People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves they have the first secret of success. ~ Norman Vincent Peale

Sunday, February 3, 2008

So you want to be a work at home mom?

So, you want to be a work at home mom? Congratulations!

The first step to starting your own business is to ask yourself two questions.
What am I good at? and What do I enjoy doing?
First, what skills do you have? Do you sew? Do wood work? Knit? What are you good at? What are you good at that you would enjoy doing every day? Write it down. What can you bring to the world? What do you have to offer? Write all of this down. Think on it. Once you think you have found your calling, look around at other stores with similar items. Is yours unique? You will do best offering something that is unique. If you make cloth diapers, for instance, what unique feature or idea do you have to offer? Make sure you are writing everything down. You want to go into this as organized as possible.

Now, my first suggestion is that you find a shrink asap. Make an appointment and get an evaluation. If you are comfortable with your insanity, WAHMing is for you.

Your next step is to go to my cleaning crash course and make your list. Before you have the final list, go to your daily tasks and change at least a third of them to "weekly", then go to about a third of your "weekly" tasks and change them to "monthly". Now complete your list. I would make sure you have your cleaning routine pretty down pat before starting your wahm business. You will not have time to keep your house perfect, and being as organized as you can will help a great deal.

When you are ready to begin, I recommend opening up a business paypal account. Once you have your paypal account opened up and verified, I suggest opening up an etsy shop, and an ebay account. It doesn't hurt to start out selling on one of these areas where you will get good exposure for a minimum price.

It's best to go ahead and have a website, so you will want to come up with a name, then research it to make sure it is a unique name. Many people run into a problem when they open up shop with a name that is too similar to another shop's name. Not only will you most likely have a Cease and Desist letter, but it is also very frowned upon by other small businesses. You want to stay on a friendly level with other wahms. Remember, in small business, there is no competition. You are all business partners.

Once you have your name, you will want to register a domain in your name, and start having your website built. You can start out with a very basic design that you create yourself, or pay somebody to design your site for you. There are many work at home moms who design websites for a living and would be happy to work with you.
You will want to read through as many resources as you can get your hands on. It's best to start your business out right, rather than struggling for years to figure out how to do it. I've found one place that has a lot of resources is Elemental Muse . Her shopping cart on hyena cart is packed with free e-books as well as many great ebooks for purchase. And speaking of carts, one of the more popular shopping carts at the moment is Hyena Cart. When you are ready, and have your website designed, products ready to be sold, etc, I suggest opening up a shopping cart.

If you are sewing diapers, I recommend purchasing small amounts of fabric until your business is experiencing regular sales, then moving on to purchasing your materials wholesale, or via coop.

If you will be knitting, dyeing, etc, I will list what resources I have available. I suggest that you practice your skill for a while and make sure that it is up to par for you to sell. One of the common mistakes that people make going into business is selling sub-par products at a loss. If you are selling products that are sub par, people will remember your products as being sub par. That will be your reputation. This is a great reason to wait until you know that you have a high quality item to offer.

You do not want to sell at a loss. Some people make the mistake of believing that they are just getting their name out there, or that the products should not be priced as high as the market has already dictated. This is, of course, false. When you price your items, you need to take into consideration the costs involved from all sides. Consider your cost of materials, machinery, shipping supplies, web hosting, domain purchase, cart hosting fees, etc. You need to pay yourself for your time as well. It is not acceptable to think that you are having fun doing this, so you do not need paid. This is a business, and a business needs to make money in order to run. Imagine all of the things you could do with your time instead of what you are doing, and realize that your time is worth something. If you want to do volunteer work, there are so many organizations that need your help, so I suggest keeping your business at a level of making some profit and charity work for charities who need you. Charge for your time, materials, and the cost of running your business. You will be putting a lot of work into this business, afterall.

Before you open up shop, have a banner made (or make one if you have those skills), and run it in some areas where your target market is. Your target market is the people who will want to purchase your products. If you are selling cloth diapers, your target market is people who want to cloth diaper their babies. You will want to run your banner on a cloth diapering forum, where people who cloth diaper their babies are all hanging out together. I will share some links to such forums in the resources section. You will be best off having an inventory ready for opening day. People are more likely to come to your store and browse around if they see several interesting items.

How you photograph your items is very important. You should work on your photography skills for a while before you open up shop. With online sales, people are relying on a photograph and description to buy the product. Unlike a physical store, they cannot touch the item and feel it, and see the colors, etc. Your photographs need to show them how beautiful the item is. Taking a photo on your couch or floor doesn't tend to look nice. It's best to invest in a photo box, or make one yourself. To find a photo box, try doing an ebay search for "photo tent". One trick that I have found is to place the item on one of those foam poster boards. They are shiny enough to capture the light just right. Pay attention to your lighting. Pay attention to how you arrange your items. If you just throw it down and photograph it, it might not look even, or it might appear flawed. Arrange it in a way that captures its perfection. Browse around similar stores and look at their photos. Think about what makes the item look high quality and what makes it look "not so great" and go from there.

Finally, know your product. I can't even express how important this is. Imagine you go into a coffee shop. You ask the barista which coffee is a light roast, as you don't like dark roast. The reply is, "I don't know, I don't drink coffee." Your confidence in the product goes down a great deal. You need to know as much as you can about your product. Your customers will consider you an expert and ask a lot of questions. You want to answer them confidently.

I will add to this as I think of more, and eventually, will give it a page for reference.