FIRST, YOU NEED A SOUND FINANCIAL BUFFER.
This is an under-appreciated aspect of starting any business, including a home-based business (entrepreneurial) or a home-based career (freelance, including as writers).
People who supply you with products and services don’t care how big your passion is.
I’m sorry that they don’t care, but they don’t care. They’ve heard all this before, from would-be consultants with starry eyes.
The electric company cares about whether you can pay the electric bill. The phone company cares about whether you can pay the phone bill. The landlord, if you decide to rent, wants to make sure you have enough for 6-12 months lease.
This requires you having some form of collateral or a “large” bank balance. “Large” means 6 months of living expenses, which is something I’d recommend any parents to save up anyway, regardless of employment status.
I saved up 12 months of living expenses prior to starting my consulting business. I realize I’m on the conservative side and 6 months can work as well of a financial buffer.
Also, the more years you’ve been at this, the easier it becomes to get an average income to show people that you aren’t a fly-by-night “consultant/writer/blogger/entrepreneur” and that you are in serious business.
Until then, you need to have a substantive bank account.
I realize some of you do this out of necessity than a carefully engineered choice. Hopefully you already have an ’emergency fund’ saved up for a few months’ living expenses and this can serve as your “start-up financial buffer” if you cannot save up any more before launching.
This financial buffer is also helpful to get you focused on starting on the right foot, which does not look like you’re desperate to pitch for every prospect and to throw yourself at the foot of every possible client.
NEXT, YOU MUST HAVE A CLEAR CUSTOMER IN MIND.
I’ve given people the following 2 exercises to try, as a way to get them brainstorming in the right direction. I will use consulting as a general example: you can change the labels for your industry’s term for “customer” if you like.
Exercise 1. You are now a consultant, congratulations! You are sitting at your desk when the phone rings. You pick up. The voice on the other end of the line says,
“I am so glad I got through, Jane. I’ve called around 5 other consultants and at this point, I think you are the right person to help me. I have this problem and this is right up your alley, do you have time to talk about this?”
- Tell me the job title and psychographic/demographic profiles of this customer and his/her business/industry
- Tell me what the customer’s problem is
- Tell me why YOU and not 5 of your other competitors are the right person to deal with this
Exercise 2. Imagine you get a green-light for a very exciting consulting project. You receive the budget for the next 3 months on this consulting project and you start Monday.
- Write the role description for yourself (list 3-5 major activities).
- Write the profile of your target audience in this role.
- Write the 3 key results you should achieve by the end of this business quarter (3 months).
FINALLY, BE VERY FOCUSED ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT TO TRACK.
This trips me up every time. I pile too much on my plate, then at the end of the day or week I felt like I haven’t accomplished much.
I’m not a “stay at home” parent. I’m not a “working” parent. I am a stay at home + work from home parent, this is an important distinction and hybrid model to define. My living space is both my home and work. I have access to work load and parenting duties and I never know when I’m called for either (or both at the same time, which I try not to have happen too often).
I’ve learned to go back to the early days when I was a sleep deprived, semi-delirious new parent and focus on one key item per day.
This doesn’t mean I don’t have many projects in the burner at once. But I stopped beating myself up over not getting to all of them within the same day. I also make the goal manageable per day because I don’t want to feel guilty about not spending enough time with my child or not getting enough done with my work.