Dilemmas of a Modern “Mompreneur”
The idea of women in business is not new thing, despite what some social historians would have us believe. Today, as in the past, women run businesses out of necessity. One lingering effect of the mostly women-less workplace of the 19th is that in many cases women’s salaries remain lower than those of their male counterparts. This combined with the increasing reliance on two incomes for survival has prompted numerous women with an entrepreneurial bent to choose another route –they have simply employed themselves – enter the “Mompreneur”.
These women face a huge range of challenges, many of which are shared with all self-employed people, some of which are specific to moms. Facing and managing those challenges is essential to the success of their mompreneurial dreams. Here are a few tips we found super helpful.
The first mistake to avoid when’ working from home’ is to focus on the ‘home’ part of that phrase. Working from home is actually more challenging than working from an office. Home is filled to the brim with distractions. Home is also associated with relaxation, with comfort and with downtime. OK, downtime is not something that moms generally associate with home, but still, none of us easily associate our homes with the daily routine of employment type work. Work means work, the office means the office. Set a routine and stick to it; create a space where you work, however small, and make it a “no-go area”, during downtime hours.
This “no-go area” may seem unachievable; but don’t give up or give in. Your business has less chance of survival or success if your desk has an ironing board, a washing basket and a cot next to it. A lock on the door may be an essential training tool for other family members.
Mompreneur forums are awash with discussion over the things that people have had to give up in order to run a business and a family. TV, exercise and friends all figure high on the list, too high, I think. Having a family involves sacrificing a lot, as does running a business. For mums this creates an equation where “me-time” becomes a thing of the past. However, the more sensible approach is to manage time effectively and modify, not give up, your hobbies, interests and friends.
The internet offers catch up versions of your favourite TV; exercise doesn’t have to be a daily dose of the gym but can be fitted in with other tasks. A walk with the kids can be taxing enough, and it’s the kind of thing you’ll need to get a break from the day’s work and switch off. A walk with the kids and friends gives you a much needed sense of perspective on life and friends can be a big asset to a business!
If you have a regular job and a family, the chores will be fitted in during the evening. If you work for yourself you’ll find that hovering around the washing machine during lunch becomes a habit. This goes back to the principles in the first point. During the working day you are working, try to minimize the amount of housework you do during your breaks. This can be a lot harder than you might think; it can also cause some arguments along the lines of “well you’re at home all day”.
You could try sticking the ironing board, the ironing basket and the iron into the car with his briefcase, and suggest he gets on with it during breaks at the office. Personally I suggest open, honest communication, and expect that it will take time for both you and your family to adjust to your new work schedule. It can be a great family learning and growth experience in patience, understanding and support –and it goes both ways.
Use every possible technological tool you can to streamline your day. Running your own business doesn’t just mean the day job. It means managing every aspect of your work and one area that is frequently overlooked by those new to working for themselves is the accounts. Unless you are prepared to save every little piece of paper in ever increasing piles of shoeboxes and filing cabinets, dreading tax time, and struggling to figure out who owes you what, when and what the current state of your accounts are, then start as you mean to go on.
Use an accountant to help you with the heavy lifting and a basic accounting software solution to help you with the day-to-day grunt work and organization of your accounts. Online accounting software is possibly the most ideal choice for small/solo businesses. It stores your records safely away from computer crashes, and makes them instantly available to your accountant. It’s an easy, affordable tool, but one that can shave several hours off your working week and bring that elusive “me time” a step closer.
Balancing work and life is probably hardest for the 21st century “mompreneur”. Working from home as a mom has specific challenges that working for an employer will not present, but working smarter – not harder – and setting rules and using tools will definitely help.