As mothers, we can contribute to our family income and still be home with our children. Instead of making a choice that is black and white — work or stay home — some women have chosen to try out a world that is more colorful — entrepreneurship.
According to National Association of Women Business Owners, 10.1 million firms were owned by women in 2008. Sadly, for almost every new business that opens, another is closing. The reasons vary, but for many, it just wasn't a good fit for them. How can you decide if a home based business is right for you?
1 Do you have the support of your family? A new business may sound like a good idea, but you may not realize how much time it will take away from your family. Even if your business hours are scheduled around your family, there will be conflicts. Phone calls come at inopportune times. Computer problems cause delays. Deadlines get shortened and shipments arrive late. Your business will impact the family financially, too. When unexpected expenses come up, the business owner has to dip into her own pocket. On slow weeks, there is no paycheck. Without the support of your spouse and children you may not succeed.
2 What are your daycare plans? Have you made arrangements for someone to watch your children while you are working? The TV and electronics will only entertain them for so long. A successful working mom has a well thought out daycare plan. Try trading daycare with another mom. Enlist the help of teenage babysitters after school. Rely on your spouse a couple of evenings during the week or on a Saturday. If you know your children are in good hands while you are working you will be able to concentrate on your job instead of worrying about your children.
3 Are you self-motivated? Without a boss or co-workers to hold you accountable, are you able to get the task done in a timely manner? Business owners need to be able to work despite interruptions. When things don't go as planned, you need to be persistent enough to keep going. While working out of your home, try not to be tempted to throw in a load of laundry or empty your dishwasher. When you set aside time to work, do not do any household tasks or take non-work phone calls. It is challenging to set up boundaries between work and home, but in order to succeed it must be done.
4 What about seed money? Do you have enough money to launch your new business and keep it going until it shows a profit? When you are doing research for your business plan, be sure to include costs for insurance, advertising, association fees, website hosting and equipment rental. These expenses occur whether you have money coming in from sales or not. Whatever dollar amount you think you need to start your business, expect to double it. No matter how well you plan, a new business has surprise expenses. By having extra money to fall back on, you will not need to dip into your personal savings when these surprises occur.
5 Do you have the right skills? A business owner needs to wear many hats. One of the biggest downfalls of small business is the absence of sales skills. Yes, you may be an expert in your field, but if you can't sell yourself, no one will buy your goods or services. A business owner needs to find a way to get the word out. Buyers will not show up at your door without advertising. Accounting is another skill often lacking in small business owners. Before hiring help, check out your local SCORE chapter for online workshops and local mentoring to help you with the skills you need to work on.
Owning a successful home based business is a dream held by many women. You will have the flexibility to set your own hours, keep all the profits and be your own boss. However, it is not for everyone. Take a moment to ask yourself these questions and see if you would be a good candidate. If now is not the right time, wait until you have gathered the skill and support you need to make your business succeed. In the long run, it is better to wait for your dream. Don't risk losing it because you weren't prepared.
Pam Molnar is a freelance journalist and small business owner. She has launched several successful businesses while staying home with her three children.