Why Work at
"I just had a baby,
my maternity leave is almost over, and I don't want to go back
to work! What can I do from home?"
by Arlene Jacobs
If you ever asked yourself that question,
you are not alone. Wouldn't you love to spend more time with
your children instead of sending them to a child care provider,
or earn a good living without the daily drudgery of going into
work? Many people are deciding to choose to raise their own children
and still earn a living.
Frances Whitaker, the Montgomery
Distributor for Tupperware, emphasizes the benefits of working
at home. She states that not only are the hours flexible, but
you can "be the Mom, take the kids to the ball park, etc.,
and if you worked for someone else you couldn't do that."
Often people think that working
from home and being there for your kids at the same time is a
dream. If working from home is your goal, you can accomplish
it. You may be told why you can't do something, especially when
it comes to entrepreneurship. People will have no problem telling
you that you are crazy. But don't become disheartened. There
are over 25 million Americans who have found independence through
their own home-based businesses.
This isn't saying you will never
make a mistake with your business. Because quite frankly you
will! But it helps to be aware from the start that no home business
is guaranteed to make you rich quick. They are real jobs
that require hard work. However, there is something out
there you will enjoy doing, that you could make money at, and
do from home.
to Decide What to Do
You should begin by listing what
you enjoy doing, what your hobbies are, which skills you've acquired,
what your work experiences have been, and what your goals are
for the business. The vast majority of moms have the best luck
starting a business of their own, or working as a representative/distributor
for an established company.
Pam Malik, who is a desktop publisher,
had been wanting some type of business on her home computer,
but she had an old computer that she couldn't do too much with.
She was led to get a new computer and while playing with the
new printshop program, she began designing business cards and
other things. She was amazed when people started wanting to buy
them. After a time she would even start dreaming up ideas in
the middle of the night -- she enjoyed it so much. Then she read
a book on starting a home based business, and it took off from
Harry Johns, a Computer Consultant,
had been in the computer industry for about 20 years and done
just about everything, and had always wanted a side business.
Johns started investigating his business a year ago, and officially
got started in January, when he was laid off from a computer
company that he was working for and decided to go into business
for himself. He states that it took a long time trying to decide
what aspect of the computer business that he was interested in.
"I did a lot of planning
of what I was going to offer and how I was going to offer it.
The opportunity is out there if you can provide a service."
He decided that selling a service
is better than selling a product. "If you sell a software
product, then you are opening yourself up to the problem of different
taxation in different locations and states," remarks Johns.
The service he chose was doing computer back-ups. "People
don't understand what a computer back-up is. They are concerned
about the `latest' software. They don't realize how much money
and time is invested into their machines, and can be lost without
Fran Kramer, an Executive of
Tupperware, began in May 16 years ago, when she held a Tupperware
party, and her husband "recruited" her. She was a stay-at-home
Mom at the time and her husband told her that she needed an outlet
from the children. She states that she came in to Tupperware
to prove that you couldn't make money. However, she says, "When
the Lord is in what you do, He will overcome your obstacles."
Kramer stated that it doesn't work with everyone, but you won't
know unless you try. She suggests that you have to stretch your
comfort zones to see what works. "You get a paycheck if
you work, if you don't work, you don't get paid," Kramer
Tracey Miles has tried many different
home-based businesses to the find the one that fits her family's
needs. She has sold Premier Design Jewelry for three years with
one child, but states it was really time consuming with a lot
of paperwork and cleaning the jewelry. Though profitable, when
she became pregnant with her second child, she was just exhausted,
so gave it up.
"I was wanting to give attention
to Gregory (her oldest son) and found it just was too time consuming.
It was a five day a week business and there was lots of demand,
and not enough time with two kids," Miles explains.
Miles has been selling Usborne
Books, an educational book line, for the past two years, and
has just started selling Avon. She sells the books through Day
Cares and schools because the books are for the ages of her children.
She sells out of her home, too, and does home shows/work shops.
She started selling Avon because she had a fantastic Avon Representative
whose business was going so well, that she decided to do it herself,
and as she put it, "everyone knows the word Avon."
There are very few companies
hiring home workers. As you can imagine, they already have a
pool of workers who will jump at the chance to work from home.
However, if you are employed currently, you may be able to convince
your employer in the benefits of alternatives to the traditional
work arrangements, especially in this world of downsizing and
competition. Medical transcription is only one example. When
I had my son Jeffrey, I convinced my employer that I could do
the transcription at my home. I was able to transcribe on my
home computer during the evenings and naptimes, and then modem
over the transcribed dictation directly to their computer for
Also you can think about teaming
up with another mom in your area. For example, you could begin
a home cleaning service together, and perhaps assist each other
with child care. Organize a Sitter Co-op Program with a friend
(or friends) to care for each other's children while the other
works, either at home or at an outside job. When each person
only needs a few hours a day, this arrangement works very well.
