ends for a length of time and still be productive. It is easy to see the endless list of business tasks that can only happen while the baby is sleeping and work long past what is realistic. Often, you will be more productive if you take some of your precious available time to sleep, and then wake to work refreshed. Although, refreshed is definitely a relative term with babies!
Are you trying to decide whether or not starting a business from home makes sense for you? Check out a workbook I co-authored, Firmly Planted: A Woman’s Role in Business, Rooted in the Bible. If you know you want to start a business, the companion workbook, Business Genesis: Brainstorming, Financing, Marketing & Prioritizing is a step-by-step guide to creating your custom business. I am happy to offer Life Your Way readers 25% off either — or both! — products through 10/13 when you use coupon code LVCB4WS6 at checkout!
What other tips do you have for someone starting a business with babies and/or small children in the house?
Sarah Parsons is the co-founder of HelpMeetYourGoals.com, which provides education and coaching for Christian women entrepreneurs. She recently left the corporate world after 10+ years to focus on being mom to her two wonderful young sons. She and her husband make their home in the Pacific Northwest, where she regularly indulges in Portland’s gourmet coffee culture.