10 Tips for WAHM Wannabes
Wanna be a Work-At-Home-Mom? If you’ve ever dreamed of cultivating a culture of entrepreneurship within the sphere of your home by running a home business, I’d like to share ten tips I’ve learned in my own WAHM adventure.
1. Consider your capital in terms of time and money—and count the cost.
Whenever we say “yes” to something, we say “no” to something else. We all invest our valuable resources of time and money somewhere. Write down how you are currently spending those resources, and decide if you want to make the commitment to spend them on a home business.
Sometimes the exchange will be an improvement in our quality of life. For example, we may exchange 10 hours a week that we might normally be watching television for 10 hours of starting up our business. Or we might forego our weekly lattes in order to save enough capital by the end of the year to invest in small business start-up costs.
I had to say “no” to my sewing and paper-crafting hobbies. I miss them, but I made my choice, and I am comfortable with the consequences of that choice.
2. Decide what you want to offer.
- A skill: cutting hair, photography, culinary arts.
- A product you make: baby quilts, jewelry, paintings.
- A product to purchase wholesale and resell: books, make up, hair clips.
- What you love to do.
- Is there a need or demand for what you have to offer?
- Do you want to cultivate repeat customers, or do you want to sell something folks just purchase once?
I spent six months learning how to make soap by reading books, Googling all my questions, reading soap forums, watching Youtube videos, and experimenting. I decided to sell all-natural, cold-process soap and specialize in shampoo bars, which were not as widely known back then.
3. Decide who your target customer is. Be specific.
I make all my products for Sharon. Sharon is 33 years old with kids. She makes healthy consumer choices when it comes to food, house cleaning products and bath and beauty products. She manages a household income that enables her to spend a little more for these types of items, but she is smart and won’t pay more than is necessary.
4. Study your competition.
- Who else is making soap for Sharon? Google key words that you would use to sell your product or service, and then study the competition’s websites, prices, products, labeling and packaging, business policies, etc.
- Write down what you like and what would motivate you to purchase from them, and also write down what you don’t like. If they are a successful company, what makes them successful? If they are a small company that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere—figure out why. Imitate what is good and avoid what doesn’t work.
- Brainstorm how you could be better than your best competition. If you want to succeed, aim high and persist in improving along the way. Here are some pictures to show how we’ve evolved over the past 4 years:
I’m sort of embarrassed by these pictures, but that brings me to my next tip:
5. Don’t wait until you’re a rock star to jump into the entrepreneurial waters.
As you can see, I certainly didn’t. Sometimes we just need to jump off the cliff and find our wings by attempting to fly! Some easier, cost effective ways to do this would be to join an established, multi-level marketing type business, like Tupperware or Lilla Rose, and learn the ropes of running a business from people who can coach you along.
When my oldest children were little, I sold Dorling Kindersley books and Discovery Toys. I got some sales experience and learned how to run a business which then prepared me to launch my own business many years later.
6. Create business branding: logo, slogan, labeling, and packaging.
You may want some help with this to pull off a professional appearance. A friend of ours designed our logo and first website, and our oldest son took over from there. We are still trying to figure out how to make our labeling/branding more professional. It’s one of my goals for 2014.
I would say good branding is one of the most important things you will figure out at the beginning, so get help if you need to.
7. Establish an online presence.
I sold on Etsy for a while, and this is a great, inexpensive option for getting your product out there and building a customer base if you don’t have a lot of capital to start with. Once you have a regular customer base, consider launching your own website using a shopping cart like Big Commerce.
8. Be uniquely YOU!
This took me a while to figure out. I admired so many things about other companies that I had a hard time deciding who I wanted to be. Relax, though, because if you stick with it, your uniqueness will eventually shine through.
I eventually figured out a lip balm recipe that crushed all competition, a practical family use for spa salt bars (the SINK!), and my own, exclusive shampoo bar formulation that is, I think, the best on the web both in quality and price. These things make my shop kinda special, I think.
Nobody can do what you do, the way you do it. So SPARKLE!
9. Be accessible to your “Sharon.”
Price your products for her. Offer specials and freebies. Keep her informed. Help her solve her problems. Bring her joy.
10. Be disciplined and work hard, but don’t go overboard.
Ask me how I know about the overboard part. This year the kids are helping out a lot more (getting paid, of course), and I’ve been able to train in another mom who is now making 75% of all my products. I feel balanced for the first time in a long time, and it feels terrific!
I had to delegate and let go of some profits to make this happen. But my sanity and peace of mind are worth it. And so are yours.
Do you operate—or dream of operating—a cottage industry? Tell us about it!
This post was VERY thorough. I have my MBA in marketing and have worked as a marketing manager for over 14 years so far… and I was impressed with the thoroughness and detail that has been written.
I started a side business too. 8 years ago I created http://www.purifyyourbody.com — the cool thing about it is that it takes maybe 30 minutes per day of my time. I really didn’t have to give up anything else (the beginning stages were more work because I had to create my website and source suppliers. Now I have a factory that makes them specifically for me, to my specs!).
I still have my day job where I work as a marketing manager for a multi million dollar electronics company. But this side business gives me a lot of fulfillment that my day job doesn’t give. And, it gives me more financial freedom.
One thing that you pointed out — you need to have PASSION for what you do. That is important. You need to portray that passion in everything you do regarding your business.
