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Essential steps to starting your own business

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Sarah-O'Bryan

Starting your own business can be a daunting process – especially when combined with motherhood – so how do you build a business, raise kids and stay sane? Business & Baby at Home: A Set-up and Survival Guide for Mums explores the many joys and challenges of working from home while balancing family life, relationships and domestic duties. It’s packed with clever business acumen, practical ideas and my personal experiences, along with priceless revelations from other work-from-home parents. Here’s an exclusive extract for my fellow North Shore Mums. Enjoy!

Your business mission

In its simplest form, your business mission should be exactly what you wish to do. Formulate a few positive words on paper, then tweak and correct them until they represent you and your mission. Once you are happy that these words map out a direction for your venture, frame or pin it up in your work space. Every time you need confirmation on a business decision, reflect on your mission statement and ask yourself which path best aligns. You may find that this statement may change as your business grows…

Motherhood mission statement

While it’s helpful to develop a mission statement for your business, I also love the idea of having a motherhood mission statement to help guide you in your decision-making. This works hand-in-hand with your business statement – like the chocolate sauce to vanilla ice cream. It is a personal acknowledgement of yourself as an entrepreneur and a mother in one. Take the time to note the attributes that you wish to maintain in your parenting life. It may be to show patience or be present when spending time with your kids. You might make a goal to be at swimming lessons every week and schedule your business priorities around that. It should be a reflection of who you wish to be as a mother; something you will feel positive about applying to your busy life…

Business&BabyathomeOffice set up

A spot at the kitchen table just will not do! But, as every self-employed mum before you will tell you, you will learn to be flexible about where your work gets done. You’ll find yourself tapping away on a park bench, making calls and notes in the passenger seat of your car during music lessons, or sorting accounts on the stairs of the back deck. In saying this, it is important that you have a dedicated workspace for you and your business during the times that you are at home. You might only have space for a desk in the corner. That’s fine. As long as it is your desk and you don’t have to share it with anyone else. Great wars have been fought over pens and documents disappearing. Stock that desk with everything you need to minimise wandering around the house in search of something. Even the most determined worker will find it difficult to walk past a sink full of dirty dishes and make it back to their chair unscathed by soapy water. It makes for much less time to get your work done for the day if you have to search for lost stationery! If you have clients visiting, the ideal set up is a functional space with a separate entrance to your main house. This means your visitors do not have to trapeze over baby bouncers, toys or baskets of washing to get to your office. We’ve all heard the stories of empires that have been built in garages. Plus, it takes a huge amount of pressure off the need to have the whole house presentable just in case a client or customer calls in.

Your dream work space would ideally be set up permanently with everything you need – a phone, landline and fax number separate to your home account, your work computer, printer, storage, a water source and most importantly, a door. The other important factor is where the office is located from the baby’s room. When I first moved to my home office from my rented office space, I had an old desk in the corner of the lounge room in our half renovated home. It was small, but it was a haven of organisation in a world of chaos. Unfortunately, it was very close to the baby’s room.

Every time the phone rang I’d jump with fear that it would wake the baby. I would try to ‘professionally’ whisper down the phone. I must have sounded like a lunatic! I even worried that the sound of the toilet flushing would disturb his sleep. During this time, I had another designer coming in a couple of days a week to help out with overflow jobs. I would feel rather sensitive that she was very much within our family space. She was always very gracious about this, but just before she was due to arrive, I’d madly flick toys under the sofa with my toes while wiping milky bottle rings from the coffee table. I also felt incredibly self-conscious when feeding or playing with the baby, rather than sitting at my desk. Always torn in two directions – between work and baby – I was often wondering what she was thinking and second-guessing myself. Admittedly, this was very much self-imposed.

As the business expanded in the years following, we could justify converting the front garage into a studio with its own separate entrance. It sports a large window at the front and a door that comes directly into the space. From my desk I can see couriers and clients as they arrive, allowing me a minute or two to throw any stray toys or dirty coffee mugs out of sight. The renovation removed a world of drama. I can now play music as loud as I like while I work and there’s an adjoining bathroom!

Start-up checklist

Use this list to check you’ve ticked off all your start-up requirements.

  • Establish your budget.
  • Acquire what you need most to start making money.
  • Always file a back-up of your important files in a safe place off-site.
  • At the same time, note what you can purchase once your income starts coming in.
  • Carefully select a unique business name.
  • Register your domain name online.
  • Apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN) online.
  • Research whether GST is applicable to your business.
  • Set up a new business email account and address.
  • Brainstorm and establish your unique brand.
  • Develop your business and motherhood mission statements.
  • Establish who you are, who your competitors are and who your target market is.
  • Set up your office at home.
  • Organise a separate phone number for business purposes.
  • Organise a separate PO Box address for your business.
  • Find a local graphic designer whose work inspires you and request the appropriate business identity items.

Extract from Business & Baby at Home: A set-up and survival guide for mums by Sarah O’Bryan (Finch Publishing, September 2013). Available in paperback and ebook.

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