10 Tips to Finding Help For Your Family and Your Business
Before my husband joined the business, I was home by myself a lot with our children. At the time, his work hours as a cameraman for ABC's Nightline were horrendous, keeping him away from home from the dinner hour until well after midnight every night. During those times, it would have been nearly impossible to run a business and be up half the night with babies without our family helpers.
I am often asked by other parents, mainly mothers, for my tips on running a profitable home-based business with young children in tow. It's a challenge, and sometimes, it's just not fun at all, honestly. It can be done, but the first step to making it work is to get yourself a family helper or two (or more …).
A Family Helper Can Help You And Your Business
Family helpers assist in all areas of life, from babysitting and unloading the dishwasher, to picking up dry cleaning and grocery shopping. They can also help you keep your home office neat, answer the phones, proof read documents, defrag your computer and just about anything else you can think of to make it possible for you to run a business and still tend to the needs of your family.
It's a tall order, I know, but these 10 tips to finding teen-aged family helpers can help you successfully manage both home and business, especially when, as we are, you are raising kids and profits under the same roof. While family helpers can be male or female, and any age, they are often teen girls, so this post is written with that in mind.
1. Meet And Reassure The Parents. When looking for a teen family helper, first look to the teen's parents. Look for people who share your values and have instilled in their daughter a sense of responsibility. Let them know that you will provide a flexible arrangement that allows her to prioritize her family and her schoolwork.
2. Set Guidelines. While a formal job description is a bit much, everyone should agree on what is expected so you can stay on track and avoid misunderstandings.
3. Remember, They Are Teens. Teens are notorious over sleepers. They often make commitments without writing them down and family obligations can and do arise at the last minute. This means there will be times when they will not be able to keep their commitment with you. Be ready to change your plans if necessary.
Play an active role in teaching them about responsibility, and strike a balance between being firm being and being understanding. Make friends with their parents because the more they know about your intentions, the more likely they are to ensure that their daughter fits you into her busy schedule.
4. Be A Mentor. My family helpers learned from me that motherhood is not the Leave It To Beaver episode they watched on television. In fact, one of the best helpers we had announced one day that, while she would like to help us now and then if we were in a bind, she could no longer work with us regularly because it was just too much work.
At one point, we were rotating so many family helpers in our home that a few neighbors joked that were served as an easy birth control method for the teens who helped us out. After seeing how much work it was to manage a household and run a business, they wouldn't dream of putting themselves in the position of becoming mothers before their time!
Help your helpers understand that, while parenthood and home management are infinitely rewarding, they are also real jobs, requiring a level head, a great deal of devotion and a servant’s heart.
Also, since most school curriculums do little to encourage entrepreneurship, if you have an at-home business, allow your helpers to help out as a way of opening their minds to the possibility of starting their own businesses someday.
5. Pay Them Fairly. Family helpers are your partners in success. Pay them according to age, experience and level of responsibility. Our most reliable family helper was Lindsey. She worked with us for 5 years, from the time she was 15 until she turned 20 years old. At that age, she was earning $10 an hour if she was alone with both children, and $8 an hour if my husband or I were home with them.
Lindsey took our kids to the shopping mall, the park or for ice cream, and we compensated her for gas. Younger family helpers earned $5 or $6 per hour and were never alone with the kids.
6. Encourage Children To Respect The Family Helper. If you have temporarily delegated some of your parenting responsibilities to a family helper, make sure your children understand that she is to be respected and obeyed. Just as they clean up after themselves when you ask them to, they should comply when the family helper makes the same request.
7. Taxes. While every state is different, federal law requires that household employers pay federal employment taxes with respect to persons who are employed in the home. Check with your family tax professional to find out if this applies to your situation, or consult the IRS publication: Household Employer Tax Guide.
8. Insurance. If your family helper is in your home frequently, find out whether your household policy covers you if she is injured in your home. Also, if you are leaving the family helper at home with children, make sure she has a copy of your insurance card and other emergency related information in case of an emergency.
9. Make Them Feel Special. Our family helpers are the reason we have a business today. We knew that back when they worked with us so we made sure we rewarded them well. If your family helper does a good job, give her a gift certificate to her favorite store or send her a card.
When Lindsey graduated from high school, the Johnson family was there to cheer her on. We baked and took her cakes on her birthday and we never missed a chance to draw her some great pictures and finger paint prints. We also wrote Lindsey's first formal letter of recommendation so that she could use it for future job opportunities.
10. Have Fun! We sometimes took our family helpers on short vacations where they watched the kids for several hours in exchange for time at the vacation destination and a few meals. They were like a part of the family and we often had them and their parents over for dinners or other special occasions.
What About You?
Do you have a family helper? How are things working out? Great? A disaster? Do you have some additional tips to offer?