Some LGBT Entrepreneurs running a home-based business are skilled at juggling social life, dating, family life (life-partner, children, extended family) with work-life all while finding time for fitness. How do they do it? Dedication, structure, and a little self-forgiveness goes a long way.
Understand the challenge
It’s no easy task to juggle all facets of a modern LGBT active life with the time and effort required to run a business. That’s particularly true if you have had a lot of demands, unexpected life hiccups and believe you have to be perfect in all things and to everyone at all times. LGBT people are so used to being judged that we tend to overtax ourselves.
If you want your startup home-based business to succeed, it takes communication, planning, hard work, compromises, and the right attitude.
Get the timing right
The demands of work are very different to those of social and family. Add children to the family makeup and they naturally require a tremendous amount of time and attention. All can be exhausting but in different ways.
Your startup business requires a keen focus on analytical behavior, thinking strategically and logically. Looking after children also requires some strategy, of course. But it’s usually more free-form behavior, with less emphasis on deadlines and detailed schedules. Add extended family and perhaps caring for an ill or disabled family member or other such family requirements needing your time and attention and it can be all to easy to get sidetracked tending to the home and the needs of others. If no family members are in your mix, maybe it’s your life partner or your active dating habits and mingling strategy that turns you from a business laser to non-business fidgety.
Switching between these two modes of thinking can be tiring, stressful, and extremely unproductive.
The key is to be realistic with yourself and others. Set house rules that include your workspace and privacy while still allowing you to be accessible in emergencies. Be sure to define what an emergency is as well.
Starting a business typically requires much more effort, energy, and hours to get started and run in the early period than going to a job 30 – 40 hours a week working for someone else. Do your life and extended relationship circumstances allow you the time right now in your life dedicated to a new home-base startup business? Be realistic while still stretching yourself to reach your goals.
Are young children in your life? Many successful entrepreneurs take time off to concentrate on their young children for the first few years. Then they return to the world of work – refreshed and ready to succeed.
If you find yourself under-stimulated and desperate to get back to work, then that might be the right thing for you. And if your kids are happy to be left in the care of others, then this is less likely to cause them stress.
If you’re not sure, start small until you’re confident you can balance the demands of a home-based business with your children’s needs.
2. Deal with distractions
You will be distracted when you work from home. You may be putting the finishing touches on a business proposal when your daughter bursts in with a grazed knee. Or you’ll be updating your accounts when your son opens the door and asks you to help color in a picture.
Knowing that this is likely to happen can help you prepare for it:
- Block out times in your work schedule when your kids aren’t around. Use this time for detailed work that requires concentration.
- Have a list of short, easy, admin jobs that can be done while your children are around. This should be work that doesn’t require a lot of thought.
- Get some shared office space if your budget and time allow it. If nothing else, getting out of the house and going to an office can make you feel more professional and help you focus. And there’s the added bonus of making new contacts.
3. Divide your hours fairly
There will be times when your business needs you, and times when your children do. It can be tempting to think that your business is more important, but that’s rarely true. Emails may be marked “Urgent!!!” but in the long run they aren’t as important as your children’s development.
So be fair. Separate work time and family time, and stick to this rigidly. The actual division will depend on your goals, but here are some suggestions:
- Work from the morning school drop-off until the afternoon pick-up, then stop.
- Don’t work on weekends.
- Maybe work an extra hour once your kids are in bed – but don’t make a habit of it.
- Remember to take proper lunch breaks.
- Don’t forget to make time for family holidays.
This may seem like a restriction on your business. But it’s vital to create rules of separation and stick to them. Otherwise, it’s too easy for your business to suck up all your time.
Running your business isn’t the same as building it.
Act like a project manager
You can get a lot done in a short amount of time. It all depends on how well you manage it:
- Don’t use your email inbox as a way to manage your tasks with clients. That’s not what it was designed for – there are better tools for the job.
- Use a project management tool such as Basecamp to simplify client management. This can help you reduce the overwhelming flow of information and make it more manageable.
- Set timers for individual tasks and take a break when the timer ends. For most types of work, it’s hard to maintain solid concentration for more than about 35 minutes at a time. Taking short, regular breaks will help you be more productive.
- Keep everything client-related in one place, separate from other tasks. This will help you create a clear, uncluttered environment.
5. Develop a consistent schedule for your home-based business
Running your business isn’t the same as building it. Both are important, but once you’ve reached a certain workload it’s easy to ignore business development.
So pick one day a week for working on (not in) your business. In other words, you might spend that day:
- planning social media marketing
- writing blogs
- following up on sales leads
- networking with potential new customers.
6. Automate wherever possible!
Computers were designed to make working life easier. With the right software, you can automate some of the work of running your business.
- Standard email responses will let you respond quickly to customers while you think about a more detailed reply. A simple “Thank you for your inquiry, we will get back to you in the next 48 hours” will make potential new customers feel valued.
- Use cloud-based software to save time and effort. If you make use of software that stores data online securely, you’ll make life easier for yourself. Lower IT costs, automated upgrades, data backups that are done for you – it all helps save you time.
- Automate admin tasks. There are some things that all businesses need to do, including handling payroll and accounting for taxes. Get the right accounting software and you’ll be able to automate much of this work. That will leave you more free time to concentrate on building your business.
Learn from others
If you want to make the most of your situation, it helps to learn from people who have been there before. Luckily, there are plenty of stay-at-home parents who have written about their experiences.
You can learn from them. Find out what they did right, what they did wrong, and what they recommend for other entrepreneurs.
A simple web search will bring up plenty of examples. Many of them are women since mothers are still more likely to be stay-at-home parents than men.
Always remember that you’re not alone. If you get stuck with any aspect of running your home-based business, it’s easy to reach out for advice. Make the most of all the resources available – then you’re much more likely to succeed.