When it comes to searching for
the right business -- reading is the key. Read as much as you
can about home businesses in general, the specific business you
would like to start and everything in between.
Presumably, at this point, you've
identified some need in the market that's not being met. If so,
you're ready to match your skills with those unmet needs and
begin your home-based business.
Tailor your expectations to your
situation. Decide how many hours you need to work per week minimum
and view anything else as a gift! Pam Malik stated, "The
key to increasing your likelihood of being successful is in the
initial planning of the business, and record keeping. Keep separate
accounts for your business and keep separate books. This allows
you to determine how you are doing."
Be sure your client's expectations
are clear and both of you agree on them. Tell them how long it
will really take to get the job done and beware of being over-optimistic.
Remember the needs of your family comes first and be realistic
in promises to your clients. Tracey Miles states "I have
an 8 year old and 2 year old and they come first. So if the children
are sick, my customers just have to be understanding."
Make written plans to use as
benchmarks along the way but be ready to revise them if your
results don't keep pace. Utilize the internet community to gather
opinions, suggestions and advice. This can also be a valuable
tool for advertising.
Getting a separate business phone
number can help your business, and help you sound professional.
The local phone company can add a second number that rings distinctively
and thus identifies calls coming in for your business. This service
costs $4 per month. A second line costs $40 per line connection
fee, plus to put in a new jack costs $87.25, rewire an existing
jack is $50-$75, and required monthly phone charges around $22.
Getting a P.O. Box is an affordable
safety measure. This allows all business transactions to be conducted
without revealing your home address. A standard P.O. Box costs
about $59 per year or about $5 per month.
When Harry Johns started his
computer consulting business, he tried to find if there were
a package that he could purchase, as designing his own would
have been too slow of a start-up. He found several packages that
were available, and picked one that was right for him.
With many of the brand name products,
there is an initial kit to purchase or earn. For example, Tracey
Miles compared the costs of the start-up kits of Premier Design
$2000, Usborne $100, and Avon $20. If you like the products,
then you will most likely be a good salesperson. Decide on which
product you want to go with, and check out the initial costs,
commitments, commission rates, and the cost of sales tools, brochures,
and replacement items.
Harry Johns warns, "Someone
who wants to get into (the computer) business should consider
their equipment costs carefully." He states that it can
cost probably a couple thousand dollars to get started. However,
Johns reminds us that, "The more money you can through in
upfront than the more you can offer your customers."
Another concern and expense with
starting a business is whether or not to incorporate. As a sales
rep for a company, this is not really a factor. As Fran Kramer
notes, with Tupperware, the consultant is independent, but the
company has the overhead. Frances Whitaker, who owns the distributorship,
also began as a consultant, and worked her way up through the
ranks to manager, senior executive manager, and then, because
of her unit she was one of the top 100 managers in the nation
7 times, she was offered the right to buy a distributorship.
She now owns the company, which is a Limited Liability Corporation,
and is the Authorized Tupperware Authority in Montgomery.
Pam Malik, did not incorporate
her Desktop Publishing business, but instead chose to do sole
proprietorship, which means that you operate the business under
your social security number. If you are the sole employee of
your business, you do not need a Federal ID number, but can still
deduct all the normal business expenses. She states that the
down side of this is that if you are in a business that has a
high liability, then all personal property could become at risk,
where as an incorporation would protect that. One thing she notes,
was that she had to go to the city hall to get a business license
which started at $50 then increased to $100. Since she also has
to charge sales tax she also had to apply for a tax number through
the State of Alabama, however, the benefit of this is that you
can then buy whole-sale supplies.
Harry Johns states that while
getting his business license was definitely a challenge when
he first started, he found it very helpful to network with other
business owners to find out how they did it. But one difficulty
he avoided by selling a service rather than a product was the
various tax codes in the state and the country. There are some
tax problems in Alabama for certain types of business. Johns
states that there are different taxes depending on where you
do business; along with the State Tax there are also locality
sales taxes, throughout the state. Some localities are trying
to collect their taxes themselves, rather than waiting for the
state government to distribute the revenues.
Also, if your business goes national,
then you open yourself up to the problem of different states
and their tax laws. If you have operations in a state you may
have to pay that state's sales tax, or some states have reciprocal
taxation. However, the new tax code helps as the limitations
on business write-offs have been raised.
Management and Reality
After all, how hard could it
be to stay home with a baby? It is easy to think that full-time
mothers who can't manage a creative side career with all the
time they have at home must be disorganized, lazy, or just not
interested in anything but soaps or TV talk shows. However, working
at home and bringing up a baby at the same time is not as simple
a matter as just being organized.
