Becoming a work-at-home parent

You've made the decision to work from home and your immediate question may be: Where do I start? 

1. Do your research

Determine exactly what you want to do and then find out everything you possibly can about your business. Who are the people that are already succeeding at what you want to do?  What skills do you need? How much money will you make? The more you plan and the more you research, the better prepared you will be.

2. Become an expert

No matter what field you decide to work in, if you want to do well you need to be an expert. To get people to pay you for a service or product you need to be one of the best. You need to stand out. If you're going to bake cakes, what makes your specific cakes unique?  Why will people want to buy them?  If you're starting a blog, what are you saying that will excite readers and advertisers? You also need to know what you're doing and what you're talking about. You may even need to study further. Be the expert and people will want to do business with you.

3. Market yourself

You need to get the word out about your business. The more people that know about you, the more money you will make. First of all, you need to have an online presence. Get your own website and become active on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You also need to get your presence known locally. So go to business breakfasts in your area and hand out your business cards and flyers. Think of your target market. If you have a reading centre franchise, go to your local schools and speak to parents and teachers. If you want to cater for business lunches, take your sandwiches and menus to businesses in your area. Get yourself noticed.

4. Get connected

Even if your business isn't based online, you will be doing a lot of your work on the internet. Everything from banking to marketing to research. If you've survived this long on a dial-up connection from home, you will need to upgrade.

The three best options for connecting to the internet are:
  • ADSL - There are various packages available through a number of suppliers. You also need to pay for the line through Telkom and it is a completely different type of line to your telephone.
  • 3G - This is available through your cell phone service provider and is great if you are on the move a lot. It is more expensive per Gig than ADSL, but because you are mobile it does have its advantages.
  • Wi-Fi - This still uses your ADSL line at home, but there are no wires involved. So you can work on your laptop while watching your baby sleep, then move to the lounge while staying connected.
5. Know your numbers

No matter how much you earn, you need to have a tax number. This needs to be stated on all your invoices. If you earned above a certain amount at your previous job you will already have one. If not, you will need to apply for your own. There are also different ways of paying tax which you will need to research on the SARS website.

If you earn more than R300 000 per year you will also need to register for VAT. This is done on the same website.

You will also need to keep a very strict record of all income and expenditure for tax purposes. Remember, if you work from home you can claim back for a percentage of your rent, water, electricity, rates, phone bill, petrol, etc.  Keep all your slips and record everything.

6. Be aware of hidden costs

There are a number of hidden costs when starting a business: printing, setting up a website, office equipment, specific materials for your business, increased phone and electricity bills, etc. Be sure to include these costs in your planning.

7. Be disciplined

If you work for yourself you will work harder than you ever have in your life. Your hours may be longer than before and just because you're at home it doesn't mean the work is any less. Although you can choose your own working hours, you will still find that it is best to stick to set times every day. This keeps you disciplined, but also lets others know that you are busy.

8. Remember why you are doing this

Busy as you might be, you will need to separate your business and personal life. When you are done for the day, you are done. Don't sneak back to your laptop for one last email after supper or think about work when you're spending time with your kids. Remember that you are doing this for them and the whole reason you are at home is to have more time with them. So take a well-deserved break every now and again during your day and make every moment count.

Want to know more about becoming a work-at-home mom?
I don't need an office job - I'm a mom!
Useful contacts for work-at-home parents

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