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Family Matters: Easing the Transition to a Home Business

By Angela Wu

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:

__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 family.

* 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
business afterwards.

* 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 things.

__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 the phone.

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.

__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 US 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.

__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.

__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 concentrate.

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.

__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.

__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.

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 help.
About The Author:
Name: Angela Wu
Angela is the editor of Online Business Basics, a practical
guide to building an Internet business on a shoestring budget. If you're tired of hype and just want solid, down-to-earth information, then visit us now -- and in moments you can have access to loads of instantly useable tips, specifically chosen for beginners!

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