It all begins with a need or a problem: What to give your children’s teachers at the end of the school year? And what about the girlfriends who have everything; finding that perfect birthday gift is nearly impossible. The solution? To make them something with your own hands. It’s thoughtful and it’s affordable. Perfect!
In fact, it’s so perfect that nearly everyone in your circle of friends and family wants one. Whatever it is: the beautiful and luxurious container of scented bath salts, the candle that captures the scent of the tropics, or the soap that leaves the skin smooth and silky; the demand grows, so the assembly line begins.
Before you know it, your hobby has turned into a business--almost accidentally. It’s an exciting time, but if you continue to treat your budding business like a hobby, there’s trouble ahead. What are the signs that you’re doing that? It’s things like using your “spare time” to whip together a couple of products, or haphazardly jotting down orders and reminders on a napkin. A really important sign is failing to keep track of spending and income and of course, doing everything from assembly line duties to taking out the trash all on your own.
For those who have never run a business, the transition from hobbyist to entrepreneur can feel like falling into a dark hole leading to the unknown; it can be frightening, frustrating, and lonely. Mistakes are made, important details overlooked, and it soon feels as though there is not even any time in the day to take a crash course in business 101, (if there were one).
If any of this describes you, you’ve got what I call an accidental business and it’s time to fix it.
Here’s how to begin.
Create designated work hours.
For stay-at-home parents this is a tough one. I can tell you with certainty that squeezing in an hour of work while your child is sleeping and going back at it after bedtime will only lead to exhaustion and resentment. You won’t get adequate rest and your schedule will be unpredictable—it’s impossible to remain focused and meet deadlines. Did you know that with just a brief interruption of five minutes you are deprived of up to fifteen minutes of productivity? It takes that much time for your brain to get refocused and back on track.
As your business grows find creative ways to get on a schedule of uninterrupted work time. Hire an after school sitter, ask your mother-in-law to come over a couple of days a week, or swap afternoon play dates with a neighbor. Your productivity levels will soar and stress levels will drop.
If you’re like most accidental business entrepreneurs, your business, maybe even your life, is disorganized. You run out of supplies at the worst possible times, you have no idea what you’ve spent versus, what you’ve made in profit, and order fulfillment may run late—even dropped orders can happen.
Managing your time is a tricky thing. While on one hand it feels impossible to step back and get organized, on the other hand you spend more time looking for things and straightening out issues than is necessary. In the long run you will absolutely save time, and your sanity, by putting a hold on things to create systems. Begin with inventory tracking and financials. QuickBooks for new business is one solution, and it’s affordable. Straighten up your work space at the end of every day. Clutter has a very negative impact on the brain. When your environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts your ability to focus. Cleaning up is a small commitment that will produce big results.
Take care of yourself.
Moms especially find it difficult to understand that you are only as good as your energy levels allow you to be. An exhausted entrepreneur and parent is less patient, less productive, and less happy. While the tendency to put your family and business first in every way is incredibly tempting, it’s a miserable mistake. This does not mean that you love your family any less, or that your business is not important—quite the opposite. Taking good care of yourself increases the odds that you’ll remain well and will give you more energy to pour into the things that are important to you.
Resist the urge to down a sugary energy bar or even worse, fast food, instead of a proper meal. The time it takes to stock the fridge and prepare a few healthy foods for the week will be made up in improved focus, increased stamina, and patience in lieu of irritability based on your nutritional needs not being met.
Get exercise and stay on a consistent sleep schedule if possible. And yes, take time to play. A special Valentine’s Day dinner with your sweetie might be just the ticket this month. Maintaining your relationship and social life will help you feel some semblance of life balance.
Lastly, an experienced business coach who also focuses on the emotional health of his or her clients can be invaluable. An outstanding coaching experience will help you to become a confident, well informed, and successful entrepreneur!