Another thing that I found was super helpful in gaining new customers at a low cost is to offer free samples. When people request samples, I send them 2 foot pads to try at night, with literature explaining how they work, and then a 20% off coupon on their first order. about 75% of the “sample requesters” do place an order. The same costs me about $3 but then I gain a ton of new customers. And, because I use custom promo codes, I can track the success rate of my promotion.
And the best thing about this article? It mentioned NOTHING about MLMs. haha!! I love it! Great job. People will be so much happier if they start something from scratch like you did, vs. become a “sales consultant” for a market saturated with sales consultants offering “the next big thing”. 🙂
Thank you Rebecca! I completely agree with you – owning your own business from scratch is SO much more fulfilling, at least for me. I think it’s a control thing. If I don’t like something, I just quit doing it – or change it – or whatever I think is best. (I love being my own boss.) And I also love the flexibility to invest as much or as little time as I want or am able to. Thanks for sharing some great marketing tips for getting new customers too!
This post is inspiring to me. I have long wanted to start remaking/repurposing furniture & other items to resell. After I get some experience under my belt I’d love to custom make furniture. A lot of my focus would be on stencil painting designs on my pieces.
Thank you for sharing!
Very creative idea. START NOW! And have fun!
webster’s dictionary “Picture of Health” = a Pic of your children….they are beautiful…they are great advertising for your soaps
Love. And thank you. 😉
Great tips and I especially loved the department photos!
I just started http://m.thatcrazymom.net last year. Thanks for the great advice.
What an awesome post – thank you for sharing your tips! I run an Etsy shop (CraftyBeards) where I sell my crochet household & winter goods and I love it. There’s definitely a learning curve and progress is made a little at a time (such as the branding and website changes).
Nicole @ WKH
Adorable shop name. I just love Etsy. Have fun doing what you love, Nicole!
I love the “department” pictures, they are amusing and creative. Your soap pictures are professional looking and the descriptions are inviting. I was perfectly happy with my store-bought soaps until I read your article. Good job!
I like this:-) thanks:-) I have a etsy shop which i have taken a break from since my third babe. One thing I did want to mention which most will know if they are licensed,as a cosmetologist/hairdresser you cannot legally charge money for a service from out of your home, you have to own a salon/create one that is inspected in your home. There is a lot of legal stuff with that.
Thank you for the tips. I am starting out a small sewing business and it is fun but it is hard to do taking care of a one year old and working part time all from home… but then I see you have 9 children! I wonder how you do it all! But it is very inspiring to read this and I look forward to the day when I feel I can really call my sewing a business!
I think it is harder with JUST littles around. But this is a good time to start, because you can start slow and work yourself into a bigger business over a long period of time. By the time they are older and helping out – you will have figured out a lot of things for yourself and your business. Slow and steady wins the race. 🙂
I think half of what you wrote, I could say too. I am only 1 yr into my soap making business, but the 6 months of reading and googling sounds SO familiar. I am just learning many of these decisions that I need to make regarding future and direction, and having kids involved as part of their “life schooling”. I wish I could have read this months ago when I was struggling with how to make this all work. I think I’ll hang onto this article for rereads when needed for inspiration.
What a fantastic post Natalie. And I must say, your soaps look divine!
As for the bit about going overbaord – so true! I always thought if I worked from home I might have trouble keeping on task. Instead, I have trouble not being a workaholic (and I don’t even have a product for sale yet, although I do have a book about to be launched)!
Love, love,love this article! Thank you so much for the insight and practical tips for starting a home-based business. Very encouraging.
You are an inspiration. Not only are you smart, hard working, creative, and talented, but you write well, too. This concise post could be part of a business start-up text. In fact, it could be the whole text. Nice going.
Years ago I read a book on entrepreneurship that suggested not starting a business doing something you love (contrary to all other advice) because once you attach a profit motive to your passion, you’re in real danger of losing your love for your hobby. An example would be a woman who loves to bake opens a bake shop and soon she’s overwhelmed by bookkeeping, cleaning up, baking to fill orders on schedule, dealing with demanding customers, etc. , none of which have much to do with having fun frosting cupcakes for her friends. I guess eyes-wide-open, and learning to delegate are key. Having a bunch of beautiful, cooperative children helps. 🙂
Thanks for a fun and pretty read. Keep doing what you’re doing. I bounced over here from Amy Lynn Andrew’s site.
Some of your soaps actually made me hungry:) They look scrumptious! I checked out your lip balm and the use of argon oil is definitely unique. I have not seen that ingredient in other lip balms, but then again, I can’t say I was specifically looking for it either!
You inspire me, as I have been thinking about beginning a business as well for quite some time. But I honestly don’t know how you do it. I only homeschool three children and find I just have a couple “free” hours that I can devote to any endeavor. Do you include the business into their homeschool hours, or are evenings primarily devoted to your business?
Thank you so much for this post. I am just starting out with a new direction as I take my writing and bring it to life as a range of inspirational jewelry. This was one of the most helpful pieces I have read in recent weeks of gathering insights and tips.
Love #4 and 5 and your department photos. Plus your soaps look amazing so I am off to check them out xx
What a helpful post as I am in process of navigating many of these thoughts and ideas currently. Thank you for being willing to share what you have learned, it is much appreciated!
This was a wonderful article! I can’t wait to own my own business, it’s a goal I’m slowly but surely working towards. I did have a question for you, was there ever a time when you second guessed yourself (even if at the same time you knew deep down that it was the right choice for you and your family)? If so, how did you get passed it?
Hey Natalie!! Love this post. You definitely have one happy ‘Sharon’ here