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A Homemaker's Cottage (Third Issue) by Sonya Haskins.
Featured 14 September 1998 and archived 13 October 1998
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Sonya Haskins is the full-time stay-at-home mom of Sarah, Micah and Christopher. She also writes magazine articles and is working on her first book. Sonya welcomes comments from readers and constantly seeks to meet new moms to interview for the book.

All this material is copyright protected and cannot be used without the written consent of the author.

As a homemaker and home-based entrepreneur, one of the most frequently asked questions I receive from other stay-at-home moms is how they can work at home (for compensation that doesn't consist of peanut butter kisses).

Before I address the possibilities of working at home, however, I would encourage any moms considering this to carefully question their motives. Do you need to work at home to supplement your husband's income? Are you seeking home-based employment due to pressure from others that you must perform "work" other than homemaking? Do you want to work because you love to do something and could make money doing it? (If you answer yes to the last question then you're lucky because you already know what you'll be doing.)

It is important to know why you would have a home-based business before you begin so that your business plan, priorities, and goals will be in line with your personal motives. For example, let's say you need supplemental income for two or three years to pay off a car loan. (By the way, could you sell the car or do you really need it?) In that case, you will want to find a business that allows short-term commitment, such as an errand-running business, baby-sitting service, or typing for college students. These businesses can be operated with very low financial investment as well as a low "time" commitment. In other words, the people to whom you offer the service aren't going to suffer if you terminate the business after three years. If you were doing billing for a dentist's office, though, or running a home-based floral shop or beauty salon, the investments are more long-term. It will take time to build long-term businesses and also will affect the clients more adversely if you suddenly decide to close shop.

After you have considered your motives for a home-based business, you will set about deciding which business would be best for you and your home situation. Sometimes entrepreneurs make the mistake of not considering carefully enough their likes, dislikes, and talents. Do you honestly like children? If you can't answer 'yes' without a doubt, then don't even consider a home daycare. Do you have a talent for numbers and enjoy accounting? Consider personal accounting services for individuals or small businesses. Are you an artist? I know several ladies who make nice supplemental incomes designing their own greeting, birthday, and other special occasion cards and gifts.

Here are some other things to remember about starting a home-based business. Pick a business that will be best for your children, too. If you have several very young children, for example, it might not be a wise idea to try a business with lots of small parts (jewelry making, for example). If you have older children who are in school part of the day, you might want to consider a business where you leave the home for part of the day to sell real estate, for example. This type of business would also work if you have a very supportive husband and want to attend to evening appointments with clients. In my business of freelance writing, I do most of my work when I can take the children with me (for fun investigations like a profile of the zoo), when my husband can watch them, or late at night when they are asleep and I can type articles. I try to never let work interfere with my parenting - that is the most important thing I will ever do.

Since I'm running short on space, I'll go ahead and tell you that the next issue of this column will include information on making a workspace at home, time and money-saving tips (for supplies, etc.), and promoting your business. For now, I wanted to close with a list to let you start thinking of possible home-based businesses. The next issue will contain more ideas.

  • Typing resumes and papers
  • Providing administrative assistance such as secretarial work or stuffing envelopes (Do not be pulled in by mailing scams, however. Do this work locally.)
  • Making and selling arts and crafts (Do this throughout the year and concentrate on selling at bazaars, craft fairs, and Christmas parties.)
  • Tutoring
  • Offer music lessons
  • Giving makeovers or massages (I know a massage therapist who received the appropriate training and became licensed and now makes $50 per hour for each massage.)
  • Doing home repair or maintenance such as lawn care (This can be a very therapeutic business for you if you enjoy that sort of thing. I have always loved mowing lawns, but find it impossible with two small children. Would your husband watch the children for a few hours on Saturday morning while you do this?)
  • Computer consulting
  • Be a clown at birthday parties
  • Become a salesperson by demonstrating products at home parties. Possible products include books, toys, kitchen items, decorating items, cleaning products, and numerous more.

Please give all feedback on this column to the author Sonya Haskins.