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A Homemaker's Cottage (Fourth Issue) by Sonya Haskins.
Featured 13 October 1998 and archived 21 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.

My two-year-old daughter brought me a beetle. This beetle was dead, but she was holding it, carrying it around in both hands, and talking to it softly as if it were her own baby. Finally, she came to me and said that the beetle must be dead because it wouldn't crawl. I agreed and she said, "well, maybe God could give it some new batteries." Although my batteries haven't completely died yet, I'm considering placing a back order for some replacements. I have been in the hospital twice within the past three weeks, my 10-month-old has had urine tests, chest x-rays, and a dozen blood tests, and we have spent a small fortune on medicine and co-pays. Needless to say, my home businesses are suffering this month and I am SO behind. With all that said, please accept my apology that this issue is a little late. As promised, here is more information on making a workspace at home, time and money-saving tips, and promoting your business.

First of all, a few lucky people can afford to have a portion of their home devoted exclusively to their home business. This is great if you have the space, can afford to add a small room or two, or are able to convert garage space into office space. If those aren't options for you, however, consider using a room that isn't occupied every day. For our home office, I have one filing cabinet in the dining room so that I can do paperwork on the dining room table and all our other office equipment is in our guestroom. We rarely use the guestroom and it makes the most sense to have our office set up in this room.

Some essentials I would recommend to maximize the space you do have are a four drawer filing cabinet, bookshelves, a desk, computer, phone, file folders to keep things organized, pens and notepads, envelopes, and index cards. Depending on your business, you will need all, some, or possibly more of these items to accommodate your own at-home office. Don't forget, though, that a filing cabinet and bookshelves can initially be used for personal items until your business has grown enough so that you need all the space for business materials. Also, with a filing cabinet, even if you have to take your work things (pens, papers, paperclips, etc.) out to use on the table and then put them up for dinner, then you can always store these things neatly in one drawer of the filing cabinet.

The very nature of a home business with children there, too, means that things are going to be hectic at times. One trick I use is to return phone calls during "quiet time" when I'm letting our toddler watch a video. I also like to return calls when I have the children deeply involved in some activity that they both enjoy. Another recommendation is to keep a stash of "new" toys near the phone to place in little hands that want your attention. One big tip: buy a portable. That way you can leave your "office" if you need to make sure your child isn't mixing homemade bread (as mine was one day while I talked with an editor) in the kitchen. It took me a while to clean up that pile of flour, sugar, and spices!

Look for desks, bookshelves, and filing cabinets at yard sales or used furniture stores. Ask businesses you frequent, your doctors' offices, and other professionals you know for note pads and pens. They are usually bombarded with samples of this nature and usually happy to share some with you. One way to save on phone expenses if you have to call long distance frequently is to find out if e-mail is acceptable and send it instead or call the person during their lunch hour and leave a message so that they'll have to call you back!

Share your business with everyone you know and meet: friends, relatives, old co-workers, church members, people waiting in line with you at the supermarket. You would be surprised at how much work will come your way.

Place your business phone number in the phone book. Put ads in local newspapers, college papers (which sometimes advertise for free), newsletters you read, on the Internet on appropriate sites with approval, or have someone write an advertorial (looks like an article, but it's an ad) about your business for the local paper. Of course you want to consider which of these promotional ideas would work best for your business, but those are a few to get you started. One of my favorite ways to promote, which unfortunately doesn't fit my business, is by way of ads on vehicles. In my city, for example, I see little cars that have the name of a maid service and the phone number. How many times I've been tempted to call that number! It's a great way to advertise.

Other home-based business ideas: errand-running service, tax advising service, computer consulting, create arts and crafts, web design, sales, research (for businesses or professional individuals), beautician, home interior designer.

Good luck! We'll be back to at-home parenting with the next issue of A Homemaker's Cottage.

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