Do you remember those office
equipment ads where Mom or Dad is working happily along while
Junior plays quietly in a nearby playpen? Forget it. Reality
is trying to make phone calls, or remember where you left off
and actually make some progress before the videotape ends. Reality
is having to (and being able to) let go of your day's work plans
when your toddler decides to sit on the potty rather than take
a nap. Reality is typing with one hand while your baby nurses
and falling asleep at your desk long before your work is done.
However, here are some tips on
making your at-home career successful:
Organize Your Home Office.
It is important to get
and stay organized. It is important not only to get the right
equipment, but to set it up in an useful manner. Keep records
right from the start. Make files and use them. There are some
ready-to-use business tools which can be found on the internet
to help you get the job done faster and easier, including:
- Model business documents. Sample
letters, contracts, forms, and policies ready for you to customize:
from a Sample Independent Contractor Agreement to a Job Application
- Financial spreadsheet templates.
Help for managing your business finances: from balancing your
checkbook to creating your own financial statements.
- Checklists. Information you
need at a glance, from whether you qualify for the home office
write-off to the right things to do and say during an employee
Prioritize Housework. Decide what items need to be taken care
of immediately. Make a weekly schedule either by task or by room,
allowing time for doing work each day. Involve other members
of the family, assigning chores as appropriate for age level
and maturity. Even a 3 year old can help by learning to sort
laundry by colors, for example. But remember, that during the
hours that you have set aside for tending to your business, forget
the household chores.
Be Flexible in Everything.
Some days just don't
come off as planned. Remember that the family comes first, but
not only for emergencies. If today is a beautiful, sunny day,
and your preschooler would benefit from a day at the park, well,
then work may have to wait till later.
Discipline Yourself. Make time to take care of yourself, get
enough sleep, exercise and eat well. Don't be tempted by soap
operas or romance novels. Use naptimes, early mornings or late
evenings when the children are asleep to get work done.
According to The Home Business
News magazine, in order to be successful in a home-based
business, you have to remember the "4 A's":
Appearance, Attitude, Action and Advertising.
Appearance and Attitude go hand
in hand. Not only should you look professional when meeting customers,
but you must take your job seriously. Frances Whitaker, reminds
us that, "You have to decide when you are going to work
and when you are not going to work. Treat it like a job."
Action refers to not only the
time management aspects, but also setting attainable goals for
yourself and your business. Harry Johns states that when he started
his computer business he first decided what to do and how to
control its growth, so he did a lot of planning. He planned what
he was going to offer and how he was going to offer it, and then
did it. Pam Malik notes that for the first year, every profit
went into getting equipement, from a computer, to printer, to
laser printer, to scanner, and upgrading computer programs. She
notes, "You have to be creative in finding new ways of doing
things, so that you can keep your costs down."
One of the pitfalls for home-based
business owners is advertising. When money is limited, it is
best not to waste it on advertising that will not reach your
target customers. It is important to find out what will give
you the largest return on your dollar. Generally between 5 and
10% of your gross sales should be spent on advertising.
Many home based businesses only
use word-of-mouth as advertising. Fran Kramer, states that as
an Executive of Tupperware, her business was built mainly by
word-of-mouth. "If you give good service, people will refer
you. Don't treat them like customers, treat them as people!"
"People need to know that
what they want still counts. Giving good service is becoming
a lost art. People often get in it (Tupperware) for money and
thrills, and for themselves -- and there is nothing wrong with
that. But if you are in it to give to others, if you give as
if you are giving unto the Lord, then you will get back double
what you give to Him."
Pam Malik also started out by
word-of-mouth from customers, then a friend invited her to the
Business Network, which is a word-of-mouth marketing organization.
The members each promote the other members in the organization.
This gives 15 other people to talk about your business. This
has been the most effective means of advertising for her.
Johns also began his computer
business through word-of-mouth. He notes, "I don't have
a big budget for advertising. I use word-of-mouth, using business
associations, and networks. I've sent out (direct mail) fliers
periodically." Johns continues, "but there are always
new alternatives. I'm thinking of doing a web-site, now. This
is becoming a basic in the industry."
Tracey Miles has employed several
means of growing her various businesses. She uses business cards,
the Montgomery Parents Magazine, catalogs, and of course, word-of-mouth.
One of the best ways of advertising
is joining the chamber of commerce or getting into some of the
business associations, like the Business Network. There are also
several national/international associations for home-based businesses
(see Your Resources).
Pam Malik has some final words
of wisdom: you have to perceiver past the point of feeling like
you want to give up -- over and over again!
not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a
thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.
William Jennings Bryan
You are never
given a wish without also being given the power to make it true.
You may have to work for it, however.
Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull
- Arlene Jacobs is a freelance writer on nutrition and
parenting issues. She can be reached via email: [email protected]:
or visit her web site at: http://www.neosoft.com/~acoustic/wwwarlenejhp.html