How to stay balanced as a home-based small business owner

When you first started your home-based small business, you probably imagined how great it was going to be to be your own boss, how much freedom you were going to have, and how comfortable it was going to be to work from home. After a few months, you probably came to the realization that it takes a whole lot of work to run a successful, home-based small business, and the stress probably set in. If you’re committed to the success of your business, you’re not only going to have to work hard. You’re also going to have to take care of yourself properly because your business is only going to be healthy if you stay healthy, both mentally and physically.  Here are some of the things you can do to stay balanced as a home-based small business owner:

1. Only work in one section of your home.

Ideally, you should be working in some kind of home office, a room with a desk, chair, and a desktop computer. All you should do in that room is work, and you shouldn’t work in any of the other rooms of your house. Why? It’s difficult to separate your home life from your work life if you work in all areas of your house. At the end of the day, you should shut off your computer, and go spend some time with your family. If your laptop’s open on the couch, you’re more likely to get distracted by all the things you need to do for your business. It’s easier to maintain a healthy work/life balance if you don’t associate all areas of your home with work.

2. Stick to a schedule

As previously mentioned, at the end of the day, you should shut your computer off and spend the evening with your loved ones. It’s difficult to do this if you don’t have a set schedule. For instance, you might want to dedicate the hours of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. to working each day. As a small business owner, you may not be able to just work 8 hours a day, but you do have the power to make room in your schedule in the evening for yourself and your loved ones.

3. Set realistic goals

When you own your own business, you don’t have a boss setting goals for you. You set your own goals. And, if you’re self-motivated, you probably set a lot of goals for yourself. It’s important to step back sometimes when you feel overwhelmed and reassess your goals. You can’t do a million things every day, and you can’t make a million dollars every day. Be realistic about the amount of work you’re able to put in and what type of results you’ll see.

Running your small business from home isn’t always everything you dreamed of, but it can be quite rewarding as long as you take care of yourself and keep your cool!

Author’s Bio: Carolyn is a guest blogger on the subjects of small business management, small business tools, and order management in the ecommerce industry that involves Shopify, 3dcart, and BigCommerce.

Image: zirconicusso / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Finding training venues on a budget

I  love running live, face-to-face training sessions. I love the internet too, but there’s nothing like talking to real people who are in the same room as you!

I’ve been thinking of running a live workshop for a while, and although I haven’t got anything planned (well, it’s just one of the many projects on my list!) I’ve been keeping my ear to the ground for budget training venues. So I thought I’d share my ideas just in case you need to run a session too.

Even if your business is basically home-based, you might find you need a venue to train a your team or to run a promotional event. Many mums are now offering live internet marketing or social media workshops to local business, too. Workshop venues can be quite expensive, but with a little creativity, you can find some for much less.

That said, bear in mind that the venue will affect the people who will attend and the price you can charge for a ticket. For example, if you want to attract people who would normally expect to attend a business event held in a hotel, they probably wouldn’t show up to an event in a village hall, even if the ticket price was a bargain. In fact, a cheap ticket price would probably put them off. Your choice of ticket price and venue are part of your brand (whether you do it intentionally or not), so going for a low-price venue might not be the right option.

So here are some low-cost places you can run training events or workshops:

Village halls or community centres

These can be a really good value option. Some centres have a main hall plus a smaller meeting room suitable for around fifteen people. One of my local community centres even has an IT training suite. Facilities vary widely from one centre to another (as does the decor!) so it’s worth checking what is in your local area.

Sure Start Centres and charity/voluntary organisations

Sure Start Centres are usually very well equipped and happy to make a little extra income by renting out a meeting room.

Business ‘incubators’ and enterprise agency centres

Look at the organisations in your area that help new businesses get off the ground, such as enterprise agencies, as they often have low-cost meeting facilities. If you need a room on a regular basis, virtual office packages sometimes include discount meeting room hire.

Independent coffee shops

I’ve not tried this one personally (yet!) but I think that working in partnership with an independent coffee shop could work really well. You could promote each other (your leaflets could sit on the counter of the coffee shop and their coffee shop’s address will be on your promotional materials) and it could be a really nice venue with great coffee!

Anywhere that has a meeting room that isn’t in use

Get creative and think of any organisation that might have an under-used meeting room. Even your local doctor’s surgery!

Hotels and pubs

OK, this is probably one of the first places that comes to mind, but it’s worth mentioning that a) prices could vary quite a lot depending on the time slot you want, b) it’s worth seeing if you can negotiate the price down from the one advertised and c) make sure you find out the prices of refreshments in advance so you don’t have any surprises.

If you have any other ideas for workshop venues, please do leave me a comment!

If you enjoyed this post, why not make sure you stay in touch by joining  my mailing list? I’ll also send you a copy of  my e-book Running a business around a family: 9 steps to success.

Photo credit: teaguelabs

Why people struggle to run online shops (and how I’m going to help)

Having a shop on the internet is the holy grail for many mums. It’s a flexible way of earning a living, low cost, you can sell things you love and you can work from home at any time of day or night.

It’s not just mums, though. Plenty of people are looking for a way to cushion their income against the risk of losing their jobs. Plenty more want to have a little project on the side that they can grow and eventually leave their jobs completely.

I wrote this post How to start an online shop over a year ago. I mentioned starting an online store on my Facebook page and a few people replied with “I’d love to do that, where do I start?”.  So I wrote down the steps I’d take to start an online shop on a really small budget. It’s been one of my top three posts ever since! When it went live it was shared widely on Twitter and it’s had hits almost every day in the last year.

