Lessons I Learned From Operating a Home Based Business

One of my many poor financial decisions was buying a small home based business in 2006. I had very little experience in operating this kind of business but many aspects of the business just came to me naturally, including working with various customers.

Many aspects of the business were not easy for me. I operated that business for 4 years and along the way I learned quite a bit. I kept many notes which I used to write this article. I thought that others that are considering starting a home based business, or are already involved in a home based business, may benefit a bit from the lessons I learned.

Build a Business Based On Something You Truly Enjoy

I often hear people say "find something you enjoy and then figure out how to make money with it". For example, if you love spending time with pets such as dogs and cats, then perhaps you would enjoy being a Pet Sitter.

Or if you know how to sew, and you love designing and making hand bags, then you may want to setup a home based business and sell your hand bags.

home based businessWhy do I believe it is so important to find something that you enjoy? I believe it is important because when you have a genuine interest in what you do you will find it much easier to maintain a sense of drive and commitment in your business, especially when problems and issues come up. If you truly enjoy what you do you will find a way to make things work, no matter what.

Create a Plan For The Future

Just like you shouldn't try to build a house without a blueprint, you shouldn't try to build a business without a business plan.

Start by visualizing the type of business you will operate. Then think about how you will make money with your business.

Who will your clients be? How will you attract them to your business?

How many clients do you need per month? How much do they need to spend?

What other areas of your business do you need to pay attention to?

What will your monthly expenses be?

Your next step is to transfer all that information to paper. It is vitally important that you transfer your thoughts to paper and create a business plan. This plan will not only assist you in making key decisions within your business, but it will also help you stay focused on the grand scheme of things.

Organize Your Business in to Various Departments

The details in your business plan can help you setup various departments within your business, quite similar to a corporate business. Even though you may be starting a small home based business, it is still very important to plan and be organized, just like any larger business.

Your various departments might include bookkeeping, marketing, sales and administrative work.

Create a list of tasks that you will need to complete for each department in your business based on the information that you have captured in your business plan.

Create a Weekly Work Schedule

Now that you have a list of tasks that need to be done you can create a written weekly work schedule for yourself.

I used Excel to create my weekly schedule.

Your schedule should be based on all the areas of your business that you need to manage and the tasks that you need to complete.

When creating your schedule decide how many days a week you will work and what hours you will work. Don't forget to include a lunch break, as well as any periods of time that you may need to run errands or pick up your children from school.

Consider breaking up your daily schedule into 30 or 60 minute increments. Organize and schedule your tasks based on their importance.

Remember To Eat That Frog! Which Means Do The Most Difficult Tasks First And Avoid Procrastination

eat that frogTry and setup your schedule for a month in advance and remember to include any reoccurring tasks.

Yes, like me, you may have decided that you wanted to work from home because you want more freedom.

You can have freedom and have a schedule, because you decide what to put in your 60 minute increments each day. If you stick to a schedule you will feel a great sense of accomplishment at the end of each week.

If you just "wing it" each day, then on Friday you will wonder where the time went and why your business is not growing as you had planned.


Once you have listed your business tasks and you know what you need to accomplish, you should definitely look for ways to automate as many tasks as you can.

Check out Constant Contact for newsletters, Oprius for Sales and Contact Management and Vista Print for direct mail campaigns and other marketing promotions.


You will wear many hats as a small business owner. Some you will like and others you may not like. To be successful, you should try to master the departments or areas of your business that you do like, and consider outsourcing the rest.

For example if bookkeeping and administrative tasks are not some of your best skills, then consider hiring a part-time assistant. Initially, if money is an issue, you could look at hiring a friend or family member to look after that for you on an hourly basis.

Educate, Educate

As you build your new business, look for training seminars and programs that pertain to your business. Try and make it a rule of yours that you will attend at least several seminars per year to keep yourself up-to-date on the latest and greatest information. You may find some great Webinars as well.

You can also create a resource library of books that will assist you with various areas of your business.

Remain Focused By Applying Self Discipline

Initially you may find it difficult to stick to a weekly schedule. I know it is VERY easy to get distracted when working at home. It happens to all of us.

The phone rings, or a neighbour drops by for coffee, or you remember that you forgot to do the laundry on the weekend.

Whatever it is you most likely feel compelled to address whatever comes up. This is okay once in a while. You don't want to feel like you do not have any flexibility.

The trick though is moderation. If you continue to let yourself be distracted from your schedule you will find that Friday will suddenly appear and you won't have anything done.

Communicate Your Work Schedule

work scheduleYou can discourage interruptions from your family, friends or neighbours by telling them about your work schedule.

I know some people who work at home ask their older children to please not interrupt them when their office door is closed, except for emergencies.

Or, if a neighbour often drops by for a spur of the moment coffee, you could talk about your schedule and suggest that next time you both try to book something in advance so that you can work around it.

