Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Staying home--home-based businesses

I have had a few home-based businesses over the years. Here is some of what I've learned:

In-home daycare

The most money I ever made at home was by being a child caregiver. 

Some people say, "Oh you must have a lot of patience to do that." Well, maybe I naturally have patience, but what I found most challenging was keeping the house clean on a daily basis...ready for the doorbell at 7 a.m. or earlier.

Our state didn't even require licensing for watching four or less unrelated children. I wasn't comfortable watching more than that, anyway. If you are considering opening a daycare, check into your state's regulations!! Each state is different. 

The first time I opened a home daycare was more than 10 years ago. Our dining room was empty so that became the playroom. The other time I opened a home daycare, I used the room intended as a formal living room. Both rooms were close to the front door.

Here are some things to do before opening a home daycare:
  • Take a CPR, first aid and AED class. About $125, I think.
  • Buy a fire extinguisher and learn how to use it.
  • Put baby gates up where you don't want kids to go--like near stairs.
  • Baby proof. Outlet plugs; doorknob covers; cabinet latches etc.
  • Make sure pets are up-to-date on vaccinations.
  • Find somewhere to keep unfriendly pets during daycare hours.
  • Make sure the outside play area is safe.
  • Get a daycare rider on homeowner's insurance. (it's inexpensive)
I don't recommend buying equipment like high chairs and pack 'n plays until you have kids signed up. Sometimes they bring their own. I ended up buying new high chairs at about $30 each and two pack 'n plays for about $50 each.

I charged $125 per week for full-time. My hours were from 7 a.m. til 6 p.m.  No weekends.

Even though $125 a week doesn't sound like a good wage, multiply it by the number of kids enrolled.  Four kids is $500 a week. In addition, you don't have to pay to have your own kids in daycare. 

Sounding better?

But it's not all singing and naps. Kids can totally run you ragged. Then there are the iffy sicknesses (is he really just teething?) and late pickups and late payments.  And just when you think your exhausting day is over, your own family is immediately looking to you for supper. 

I recommend starting gradually with one child at a time. Even if you intend to enroll three or four kids, make sure your own family (and pets) get used to the new routine. You may find yourself wondering how you can ever add on at all. But things typically get easier.

Why I don't offer daycare anymore:

The first time I stopped doing daycare was because the little boy I was watching became ready for preschool. I was also watching half-day kindergarteners who were then ready for all-day first grade.

The second time I stopped doing daycare was because of a couple things: we switched insurance companies and the new company didn't cover in-home daycare businesses; in addition, family issues had been taking me out-of-state quite a bit.

This was just a quick overview. If there is interest, maybe I will post more about daycare as a business along with some activities and meal plans. 

I love to bake and had been getting the hang of decorating cut-out cookies. I decided to open a business.

I ran a small ad in the local paper and got a few orders. I can't even remember what I charged, but I remember baking for a fancy party, baking a tray of cookies for a Bunco party and I was proud to have a repeat customer. She ran an accounting firm and had me bake pretty cookies for her office at each holiday. 

Before starting, I called our health department who told me it was fine to do long as everyone knew I wasn't licensed. Then my neighbor told me to check again. She was SURE I needed to be licensed. And she was right. The person I talked to initially gave me wrong information. After reading the licensing requirements I realized there was no way I could do this bakery. It would cost $10,000 or more to comply. 

Onward to...

Homemade Pet Treats

If I can't bake for people, I'll bake for animals! I had to register with the Department of Agriculture and have my treats analyzed for nutrition. None of that cost too much. Totally doable. 

I had displays of my treats at our veterinarian's office, a local "people" bakery and a pet store. Our county's parks department hired me to pass out my treats at a bark-in-the-park event...oh and I filled a huge order for a woman who bred dogs. With each adoption, she gave the families goodie bags and my treats were included in those. I also participated in a couple craft fairs.

It seemed my reach was limited, though. I just wasn't making much money at all. 

For those who try this nowadays, the Internet will play a much bigger part. In order to sell everywhere, though, licenses are needed in each state.


I wrote for free quite a bit before actually getting paid. I think that's the way it's done most of the time.

I wrote for a few newspapers and a parenting newsletter. A news magazine hired me as a freelancer. I got paid $200 for a feature article about some friends of mine who became missionaries. I also covered some local events and was paid $75 for each event.

My love of writing prompted me to start a local website and also a newsprint paper. The newspaper endeavor was with my husband. I couldn't have done it on my own.

Here's the thing about publishing a newspaper: ads need sold to cover the cost of printing. It was incredibly difficult to sell enough ads each month to cover expenses. 

Suggestions: If you decide to write for profit, start writing for free. Just write, write, write. Build your portfolio and make connections. Consider purchasing a subscription of Writer's Market when you get serious.


Neighbors About Town began as a welcome service. This was lots of fun. Each month, a realtor friend gave me a list of homes sold in the area. I narrowed my focus to only those moving into our school district. Depending on the time of year, I welcomed 80 to 150 new people a month.

Each newcomer would get a gift bag filled with goodies from local businesses. It was so much fun stuffing the bags. Some things included were: Play-Doh from a Montessori school;  antenna balls, visor clips, small message boards, weather thermometers, tulip bulbs, calendars and of course magnets and coupons. A local college contributed individually-wrapped Little Debbie cookies with a note attached, "Be a Smart Cookie."

I added some tissue paper sticking out and tied the tops of the bags with ribbons. I included a little note from me inviting the newcomers to call me with any questions about the area. 

I rang the doorbell and said, "Welcome" while handing them their bag. If they weren't home, I tied the bag onto their doorknob using the gift bag ribbon.

Home sales tapered and the businesses didn't see much value paying for me to welcome just a handful of people.  Too bad. 

The newcomers enjoyed being welcomed; and I think it's courteous of local businesses to reach out personally rather than blanketing a "demographic" with junk mail. But that's just me.

Now you know why my kids tease about my next endeavor being "Mom's Tire and Lube." I've tried so much! 

I think I should do an entire post on each of these businesses. There is so much more to cover. 

Before starting a business, do your homework. But don't let the information-gathering phase paralyze you. At some point, make the decision to do it or not do it.

Keep good records and pay your taxes. :) 

Also, don't be afraid to wrap it up if it's not making you money or if it ends up costing you money (unless you want it as a hobby).
Good luck!
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