It’s not that hard to start an online shop, but it can be hard to make money from it. There are plenty of reasons for this, but the big ones are lack of knowledge and not having a proper process. Whenever technology makes something easier or cheaper, the barriers to entry go down. In many ways that’s great, of course. But the problem is that if something is easy and cheap to start, we tend to dive in without much preparation and that increases the chance of failure.

Now it’s fine for me to sit and talk about ‘barriers to entry’ and ‘lack of knowledge’ in a cool and distant way, but the truth is that it’s bitterly disappointing to dip your toe in the world of business and fail. True, being able to deal with failure is a valuable, probably essential, skill.

But people need this income to keep a roof over their families’ heads. One little business success can lead on to much bigger businesses (and our economy SERIOUSLY needs this, doesn’t it?) Plus I knew I had some knowledge that could help people get their first online business off the ground and earning an income.

So what was the answer?  I decided to create an e-book and sell it as widely as I possibly can. My plan is that this will expand my ‘how to start an online shop’ post into a lot more depth, but the price won’t be a barrier to anyone who wants to start their own online store from home.  I have a feeling that some people might want a little more support than an e-book can provide, and if this turns out to be true, I’ll write an e-course or set up a coaching group based on the same series of ten steps.  I’ll still keep this affordable, though.

The e-book is almost finished now and I’m planning to launch it in the next couple of weeks. So if you know anyone who wants to start their own online shop, please do let them know. I’ll be posting the details here at Business Plus Baby, but if you want to make sure you don’t miss anything you might like to sign up for my mailing list.

Right, I’m off to finish that e-book!

Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to stay a healthy mum

If you’ve got children, a business, clients, friends, family and a house to look after, it’s easy for your own health and well-being to come last. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, are there?

But it’s important for mum to stay healthy – otherwise who else will do all these important jobs? 🙂

So (keeping in mind that this message is as much a reminder to myself as it is to anyone else who may be reading!), here are five quick and easy tips for staying a healthy mum.

1. Eat. Obviously, you don’t have a lot of time to eat, but this is essential to staying healthy. The good news that it’s OK to snack, as it helps keep your metabolism going and your energy levels up – so no need for crash dieting. Just make sure you snack on healthy things like yogurt, fruit and nuts rather than chocolate, biscuits and crisps. Not that I ever eat any of those things, obviously *cough*.
2. Drink: Water that is. (Yep, cut back on the 15 cups of tea a day, Helen…) In addition to eating healthy foods, you need to be drinking water throughout the day.
3  Exercise: Although you may find yourself busy throughout the day and exhausted at the end of it all, it’s important that you squeeze in at least 20-30 minutes of exercise each day. There are several ways you can do this. For instance, you can go on a walk, play Xbox Kinect or Nintendo Wii games with your family or join a fitness class.
4 Be Happy: As women and mothers, we tend to overload ourselves with work, family and worries. There isn’t much time to focus on being happy. However, this is important too. Studies have shown that, generally, happy people are healthier people. In order to become happier, set aside a little time for yourself every day – or week – to do something you like doing. This time will help you feel refreshed and become happier. (Note to self – step away from the computer…)
5 Sleep: Getting a good night of sleep is essential to your overall health. Sleep is when your body recharges itself. So, if you aren’t getting enough sleep you aren’t operating on a full battery, which means you’ll wear out quicker. It also means your body will too, which depletes your immune system. Plus it means you’ll be irritable and less likely to be happy (see tip 4).

So I’m now going to take my own advice and get an early night. Night night!

If you enjoyed this post, why not make sure you stay in touch by joining  my mailing list? I’ll also send you a copy of  my e-book Running a business around a family: 9 steps to success.

Image: healingdream / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This is why your tasks take longer than you expected…

Introducing new Business Plus Baby guest blogger Alison Bradford of www.alisonbradford.com

Do you ever have a morning when you’re up really early but still late for the school / nursery run? The morning started so well – you were feeling relaxed and in control and then before you knew it there’s a last minute dash to get coats and shoes on, bags together and out of the door. How did that happen?

Or the other way round and the kids were up late (I wish! doesn’t happen often in my house!) but you still managed to get them fed, washed, dressed and out of the door at the same time?

This is Parkinson’s Law in action – a task will expand to fill the time you allow you for it.

So, roughly translated, if you allow two hours to get ready in the morning it will take two hours. If you allow half an hour it will take half an hour.

It’s like when you have a new baby and you cannot imagine being able to leave the house with both of you dressed before midday. Then you join a baby class that starts at 10am and somehow you manage to get out of the house for 10am. Then you go back to work and (by a miracle some days, I know) you manage to get your baby to nursery for 8am. (I’m not saying it’s not stressful getting out earlier by the way!)

The same principle applies to work tasks too.

When you’re running your own business it can be easy to keep going with a task and not set yourself deadlines.  You don’t have a boss hovering over you wanting that report by 5pm and you can easily start to be busy taking your time over things.

Maybe you want something to be perfect and spend too long trying to get it so.

Maybe it’s something you don’t enjoy doing and keep getting distracted from.

Whatever the reason that means something is taking too long to get done – start setting yourself deadlines for completing tasks.

This may mean that something isn’t perfect (haven’t you heard that good enough is the new perfect?) It may also mean that you need to start making decisions more quickly. Both of these are great habits to get into when running your own business.

If you don’t have enough time to get everything done then you either need to not do some stuff or to start getting stuff done more quickly. By setting deadlines for even the smallest of things you really can start to get things done more quickly – just remember those late mornings when you still make school or nursery on time and think of Parkinson’s Law.

Biography:

If you want to get more tips, advice and inspiration for being a Mum running a business then visit www.alisonbradford.com and sign up for the free newsletter.

Alison works as a Business Coach and Life Coach with Mums who are running a small business from home and want to make more money in their business and have more balance in their life. To find out more please visit www.alisonbradford.com/about