- Q. Two years ago I separated
from my husband and I am finding it increasingly difficult to
support myself and my three sons, ages 3, 5 & 6. I need information
on starting my own home based business. I have an extensive background
in the field of administration and computers. If you know of
anyone in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area that needs help
please let me know.
A. When we look for jobs outside the home,
the emphasis most often is on our qualifications: what are you
good at? why would an employer take a chance on hiring you? We
fine tune our resumes with our sales pitch in mind, and hope
that employer sees the good fit.
the tables are turned, and we want to run a business for ourselves,
we often completely overlook more important questions. Building
on your extensive background, ask yourself this: What do I want
to be doing from sunup to sundown (with the inevitable boy breaks!)?
What passion do I want to turn into a full time job, and focus
enough energy and
time so that my passion turns into profits? To be a successful
EP, you have got to be
in contact with your higher goals, your deeply rooted desires
as well as build on your background. Many of the self-help employment
and skills inventory books can help you put your skills and your
passion and come up with a nice tasty career track to investigate,
with your whole self.
and administration, you sound like a shoe-in for some kind of
"remote" office manager. These telecommuting jobs are
starting to crop up all over the place. This field is so cutting
edge, I really don't have many concrete answers, but I do know
it's going to become much more common to find a lot of administrative
jobs "farmed" out to virtual workers and telecommuters.
You could also start your own service as an appointment setter
and meeting organizer for busy sales reps and other professionals
who might not need a full time office assistant but do require
more than a palmtop organizer.
The key to both
of these ideas is networking. Try to attend meetings held by
the local chamber of commerce or professional business organizations.
There is probably a WebGirls or freelancers group near you to
get you started. Get there early, stand by the name tag table,
and shake hands
with people. Tell everyone you know what you are doing. With
networking, you literally never know when something will turn
into a lead. I have followed up on grocery store meetings, and
gotten contracts! Same thing for the internet. Join a listserv
or discussion group in your interest area and be sure to post
frequently. Use a signature file, so people will feel comfortable
getting in touch with you privately.
you are just who you are: a single mother of three. Don't be
afraid to fight for your home-based business, because chances
are your prospective clients or employer will have tremendous
respect for someone with such conviction, determination, and
drive! All the best to you!
Q. I am a single parent
who has been sorting through the possibilities of making ends
meet while retaining some creativity of my own. (I am a painter
and graphic designer.)
- For years before
my two year old was born I've had this dream of having my own
business. I know nothing of where to begin with it. Is this a
crazy time to get started? I want the truth.
- I am so happy
to have found your website!
- A. Dear Liz:
- A wonderful
book title says it all for me: It's
Only Too Late If You Don't Start Now! (by Barbara Sher). Although this book
is about mid-life changes, it's true. Your two-year old is not
going to be two forever, but you could work your day job forever
and she'll soon be 7 or 12, and you still won't have a business
that fulfills you. So, start now!
- If you have
a day job, you can start slowly. Apprentice yourself (informally)
to another designer, paint on the weekends or at night, locate
outlets to show and sell your work. My best tip is this: find
someone just like you and start a network, a co-op, or a support
group! There is strength in numbers. You can talk about art/design
while the kids nibble on each other.
- One book to
consult for basics is by Janet Attard, The
Home Office and Small Business Answer Book. It has very basic but
thorough Q&As for just about any subject for SOHO entrepreneurs.
- And finally,
start developing a focus for your business: ask yourself what
it is that will make your business uniquely yours, why do you
need to be in business. Then create and fine-tune your
vision from there. I don't know of any business with a strong
focus that has met with initial failure.
- Good luck on
- Q. Hello, my name is Sheila Green and I
am a single parent, attending full-time college. With no support
I really need a way to take care of my family. I would like to
do paralegal/legal research at home. I have lots of experience
in this area.
- My problem is
that I live in Benton, Arkansas, and nothing seems to be
computerized. In order to find out anything you must go through
quantities of files and lledger books. Can you assist me in the
setting up of a business? I have searched and still searching,
I am writing you... figure if I ask enough times someone will
shine a light for me.
Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.
- A. Sheila,
- This answer
is a two-parter, first the specifics of being a paralegal, and
secondly, being a single parent EP.
- To get set up,
you probably need access to a legal database like Lexis or Westlaw,
but you need to determine this depending on the types of cases
you will research. For example, in Arkansas, you most likely
will need Arkansas cases and Federal cases originating in Arkansas
and whatever Federal circuit you are in, as well as Supreme Court
cases. There might be a local/state database available for this,
or as you say, there might have to be visits to the "stacks"
either at the law library or the firm's library.
- You might also
consider specializing in a particular area of law, which would
bring down your initial database and start-up costs, and also
streamline your marketing focus. Also, an independent contractor
will need to consider the need for malpractice
insurance. If your clients are regulars, you might negotiate
the insurance and database costs when you set your rates. But
you should expect to have to pay for the caselaw. Some states
offer their statutes online for free (imagine the tiny fine print
on a screen!).
