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Home-based Business Ideas for Moms
by Darcie Sanders and Martha M. Bullen
Excerpt from Staying Home: From Full-time Professional to Full-time Parent

Running a home-based business is one of the most popular options for women who want to resume paid work while maintaining an intimate connection with their children. In fact, close to 46 million Americans work at home at least part of the time. A great deal of attention has been paid to this trend--you can go to your library and find dozens of titles on this topic.

Most home businesses are based on a woman's professional work skills. It is easier to build on what you've previously done in your career and apply those skills at home than to switch to an entirely new profession. One woman who runs a successful word processing service out of her garage previously worked as a legal secretary. After deciding to start her own business, she took some relevant courses on computers and telecommuting at her local community college. She and her husband then pooled their household savings and bought the equipment she needed for her business, including fax machines, computers and modems. Her business is thriving. Many times she doesn't even meet her clients, instead conducting all her business with them electronically.

Other women find that a home business grows out of a hobby. Such businesswomen include caterers, seamstresses, and doll furniture or baby quilt makers. Craft shows have become big business and a lot of money can be made at them, especially during the holiday season.

Another idea is to focus on the needs in your community, as well as looking at your own interests. Day care is always in great demand and can pay well if you look after several children. As a mother, you are already experienced in understanding and caring for young children, so this home business can build on your strengths as a parent. But full-time child care can also be exhausting, since you must juggle the needs of several children in addition to your own.

The range of possible businesses you can have at home is enormous. Here's a sample of the variety of at-home businesses the women we surveyed have started:

  • running a Christmas tree farm
  • freelance writing
  • desktop publishing and graphic design services
  • sewing custom "faux fur" coats
  • typing legal documents and student term papers
  • teaching piano or flute lessons
  • bookkeeping and tax accounting
  • selling Tupperware, Avon products, or Discovery toys
  • testing software
  • providing management consulting to small businesses
  • providing education counseling and testing
  • booking author tours for a public relations firm
  • catering
  • teaching Lamaze, parenting or exercise classes
  • maintaining computerized mailing lists
  • preparing resumes
  • custom calligraphy

Despite the variety of home businesses mentioned, we've also found some common ground. Women who succeed in starting and maintaining their own home-based businesses generally feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment and satisfaction at contributing to the family income and making use of their skills. But there are difficulties; working at home is not necessarily the best of both worlds, as many women believe it to be.

The most common problem is finding uninterrupted time to work at a home-based business. Many mothers have the fantasy that their children will play happily (and quietly) for hours at a time while they get their work done. This wishful thinking is often perpetuated by photographs in magazines showing a mother typing up a storm while her baby rests on her lap. This vision usually crumbles almost instantly when an important phone call with a potential client is interrupted by a toddler wailing in the background. Or the computer is put out of commission for several days by a glass of juice spilled over the keyboard.

The reality is that it's just not possible to devote your full attention to caring for your children and to the work at hand. If you try to do both simultaneously, you may end up feeling that you're cheating both your customers and your children, and you will be frazzled to boot. It's wise to think carefully about the amount of work you can take on, scheduling considerations, and child-care options before you start a home-based business.

Click here to enjoy our informative discussion with both authors.

2001 by Darcie Sanders and Martha M. Bullen. Reprinted with permission from Staying Home: From Full-time Professional to Full-time Parent. Staying Home is available from bookstores, amazon.com and bn.com. It can be ordered from Spencer & Waters at 1-800-711-3627 or http://www.spencerandwaters.com.

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