Balancing Work and Family as a Home-Based Entrepreneur

Unscheduled AppointmentBalance…

Every entrepreneur comes to realize how important that word is. As a home-based entrepreneur, it’s even more crucial — especially for the “home” part.

When Your Home Is Your Office and Your Office Is Your Home

Anthony Baggett asked:

How do you separate “work time” from “family time”? How do you find time to concentrate on “work” with kids around?

Often, the answer is “I don’t.” It’s actually very hard keeping them separate, since my work is so much of a part of who I am, and so is my family.

Even as I’m writing this post, my 2-year old opened the door and walked into my office to show me her pig-tails. How can you say no to that?

Little interruptions are fine — even nice sometimes. But you have to have some limits. Otherwise I’d be playing Dora the Explorer games right now instead of finishing this.

Each Home-Based Business and Family Is a Little Different

I’ve been self-employed and working from home since before my kids were born. So it’s all they know. I go to work by walking up the stairs.

When it’s new, it’s much harder. Initially your kids think you’re home on some sort of vacation — like spring break from school. It’s important to set some boundaries. Each family is different, so the boundaries will be different. But here are some guidelines I recommend:

Think of your family as your board of directors. They have as much of a stake in your venture as you do. Make sure they know what’s going on, even the little ones (appropriate for their age of course — a balance sheet is scary even to adults). Your spouse or partner is your Chairperson, so they need to be kept apprised of your plans, schedule, and operations. Things go much smoother if everyone is involved.

Use a shared calendar. Using a big whiteboard calendar or sharing Google calendars is a great way to make sure everyone is aware of what is going on. Communication is essential. If you have a big meeting or conference call, it’s known ahead of time. If you need to take off to see your son’s play, you can schedule around it.

Make signs for your door. Use pictures if your kids are too young to read, and have one for “I’m on the phone,” “I’m writing,” etc. As a bonus, use a big envelope for the sign, and encourage your kids to leave notes or drawings in it for you to find when you’re done or on a break.

Be flexible. One of the main reasons people go to work for themselves is freedom. A big perk of being a home-based entrepreneur is the time you have for your family. Chances are, you’ll be working more (trust me, you will). But the time is your own, and you set your schedule. Make sure it fits your home life, as well as your work style.

This brings us back to the word that started this post — balance. We all have a built in plumb bob that tells us when we’re off balance. As a home-based entrepreneur it’s imperative to let that be your guide. If work begins to take on too much, you lose balance. If you’re not working enough, you lose balance.

Learn to be aware of the signs and find your own flow — a flow that fits you and your family.