The number of Americans who did some or all of their work from home rose from 19 percent in 2003 to 24 percent in 2015. Accompanying this trend has been an increase in the number of mothers who stay at home, which rose from 23 percent in 1999 to 29 percent in 2012. Mothers are now the primary breadwinners in almost two-thirds of American families for the first time in history.
For mothers who work at home, this transition has brought some unique challenges, especially for WAHMs who run their own businesses. Here are four of the most common WAHM mistakes, along with some tips on how to avoid them.
Mixing Business and Personal Finances
One of the most common mistakes made by WAHMs who run their own businesses from home is failing to separate business from personal finances. This can create bookkeeping headaches, complicate your taxes and even put your personal finances at risk if someone sues your business.
To avoid this, it’s important to follow best practices for separating your business and personal finances. Create a separate accounting spreadsheet file for your business income and expenses, or at least make these separate line items in your personal file. Incorporate yourself as a business entity if appropriate. Open a separate banking account you can use for depositing business income and paying business expenses. Apply for a business credit card you can dedicate to business purchases. If you work for yourself, pay yourself out of your business income as if you were paying an employee so that you can keep track of your income from work and figure out how much you need to set aside for taxes. Keep track of business expenses so you can write these off at free efile tax time.
Allowing Work to Disrupt Your Personal Routines
Doctors recommend that adults should get eight hours of sleep per night, but only 16 percent of American workers actually sleep this much. Sixty-three percent only sleep six to seven hours, while 21 percent sleep five hours or less. If you work at home, you’re your own supervisor, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of depriving yourself of sleep in order to get extra hours in. The other extreme is sleeping too much, which can often happen after you’ve stayed up too late working, creating a vicious cycle. Working from home can also disrupt your personal life in other ways. For instance, if you work on your smartphone, you may be getting business-related texts at any time.
To keep your job from overwhelming your personal life, it’s important to maintain boundaries. Treat your job as a regular job, scheduling work hours and making sure to set aside enough time for sleep and other personal items. Set aside time for replying to business texts, as well as setting aside personal hours when business messaging is off-limits.
Failing to Get out of the House
Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you need to stay at home. Failing to get out of the house is not only bad for your personal well-being and social life, but it can also be bad for your business. Many of your best marketing opportunities can be found by networking outside your home. For instance, attending meetings of your local chamber of commerce can give you an opportunity to network within the local business community. Trade shows represent another opportunity to promote your business by networking. Participating in businesses that employ network marketing such as Amway can also help you grow your business network.
Trying to Do Everything Yourself
When you work from home, especially if you run your own business from home, you often end up wearing many hats. You may end up doing your own marketing, bookkeeping, tax preparation, IT support, graphic design and legal work, to name a few.
If you find yourself being overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Consider outsourcing tasks such as accounting and website development to qualified professionals so that you have more time to focus on your business and personal priorities.