- And because
of the Internet, you aren't necessarily bound to work for local
firms. If you have the pertinent caselaw and databases, and a
unique specialty, you may be able to find clients across the
- Now on to the
second part of your question... As a single parent, you might
have to begin your marketing (visiting firms, networking) during
days when your children are in care. There is yet to be a replacement
for a firm handshake and a confident approach, though if you
are really good on the phone, you might have some luck. Referrals
are everything in law and medicine, I've found. Be sure to emphasize
your training and your experience, which is everything to a busy
law firm who would be hiring an outside paralegal. Some firms
might require an "in-house" period, but if you are
have you work at home and just come in for meetings. A really
great firm would make use of the Internet almost exclusively.
- One more tip:
for important phone calls, a lot of single moms invest in a "mother's
helper" (no that's not a tranquilizer!), who is a friend
of the family a teenager or college student who might
live nearby and want to fix lunch, pop in a video, and hang out
with your children in exchange for some computer time, a free
lunch, or $2 or $3 an hour -- a lot lower than a full-fledged
babysitting job but just as cushy! Your helper will come in
handy when you get a rush job, which is often the norm for legal
- Good luck on
your entrepreneurial quest!
am a single mother of four -15, 5, and 4mo. old twins. At the
present time I am unemployed, but I would really like to start
working from home so I could raise my own children. I have some
computer and customer service experience, but I can't seem to
find any work that I qualify for. I need guidance as to where
to look next.
- A. Dear Mother of Teen to Twins!
Here, sit down.
Let me get you a cup of coffee. Whew! I'll bet you need a break.
OK. I strongly
recommend that you scout out both your local mail order scene,
as well as any of the mail order websites, large and small, and
see if anyone is hiring a "remote" customer service
rep. On the AP-BIZ list (http://www.apbiz.com) just the other day,
someone was describing a relationship with a mom in another town
who answers the phones while the store/catalog owners are at
shows, off for the weekend, or taking a sick
day (precious few of those when you work with your kids!). If
you have a cordless phone and a clipboard for taking orders and
messages, your office is open!
would be to check at the local community college, computer jobs
boards online, or elsewhere and see if there are any reputable
at-home computer jobs you could perform. Data entry, directory
searches, etc. can all be done with a minimum of experience.
But remember, NO at-home job worth its salt requires you to purchase
anything -- no kits, no start-up costs, no initiation
fees. NADA. These "jobs" abound and are
usually scams, or will exploit people in your situation, at the
As for being
a single mom at home with four children, you might want to create
a home office (even a tiny enclosed area) where you can run to
for phone calls or computer time, but still be available for
a diaper change or a teenage phone crisis. As the mother of twins,
you might also be in a unique position to assist other mothers
of multiples -- call around the local support network and see
what opportunities are waiting for you.
All the very
|Q. I am a single 34 year old woman with two children.
I have little help financially to support them, enough to pay
rent and utilities. During the day while they are in school,
I go to school. I am majoring as an Administrative Assistant.
I always wanted to own my business and be my own boss. And at
home would be perfect. I could wake up and send my children to
school, clean house, work at my computer and still have dinner
ready by the time they come home. This way I figured that I could
serve the public and still be a full-time mom without over-exerting
myself. Please give some suggestions on what I should do. I enjoy
what I do, but don't want to leave home every day. I appreciate
any suggestions. Thank You!
A. Congratulations for taking
the first step of the Entrepreneurial Parent: believing that it can be done! You're on your way!
Your next step might be in one of two directions: you might do
a complete audit of your household budget. Find out where you
spend the most money with the least return. That return might
not be financial, though. For example, you might discover that
your day job creates more expense than
it pays for, and you might decide to turn on the turbos and start
your business as soon as possible. Whatever the outcome, I believe
being clear on where the money is and how it's being spent is
- Another direction
in which to go is to do a long-term self-inventory. Find out
what you really love doing, where your passion lies, and what
kinds of at-home businesses will pay you to do exactly that!
I recommend Zen
and the Art of Making A Living: A Practical Guide to Creative
by Lawrence C. Boldt and Do
What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the
Secrets of Personality Type by Tieger and Barron-Tieger.
Both books will give you lots of opportunity for self assessment,
and an idea of where to start looking for a business or occupation
that suits you to a T.
- A final recommendation: hire a career consultant or a coach. Getting expert
advice (beyond the great resources available at EP) in the early stages
will most effectively insure success. I offer a free initial
consultation and a short-term rate (see my services as an EP Coach at my Expert
and many other coaches do too. There might be career testing
and expert resources available to you at your school as well.
Check around and see.
- You and your
children deserve whatever you can do to create a home business,
and it's never too late. And since your kids are in school, it's
probably the perfect time. All the best!