Making Work-from-Home Actually “Work” For Moms & Dads
Written by Cindy Hughes, Traveling Vineyard Director on August 10, 2015
For parents who split their daytime between work and kids.
In 2012, my husband and I knew that we wanted to start a family soon. With the salary I was making at my full-time job, we knew that we’d be spending about half my salary for childcare. We figured out that we would net the same amount and I could stay home during the day if I could figure out an evening job where I could earn at least half of what I was currently making.
I had never done direct sales before, but I started looking online for direct sales opportunities because the flexible schedule made it one of the better work-from-home jobs for parents. I stumbled upon Traveling Vineyard, and it seemed like a perfect fit: I love wine and entertaining, and as a former teacher, I was really excited about the potential to educate guests about the winemaking process and wine history. I joined in March 2012.
After being a Wine Guide with Traveling Vineyard “part-time” for a year and a half, I was able to contribute enough money to cover the cost of my husband’s grad school tuition and I was able to pay off my car. In September 2013, I worked my last day at my full-time job and decided to take the leap to become a stay-at-home mom and full-time wine lady when our son was born in October. I’ve been able to be home with my son every day – he’s now 21 months old – and never miss an important milestone!
I am not a home business expert. Like most moms who balance a business and a family, I sometimes go to sleep at night wondering, “Did I accomplish anything today? Am I making any progress?”
My answer is yes. By working part-time hours at my convenience, I am now earning an income that matches what I made at my former full-time job. So, even on challenging days, I can say with certainty that my business is working! And it isn’t just luck: A major element in running a successful home-based business is to establish clear boundaries for your time so you can be truly present with both “work” and “home.”
3 Steps to Establishing Clear Time Boundaries
1. Identify your realistic “work hours.”
Talk with your family to decide what times each day make sense for you to devote to your business. These may be consecutive hours or a few blocks of time throughout the day – whatever fits best for your personal situation. Then, require your family to honor these hours. Your spouse and older children can certainly understand that you need dedicated time to attend to calls, emails, etc., and should help in occupying younger children during this time. By allowing yourself this specific time for your business, you can be more efficient in your work and actually reserve more time for your family and other activities.
2. Communicate clearly with your team.
Once you have set these work hours, reach out to your colleagues or team to announce it in a positive way. “I’m pleased to let you know that I’m always available for your calls between 12 and 3 p.m. each day!” Team members often worry about bothering you during family time. Tell them about your work hours and encourage them to contact you during this period. Without the fear of feeling like they are interrupting your life, you will be more likely to hear from your team members and have more opportunities to assist as they grow their own businesses.
3. Hold yourself (and your customers) accountable to your set work hours.
You must respect yourself and your business enough to be firm in observing work hours. There will be times when you are tempted to respond to a customer right away, but ask yourself: is my immediate response really going to have a significant impact on my business? Or could it be addressed during work hours later, or even tomorrow? Just because cell phones make it possible to contact everyone instantly, it doesn’t mean you have to respond instantly. If you feel you must offer a response, quickly acknowledge them with a short message to help manage expectations – yours and theirs: “I’ll get back to you by noon tomorrow – thanks!”
Simply put: if you make yourself available to your family, team, and customers all the time, are you really achieving the quality of life that inspired you to work from home in the first place? By maintaining strong habits regarding “work hours,” I set myself up to have healthy relationships with my team members and a rewarding balance of family time. As a work-at-home mom, I can fully enjoy my work and enjoy my home.
Download the sample schedule to see how Cindy balances family time and work time.
10 “Work at Home” Tips From Traveling Vineyard Wine Guides
1. Get up and get ready like you are leaving to go to work. Make your bed right away, so you are less tempted to get back in it. Get dressed so you wouldn’t be embarrassed to answer the door: no jammies.
2. Make your office space a pleasant one that is organized and where you enjoy being when you’re working.
3. Work your business a little every day – even if it’s just 15 minutes – then consider one or two “power days” where you can spend a much longer time working uninterrupted. – Kim Kunchick
4. During work hours keep the TV and phone off: DVR shows and return calls later.
5. Kids and pets? Close your office door, and use a “do not disturb” sign so family knows to knock/respect your work time. For younger children, tell them something like, “I need 20 minutes to work, and when the timer goes off we can play,” so they know what to expect. – Kirby Maragulia
6. Follow Mark Twain’s advice: Eat the frog! It’s terrible to have a frog staring at you, just waiting for you to eat it – do the hardest, most difficult task first thing in your day and you’ll feel so much better!
7. If it takes less than five minutes, do it now. If it takes more than five minutes, write it down and prioritize it. – Alison Frye
8. Use fringe hours (early morning/late night) to respond to emails, and save business hours (9-5) for phone calls. – Kim Kunchick
9. Track leads, customer sales, and your vision on a goal board with visual displays at eye level so they remain a primary focus for your follow-ups. – Lesa Brinker
10. Take a break or lunch at designated times, and commit to 15, 30, or 60 minutes to clean, prepare dinner, laundry, eat, etc. Use a timer to enforce your break.
And lastly, when your work place is your home, sometimes the problem is never being able to stop. Try to focus on scheduling “me time” so you don’t burn out. You may miss the camaraderie of office friends, so make time for weekly/monthly friend time to reconnect.