Do You Have the Time to Work at Home?
by Donna Schwartz Mills
So you've made the decision to work at home. Congratulations -- You're about to join a modern movement of over 14 million that grows by about 500,000 every year.
If you've done your homework, you probably have a good idea of how much money you'll need to invest to get your business off the ground. But business success does not come about through money alone. There is another resource you need to consider: Your time.
You may presently work an eight-hour day and commute a couple of additional hours each way. If you applied this time to your own home business, you would have 50 hours each week to devote to your business. That should be enough -- right?
That depends... If your decision to work at home was spurred by a desire to have a more balanced family life, you need to take a long hard look at how those hours will really be spent. Just as your create a budget for your finances, you need to budget your time.
Here's a hypothetical look at the schedule of a "typical" work at home parent:
7:00 - 9:00 Get up, get kids up, make breakfasts 2 hours and lunches, get kids ready for school
9:00 -10:00 Drive kids to school, return home 1 hour
10:00 -2:30 Kids in school; time to work 4 hours
2:30 - 3:30 Pick kids up, run errands, return 1.5 hours
3:30 - 6:00 Family time; may include running 2.5 hours kids to lessons and other activities
6:00 - 8:00 Prepare dinner, sit down to eat, 2 hours clean up, put youngest kids to bed
8:00 -11:00 Time with older kids/spouse 3 hours
11:00 -7:00 Sleep 8 hours
TOTAL: 24 hours
Of course, your own needs may be different. You may only have one child with few after-school activities, or older kids who get to school on their own. Your child may not yet go to school, which would change this schedule significantly. The point is that you do have to plan for when you will work.
Using the hypothetical schedule above, we've allotted four hours per day -- or 20 hours from Monday to Friday -- to work. Depending on the type of business you launch, that may be enough. Then again, take another look at this schedule: There's no time allotted for lunch. Even if you tend to eat at your desk, you need to make time for breaks, let's say 1/2 hour per day. Do you exercise? We'll add another 30 minutes daily for that. What about housework? Even with kids who are old enough to help, you'll probably want to spend some time keeping your home in order. Let's give that another hour per day and we promise not to look under your bed for dust bunnies. And don't forget to take some time for yourself; one hour a week for a manicure or lunch with a friend. You need to figure in these items too.
Your 20-hour work week is now down to 10 hours a week. Is that enough?
Most home businesses are one-person shops. That means that you alone will probably be responsible for performing the following weekly tasks:
1. Correspondence: Email and letters 5 hours
2. Telephone: Sales calls, inquiries, customer 5 hours service
3. Filing and other organizational tasks 1 hour
4. Fulfillment: Shipping and delivering product 2 hours
5. Inventory Management: Tracking and ordering 2 hours product
6. Bookkeeping 1 hour
7. Promotion and Marketing 5 hours
8. Website maintentance 1 hour
TOTAL: 22 hours
Again, this is just a general estimate of how much time a "typical" home business person may need to spend on various tasks each week. Depending upon the type of business you choose and your work habits, your actual time spent will be very different... and it is likely to change depending upon sales, season, marketing effectiveness, etc.
Still, our hypothetical, "typical" work at home parent now needs to get creative with his or her time. Many ParentPreneurs make up their time deficit by getting less than eight hours of sleep per night. They might take work along to do while a son is in karate class, or return phone calls from a parked car while a daughter is at soccer practice.
Others hire help -- a housecleaner to get those dust bunnies, a teenager to watch the preschooler a couple of afternoons a week, a menu plan that includes ordering in every Wednesday. You might want to employ a virtual assistant to help with your correspondence, or a specialist to handle your marketing. Of course, these things cost money, which brings us back to your other budget (the financial one).
The decision to work at home may be the best one you've ever made for you and your family. Allocate your time realistically and you can achieve both your goals: Success as a businessperson *and* as a parent.
Donna Schwartz Mills writes about the specific needs of work at home parents at her website, The ParentPreneur Club, "For Parents Who Want Choices, Not Office Politics." Tools, tips and advice you need to help grow your home based business while raising a family. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter at
Find out how to get this and other ParentPreneur Syndicate articles delivered free to your website - updated automatically!