by Lou Fogg | Mum Speak
I really love having what we call a lifestyle business. Its basically a small business which we can run from home. I can work in my trackie dacks, sit on the back verandah in the dappled sunlight or even work at night if I feel like letting loose during the day. I know its not everyones cup of tea and neither is it an option for everyone. But if there is ever an opportunity or inkling to make this jump in your working life, based on my experience, Id highly recommend it! I have been lucky enough to be able to work from home for ten years now.
Before kids I worked in high end graphic design servicing blue chip clients and having the time of my life. I absolutely loved my job but with long hours and demanding deadlines I knew that combining my work and having kids was not going to work. For a long time, it felt like it had to be one or the other ie. career or kids. It wasnt until the maternal alarm clock went off that my husband and I desperately started seeking alternative options. We discovered there might be one but it would mean some major adjustments. In the end, we felt those compromises were worth it. And we still do!
To help us with our decision making process we asked ourselves these all important questions
Can we drive a business?
My husband and I are both graphic designers but weve both been working long enough to realise that for any business to grow, someone needs to be focusing on sales. We decided given I had been in account management for several years and could access old business relationships I would be the business driver. And even when my Hubbie joined me in business, we continued with the strategy that one person needed to take responsibility for ongoing sales for the business to survive. This is a key factor in growing any business whether you work with someone or on your own!
Should we work with partners?
Not everyone should work with a partner, particularly one they are married to! My husband and I made the decision we would work together based on the fact that we would be focusing on different roles. A very important strategy for avoiding relationship glitches. However, when it came to business strategy ie. how the business was going to evolve, we were going to make those decisions together. We had equal shares so we felt it important to have equal responsibility. For some having a business partner isnt even an option, but I believe at some point you have to pass on components of your business to another professional otherwise it defeats the purpose of having a lifestyle business. For us, working together has mostly worked well.
How would we survive financially?
This was a big one for us, as we didnt know how long it would take to start seeing an income stream. We decided Hubbie would stay at his existing job initially, but we had to make up a budget and stick to it!!! It took 6 months in the end to get to a point where I could start pulling in a small salary. Within a year he had joined me and we were both bringing in enough income to survive. It was tight but it was working. Within 2 years we were paying ourselves quite a good salary and had started employing part time staff to cover the times we didnt want to work. Happy days!
How much will it cost?
For some it means having to sell up home, but in many startup businesses this doesnt have to be the case. And we certainly werent going to be doing that. In the end, once we bought computers, software, furniture blah blah blah we spent about $15,000. This will always vary depending on the type of business. For many it would be much much less! Expenditure always comes down to available funds, what your accountant advises and what is absolutely the minimal requirement necessary in your designated industry.
Where would we work?
For us it was pretty clear cut because we had a bungalow. It meant that work was separate from the rest of the house which is better for productivity in any business. No distractions like washing! However, weve moved since then, so now weve have to set up a designated office. In saying that, I do love to work on the back verandah particularly on a sunny day!
How long should we give it?
For us, given our experience and contacts, we knew that if we werent seeing any revenue within 6 months that it just wasnt going to work. For some this may just be the research and setup time. A realistic expectation is what works best here. We reassessed yearly within an overall 5 year plan.
What sort of planning should we do?
Having a business plan was such a big part of starting our business. For me, doing this was hard, perhaps even likened to pulling teeth! But what it did was force us to actually think about our priorities, work through strategies and explore obstacles. Putting it on paper keeps you accountable in ways that just being organic and going with the flow, doesnt! In saying all that, the plan changed as we changed! Particularly when we had kids.
What are the disadvantages?
When times are tough and the work isnt rolling in, you feel it where it really counts your wallet! When you need to inject funds into the business it comes out of your own pocket. And bills still need to be paid despite a bad month or two.
If theres a deadline you cant slacken off, take sickies or for some, even share the load.
On top of all that it means that you are now the ultimate jack of all trades. Not only do you have to do your own job, but now you have to be a salesperson, an IT expert and a book keeper!
What are the advantages?
Three kids, two houses, one degree and a blossoming business idea or two later, I can safely say that if you play your cards right there are many advantages.
The biggest advantage for us has been that we can combine family life with working life which is why we call it a lifestyle business. Yes, it has got more complicated with each child and my time in the business has decreased significantly, but to me this is an advantage. I can still be involved in the day to day raising of each of our kids. It has meant that I can be close by when the kids have been sick. I can still be a class helper and volunteer at schools and kinders. It feels like Im a stay at home mum but with a regular income stream.
With the internet and laptops, it has meant that we can take extended holidays (even up to 6 weeks at a time) and still be able to do work. And even when were not holidaying we can take our laptops on long weekends and not feel like we have to rush back for Mondays 8.30am staff meeting! Lifestyle businesses fit into your lifestyle. I can even work from home during the school holidays.
Within a reasonable amount of time you can pay yourself a greater salary than what youd get if you were doing the same thing for someone else. You can claim business expenses at home (all within the law of course!) And at the end of the year when the accountants tell you theres a profit, YOU get it NOT your boss! For some this means you can even be mortgage free.
So where to from here?
Honestly answering these all important questions is a good start. And you may have more of your own. Get advice from your accountant and talk to other people who have gone before you. Be realistic in your expectations and be as thorough as you can when you do your research. Get info on the formalities of setting up a business here. Be inspired here. Complete a business plan here. And get a startup pack here.
Most of all start dreaming.
Having your own business is definitely not for the faint hearted. But for us it has definitely worked. We started small, grew, then reassessed with each passing year. Ten years on and weve decided its time to move on once again because it fits into our lifestyle. BUT, we are so convinced this is the way to go that we are both now working on creating new businesses which will fit within our ever evolving lifestyle. And so can you!
If you could work from home, what would you do? Have you ever had a lifestyle business? What stops you from taking that first step?
Follow Lou Fogg on her blog at Mum Speak
Bonus Video: Jack Canfield: Create Your Attitude
Source: Mum Speak