Consistency Pays Off

This is one of the lessons that I find difficult to maintain. Many times we try something for a couple of days or a couple of weeks and if we do not see immediate results, we stop trying.

This goes for exercising, dieting, and even business tasks.

As you read and educate yourself about the various areas of your business you will discover new ways of doing things.

For example, you may learn that you can attract more clients by sending out a monthly newsletter to your current clients and associates.

Let's say you do this for several months and you do not see any results. No new business. What can you do?

You can decide that this didn't work and stop sending it out, or you can commit to continuing with it.

If you continue to work on it, perhaps tweak it a bit, and consistently send it out on a monthly basis, people will grow to rely on your newsletter and the important information you provide.

They may not need your services right away, but when they do, or when a friend of theirs does, they will remember you and your business, because you were consistent in reminding them every month.


In business, as well as in life, obstacles will occur. How you decide to deal with them will make all the difference. If you let an obstacle frustrate you or even make you unhappy with your business, you will find that you will lose your momentum and lose sight of the big picture.

Once that happens, even the smallest tasks will become a struggle.

Instead, try to take an objective view. Figure out if there is something you can do to help sort things out. Or, figure out if there is someone that you can ask to help you sort things out.

Use your strong belief in your business and in yourself to help you overcome the obstacles that sometimes get in the way.

Reward Yourself

When you are creating your weekly work schedule remember to reward yourself for all of your accomplishments. Schedule an afternoon to go to the park, or schedule a Friday off so that you can go away and enjoy a long weekend.

You work for yourself now, and you need to enjoy some of the freedom that goes with that.

Keep the Faith!

Always believe in yourself and what you are doing.

If you have a bad day or if you find yourself questioning your decisions or your abilities, remind yourself why you started your business in the first place.

Tell yourself that you made the right choice and that it does take time to grow a prosperous business. Think about where you and your business will be in 2 or 5 years from now because you had the faith to believe in yourself today.



    • Kari @Small Budget Big Dreams

      Kari @Small Budget Big Dreams 03/08/2012 9:16 a.m. #

      All great points! I think the most important for me is the last, "keep the faith". With my small at home business I sometimes get frustrated and feel like all the effort I'm putting into the business isn't yielding the payoffs I'd like. But since it's something I'm passionate about I continue to keep the faith that I'm making the right decision about continuing to build the business. Even if I didn't make any money it would still be something I love, so it's all worth it in the end.

    • WorkSaveLive

      WorkSaveLive 03/08/2012 12:46 p.m. #

      It's so important to have a real plan when going into business or starting one. A plan does guarantee success but I'd venture to say you're far more likely to succeed if you have one.

      I do like the last part about keeping the faith. As you start a business you typically don't get rewarded overnight. I've heard people say 'I worked 20 years to become an overnight success.'

      Things don't happen instantly. Believe in your plan, work hard, be patient, and have faith!

    • Tackling Our Debt

      Tackling Our Debt 03/08/2012 4:01 p.m. #

      @Kari Your dog walking business crossed my mind when I was writing this post. I knew you did it because you love it. One day it will grow to be a profitable business because you won't let anything get in your way.

    • Tackling Our Debt

      Tackling Our Debt 03/08/2012 4:04 p.m. #

      @WorkSaveLive Yes sometimes people do have instant success but because they didn't have a plan in place they may not know how to deal with it. But you are right, most of the time it takes a lot of patience and hard work to achieve success and that is where you need to be at least having fun or you may give up too soon.

    • Julie @ The Family CEO

      Julie @ The Family CEO 03/08/2012 4:08 p.m. #

      I like your idea of dividing your business into departments. Usually people focus on one or two departments and ignore the rest. Bookkeeping is often ignored. I know because I've done bookkeeping for several small businesses. :)

    • Tackling Our Debt

      Tackling Our Debt 03/08/2012 4:13 p.m. #

      I agree Julie! And I think we ignore the things that we are not comfortable doing and then wonder why we are not successful. In my case I didn't ignore the marketing department but I never became good at it.

    • Emily @ evolvingPF

      Emily @ evolvingPF 03/08/2012 7:26 p.m. #

      Wow, awesome post! I don't have a home business but I can apply many of these points to my at-work work, since I have to direct my own work flow like 95% of the time. Thanks!

    • Tackling Our Debt

      Tackling Our Debt 03/09/2012 10:26 a.m. #

      I agree Emily. A person can apply most of these points to other areas of their life where they are trying to achieve certain things such as completing projects at their job.

    • CultOfMoney

      CultOfMoney 03/09/2012 7:03 p.m. #

      I thought that this was a fantastic post. You've got a lot of great advice here, and not applicable just to a home-based business. Even if you didn't end up making much money, it seems that the lessons you learned will certainly help with the next one you decide to start.

    • Tackling Our Debt

      Tackling Our Debt 03/10/2012 10:26 a.m. #

      Thanks @CultOfMoney! They are life lessons for sure. Ones that I need to constantly remind myself of.

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