Working from home with children

If you are lucky enough to be able to arrange it, working from home will enable you to reconcile the demands of parenting with the need to earn an income.

Should I go back to work or stay at home with my baby? It’s a decision many women agonise over. Some mothers have no choice – it is simply a matter of financial survival. Others feel frustrated or experience a craving to continue their careers. But whatever your motivation may be, returning to the workforce can create pangs of guilt that are hard to suppress.

Many women, however, are lucky enough to have the best of both worlds. To earn an income and enjoy a satisfying career while at the same time being at home with your children is for many people a dream come true. But how can you make this dream a reality?

Work You Can Do From Home

You might be lucky enough to have an employer who allows you to ‘telecommute’. You perform the bulk of the work at home, then send it to your employer’s office by fax or modem. You might do this on a full-time, part-time or casual basis, depending on what arrangement suits you and your employer best.

Although telecommuting is gaining in popularity, there are still relatively few employers who use this system. Try your latest and previous employers before hitting the job advertisements.

Starting Your Own Business

If you come up against too many barriers you have another option, but this requires determination and courage. You can set out on your own. This is often the biggest stumbling block. There are many occupations that are suitable for converting into a home business but you need to give it some thought.

What is your passion? Are you willing to carry on despite initial hardships and little reward? It can take a long time to get a new business off the ground and if you love what you are doing your dreams can sustain you through the hard times. A get-rich-quick scheme will not.

What work did you do in the past and did you enjoy it? Or would you prefer to develop one of your hobbies? There are many options such as writing, illustrating, handicrafts, cooking, hairdressing, dressmaking, massage and so on. With a bit of creative thinking nearly anything can happen.

If you already have business experience in your chosen field that is a bonus. But don’t let a lack of experience kill your ambition. Drive and determination can overcome many initial setbacks.

Setting Up A Home Office

Once you know what you want to do, look at your house and work out where to establish your workspace.

You might be lucky enough to have a study or studio. If not, you will need to adapt. With a notebook computer, even the kitchen table can become your part-time office.

The equipment you require is determined by the nature of your business. As a minimum, you will probably need a computer, printer, fax, desk and filing cabinet. You might also need specialist craft equipment such as a pottery wheel. You should only buy the essentials at first, then as your business builds you can upgrade.

You may need to seek approval from your local council to set up your home business. It all depends on the nature of the work. To be on the safe side, ring them up and check.

Running Your Own Business

There’s quite a lot to it, and it’s a good idea to attend some courses, or at least read up thoroughly on the matter. Here’s a brief indication of some of the things you need to consider:

  • Pricing: How much should you charge for your services? Look at your costs and decide what mark up you need to make it worth your while. Keep an eye on your competitors’ prices. But remember – don’t sell yourself short. Know your value and charge accordingly.
  • Marketing: Who will use your product and why? What do they want out of that type of product? Can you improve on products already on the market?
  • Advertising: Consider leaflets, bonus coupons, outdoor signs, the local newspaper and or a local directory.
  • Publicity: Publicity is worth more than advertising in some cases, so try talking to your local newspaper – you’ll need to turn your business idea into an interesting story. Word-of-mouth is also great, so enlist the help of friends and family.
  • Account-keeping: See an accountant for advice on keeping accounts and taxation records.
  • Registration: Find out about obtaining an ABN (Australian Business Number) and GST (Goods and Services Tax) registration: see the Australian Taxation Office’s website.

A Rewarding Balance

Having the best of both worlds is wonderful but also very difficult.

Dividing your day into work and family time is important, but with young children you need to be flexible and take your opportunities when you can.

For instance, you might need to make phone calls while your baby is asleep or otherwise risk an embarrassing background wail. Always allow for the unexpected, such as sleepless nights and illnesses.

The early days of running a home business are difficult and it can take a few months before you and your baby settle into a workable routine. But try to enjoy it, and keep the big picture in mind.

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