Starting a Home Business: How to Encourage a Smooth
Transition With Your Family
Ask any would-be entrepeneur why he or she wants to start
a home based business and you'll get a wide variety of
replies. Regardless of the reason, there's one thing for
certain: starting a home business doesn't just affect you,
the entrepreneur; it also affects your family.
The change in lifestyle that comes with a home business
requires adaptation from the entrepreneur as well as his
or her spouse and children. So before you jump into the
world of home business, have a frank discussion with your
family about issues such as:
1. How Will You Separate Business and Family?
Home businesses are particularly difficult to manage
because they're just steps away from family life. You
need to be able to concentrate fully on your business,
yet when you spend time with the family you shouldn't
be distracted by business matters -- or worse, tempted
to go do 'just a little work.' Some things you can do
to help keep business and family separate include:
- Set 'office hours'. This is the time where you focus
on your business without having to worry about the
- Take time out for yourself. No one can work all the
time, and you'll burn out if you try. Set aside some
'personal time' to exercise, read, or do something
else you love.
- Take a guilt-free day off with the family. Yes, an
entire day away from the business! You'll feel more
refreshed and better able to concentrate on the
- Get organized and stay focused! The less time you
have to spend searching for email, papers, etc., the
more time you'll have to actually perform productive
work. This will free up time so that you can do other
2. Will Family Members Contribute to the Business?
Come to a clear understanding about what your spouse will
or will not do. For example, you may ask for help during
unexpected busy periods but not on a regular basis. Or you
might agree that it's okay for your spouse to send or read
business mail, but that you are the only one who answers
It's best to set this straight from the beginning. Don't
assume that your spouse is willing to help out. Likewise,
don't assume that you'll have complete independence
because "it's YOUR business". Come to an agreement --
it will help to lessen the stress for everyone.
3. How Will You Handle the Financing of Your Business?
Money is almost always a big issue with families. A home
business, particularly in the startup phase, is going to
require funding. Your family may have become accustomed
to a certain level of 'comfort' when it comes to luxuries
such as dining out, recreation, spending money, and so on.
Will any of this need to change, and if so, what?
There are many ways to finance a home business, including:
- Use income earned from your 'day job'. Many people
continue to work their regular jobs in order to fund
their home businesses. It is only until their home
businesses are producing a reasonable income that
they have the option to quit their jobs.
- Finance your business with savings. If your savings
were to be used for another purpose (for example, a
family vacation or buying a home), how much of it are
you willing to 'sacrifice' for your business, even if
it's meant to be a 'temporary' loan?
- Help from family and friends. Consider the possible
impact on your personal relationships. Borrowing money
from loved ones can lead to significant stress... for
example, what do you do if someone suddenly needs or
wants their money back and you aren't in the position
to provide it? What happens if your business fails and
you are unable to pay back loans?
- Other sources such as loans, grants, lines of credit,
and more. You can find a good list of options at the
Small Business Administration website.
Discuss the options with your family to find something
acceptable. You may also want to discuss it with a
certified financial planner, who can also help you to
develop a contingency plan for emergencies.
4. What Is the Impact on Normal Household Activity?
Businesses require a great deal of time and effort --
and that goes double for the startup phase! While you
work to get your business off the ground, how will daily
household tasks be handled? Will your spouse and children
help out more?
It's not just the chores that need to be done, though.
What happens if you work a day job and can only work on
your business in the evenings -- when the family normally
watches TV? If you aren't able to concentrate with the
noise, you will have to discuss alternate arrangements
with your family.
5. Managing the Children.
Young children in particular will require some thought.
Are they allowed to answer the phones, and if so, do you
teach them how to do so? How do you handle children who
are home while you're working on your business?
There is no easy answer to this... every child has
his own personality! One option is to hire a trusted
babysitter to care for the children while you work.
Your children will be safe and you will be free to
Another alternative is to give your children several
"tasks" - throughout the day, they are expected to do
various things, such as read a book, draw a picture,
etc. Be sure to schedule breaks and 'playtime'!
If you have the flexibility to do so, you could also
work during the kids' naptime, when they're at regular
outside activities (team sports, music lessons, etc)
or while they're at school.
6. How Will Business 'Emergencies' Be Handled?
Every so often business emergencies will arise. Whether
it's a sudden big order that needs immediate processing,
or you discover an error that must be fixed right away,
you will be absorbed in your business with little time
for anything else.
Will family members be expected to take over certain
tasks that are normally yours? Will they help you with
your business during these times, ie. stapling, sorting,
packaging, running chores, etc? Again, come to an
understanding about what is expected from each member
of the family during emergencies.
7. Schedule 'Family Time'.
Someone once told me, 'My home business gives me the
flexibility to work any 20 hours per day I like!'
It's all too easy to get caught up in your business.
Your family still needs and wants to see you, though,
and if you spend all your time rushing off to do yet
another business task, they may end up resenting you.
If you have a hard time getting away from the "office",
try scheduling certain times of the day or a day each
week where you spend time with your family. During this
time, business doesn't exist -- your family has your
full attention. Even short little romantic getaways
can help you to stay connected with your spouse.
Many people start home businesses for family reasons...
so don't get into the situation where you are forced
to choose between your business and your family! The
much-welcomed support of your family can be a tremendous
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Angela operates the Home Based Work
website, which offers practical tips and articles for people seeking
a way to work from home. Visit www.homebasedwork.com
for more information, opportunities, and useful resources.