Quick money vs long term business: Which is right?

When I first started looking for business ideas, my plan was to build a long term business. Something that would grow as my children grew; I never wanted to have to go back to a job.

Almost four years down the line, I’d still agree with that. But (you knew there was a but, didn’t you? 🙂 ) it’s not as simple as it sounds.

The problem with growing a long-term solid business is that it takes time. Lots of time. And time is one thing you don’t have with young children around. There’s a big learning curve for starters, then there’s market research, getting the product or service right, marketing and finally after that you might make some money.

Many mums with young kids get stuck in a trap where they can’t afford childcare because they haven’t made enough money yet, but they don’t have the time to build their business without the childcare. That can lead to an agonisingly slow and frustrating start-up period.

Whether you can free up time to get your business off the ground or not varies. If you’ve got just one pre-school child, you may be able to pay for a little childcare a week (I found this harder as my children are just over a year apart in age and that meant childcare was seriously expensive for a couple of years). If you have a relative or close friend nearby that can look after your child for one day a week, that can make a huge difference. Or if Dad can look after the little ones all day Saturday, that’s a big plus, too.

Throughout this start-up period, there’s a good chance that you’ll be making very little money. Some families may be able to tighten their belts for long enough to get through this  but what if you really do need cash, and fast?

There are two options here. One is to get a part-time job, which I won’t explore here because I bet you’ve already given that some careful thought. The second is to freelance for a few years.

With freelancing, you’re looking for a service that you can offer relatively easily from home with minimal expenses to you and a market you can find fairly easily. An example would be freelance writing and the market would be on eLance.com or PeoplePerHour.com. The pay may be less than ideal (although this could grow quite a lot over time), but this is offset by there being a marketplace online and payday isn’t too far away. You could also network on Twitter and Facebook or network face-to-face locally, all of which is likely to mean you can charge higher rates than on eLance or People Per Hour.

After a couple of years this could grow into a business where you grow a team, so it doesn’t have to be a short-term earner.

It doesn’t have to be writing either.  Think of any skills you have that other people don’t, or work that people don’t have the time to do. Do some research on sites like eLance to see what people are offering. I also liked browsing Fiverr.com for creative ideas of what services I could offer.

Fiverr is a website where people offer to do things for you for $5 (that’s about £3.50. Plus Fiverr take commission from every gig, so you end up being paid more like £2.75). While I’d say be very cautious about offering a service on Fiverr, it’s a great place to look for ideas.

Why cautious? Well for £2.75 per job, you’ve got to get the job done in around 15 minutes if it’s going to be even worth the effort. If you’ve clever, careful and you pay close attention to Fiverr’s terms and conditions, you can use Fiverr to get clients who pay you for bigger projects later on. My guess is that this works best if you’ve got an unusual skill, such as video animation.  But I’m sure there are many people on Fiverr stuck working for pennies.

For a while I thought about offering my services as a video voice-over artist on Fiverr. Apparently American website owners love British female voice-overs on their videos. Maybe you’d like to give that a go? 🙂

You may find experts recommending that you build up some passive income streams so you can be earning at the same time as caring for your children. Be careful with this one because passive income takes a very long time to set up and there’s a lot to learn first. It’s harder than most gurus say it is – beware of paying anyone for a course on how to make passive income because there’s a lot of crap out there. The only course I’d recommend (it’s actually very good) is MyNams, and even then it’s still going to take you a while to earn an income rather than just pocket money.

You could look at freelancing and building a longer term business at the same time. That way you have the best of both worlds. If you try this, make sure you have clear goals for what you want to achieve and be very tough with anyone or anything that distracts you from these goals. There will be ‘great’ business opportunities that come your way and you need to be able to put them to one side and keep going. You really do want to avoid your freelance work reducing to a trickle while your business doesn’t get the ground because neither are getting enough attention. That takes a lot of focus.

Good luck and do feel free to tell us about your experience in the comments!

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Comments

  1. Just to say how “True” is this article.. I too started ,my own baby food business, but without huge investments in both the marketing and then the delivery of the product at such a level, it left me very much in a similiar situation. Childcare Vs Building the business. I did actually waitress 3 x nights a week, and freelanced with all my ‘tips’ going in to new lables, leaflet promo etc. 2 years on (and another baby to add to the mix) I now still freeelance for two companies whom have a similiar work ethic, and really gives me the freedom of flexible working, Whilst attempting the slow build for my own business. I am a great believer in working hard to get what you want… but its good to know that others are going through the EXACT same thing!

    • Thanks for your comment, Lisa. You are definitely not alone. I’ve been speaking to some professional women (ie employed in professional and management level jobs) lately who have told me they are planning a four-year age gap between children because they can’t afford to continue their careers with two pre-schoolers. If these women find the cost of childcare for more than one child a challenge, then you can see what a problem it is for all of us who are starting a business with young kids. Good luck with your business and let us know how it goes!

  2. I agree Helen, there are so many people out there saying it’s easy to earn a freelance income, or passive income and you really need to be realistic. If it was that easy we’d all be doing it!

    • Jen, most of the people telling you that passive income is easy are the ones who are trying to sell you a course on how to do it 🙂

  3. Great article Helen! There are lots of women launching and struggling to get through that “start-up” period. There are enough people out there who claim it is “Sooooo easy” to start-up and reach immediate success. We all know that it is not the case, at least not very often. It takes time, passion and patience to build a successful business. It’s about time that more people got honest about it, so other women who are planning to launch know what they are up agains and can prepare for that first period accordingly.

  4. Keep them coming, love the comments. I have to totally agree with you!

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