Updated on 08.24.07

Seven Ways To Advance Your Career Or Small Business And Spend Time With Your Family

Trent Hamm

Quite often, I feel a strong tug between family needs and professional needs. I work very hard on The Simple Dollar, but sometimes I would rather spend time with my family. Thankfully, by focusing carefully on what opportunities I have available, I can do both.

Here are seven ways that you can simultaneously advance your career or small business and also spend time with your family.

Choose a business that junctions well with your family’s needs. For example, blogging gives me the flexibility to write around the schedules of others. If I ever launch my cooking blog, I can also leverage the time I spend preparing meals and eating towards that blog. My aunt’s family used to spend a lot of time hiking, so she started a geode business, incorporating geode collecting into the walks.

Find a business that excites and interests them. If you have no ideas for a business that junctions with what your family normally does, sit down with them and brainstorm for ideas. Find out things that would be of interest to them. Would they like to grow a large garden and sell vegetables as a family? How about hunting for and collecting geodes or mushrooms (both of which were businesses where I grew up)?

Incorporate your family into the business work. My father used to have a huge vegetable garden and he’d often sell at least some of the excess and make some decent money at it. To keep this garden going, the whole family would spend an hour or so in the evening in the garden, weeding and irrigating. One can do this with most businesses – for example, with blogging, I use family time to a degree as research time. When my children get older, I will employ them as helpers in my computer consulting business doing the more mundane tasks.

Participate in community events as a family. There are countless opportunities in your local community to connect with other people, and those connections can often help advance one’s career, open new career paths, or connect with new clients. In fact, I’ve already stirred up a bit of business from people on my block just by interacting with them a bit with my family along. You can also do things like sponsor a Pee Wee League team and write it off as advertising.

Ask for their input directly. If you’re brainstorming for ideas, go downstairs and talk to your wife about it or your children about it. Use them as brainstorming tools – quite often, my wife comes up with little brilliant ideas for The Simple Dollar, so I often brainstorm around her. We’ll do this over the dinner table as one of several conversation topics. This also helps in making others feel like more of a part of what you’re doing.

Use them for promotion. Around here, there’s a large computer consulting business run by a guy and his family. The only one too young to help is basically used for promotion – he does the ad voiceovers on the radio. Amazingly, it’s really effective – the child’s voice really stands out on the radio, the message is simple enough so that it’s plausible that a child would deliver it, and the enthusiasm that the child uses when announcing the name of the business (a dot-com URL) makes it stick in your head. This works very well for local businesses like this.

Use it for education. Say you’re doing a mundane task and your child is sitting downstairs bored, wishing you weren’t busy all the time. Take the child with you and show them the task. Explain what you’re doing and why and how it results in money in the end. Answer their questions. It might slow you down, but it increases the time for bonding with family.

In a nutshell, a business opportunity does not have to separate you from your family. If your family is important to you, include them in your career and business choices and let them be involved at all stages. Use the assets of youth (energy, enthusiasm, and creativity) to their advantage (and your spouse’s attributes as well!) and you’ll suddenly find yourself spending valuable time with your family while still moving forward in your career or business.

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  1. David says:

    Although this somewhat gets away from the point of actually incorporating your family in your business. Some small business owners or workers in the corporate world should consider getting a PDA such as a blackberry or a windows mobile phone. this way you don’t have to be chained to your desk when you are expecting an important email, or need to browse the web when your away from home with your family. I have found my PDA to be very useful for running my blogs as well as for my full time job.

    Just beware though, PDA’s can be addicting and be damaging to your life socially. Don’t be come addicted and be the soccer mom or dad that has hi/her face glued to their phone while “watching” your child play.

  2. Brip Blap says:

    I like that post, but as a blogger I find that writing, at its core, is a pretty solitary occupation that really doesn’t integrate well with family life. My contract consulting gig doesn’t either, but writing definitely requires some alone time. It’s more flexible but at the end of the day still fairly separate from my family life.

  3. Laura says:

    Thanks Trent for the post! While I we don’t have an children, we both want to find a way to balance work and family. My internship is making me realize that I prefer to work closer to home. Take care!

  4. Vincent says:

    I’m not sure how much you’re making here on TSD, but based on your dedication to it and the number of readers you’ve garnered in such a short time, if you were to throw yourself into a cooking blog the way you have this blog, surely the combined income would be enough to help you be a stay-at-home dad as you stated in a recent post.

    Just a suggestion. You keep threatening to start one…I, for one, would be as avid a reader of that as I am of this.

    Anyway, excellent tips. They work from lots of perspectives, really, not just that of family. Balance is tough to maintain when you love what you do.

  5. plonkee says:

    Now what I need is a way to integrate my blog into my social life as opposed to family life. I do steal ideas from things friends say, but I’m pretty certain they’re not really aware of it.

  6. Jenl says:

    These are excellent ideas. Some of them I have put into practice with great success. It’s definitely easier as the children get older. AND I have found that when the kids understand WHY you are doing what you do (ie: to provide for them, etc), they become more invested in your success as well.

    AND, I don’t know what you are imagining for your cooking blog. But I would also be an avid reader, even if all you did was post a quick “What I’m cooking for dinner tonight” post.

  7. FIRE Finance says:

    Wonderful tips. We feel we get to learn a lot of lessons just being around kids and our spouses. But often we have found that to write we need some solitude (the way Brip Blap) mentions. Perhaps over time we will learn to write while being around our family. But currently we cannot keep uninterrupted hearted concentration on our writing when a kid is tugging at you to pay attention to him.
    Keep the great blogging going and looking forward to your cooking blog.
    FIRE Finance

  8. Rob in Madrid says:

    I love the blog, ithas been a big help to my wife’s and I finances but sometimes I find you post too much too fast. If would help if you slowed down a bit and gave people time digest what you wrote. Also this would allow you start a cooking blog ummmmm.

    signed long time reader

  9. Elaine says:

    What if your children don’t want to be employed doing mundane computer tasks? You don’t want to take this too far and have a “You’re going to be involved in my career damnit!” attitude. Not many parents would say this outright, but it is common for kids to feel implicitly pressured by their parents, whether intended or not.

  10. Another advantage of this post is that it helps to keep the classic American dream of owning a business alive. There aren’t many people who can dream of, say, owning a bookstore or grocery store any more. People need options beyond working for a huge corporation.

  11. !wanda says:

    “What if your children don’t want to be employed doing mundane computer tasks? …” For most of human history, nearly all businesses were family businesses. Trades were handed down from one generation to the next. Trent is asking far less of his children.

  12. Brip Blap says:

    The ironic (or maybe not so ironic) thing is that I think that a cooking blog would be far more profitable than a personal finance blog. Why? If you have a cooking post where you mention using a Shred-O-Matic Shredster 1000 to do your shredding, you can put a link to it and someone is far more likely to click through. As a blogger, I’ve found far too many of the ads that are placed on my site related to personal finance are of the “E-Z Money 4 U!!” variety, and no-one clicks on those. A cooking blog would be a huge money maker, particularly if you tie it in with the frugal concepts on TSD. Good luck!!

  13. Time management is a particular challenge for those starting their own small businesses. And one of the major reasons people go into business for themselves is to be in better control of their schedules so they have more control over the time they spend with family, friends and on their own personal lives. When I advise computer consultants starting their own businesses on how to handle unique time management issues, I stress that at the beginning there are a lot of compromises that they and their family members must make in order to get things moving. But once the business starts to work to run itself as time passes, scheduling more personal time becomes easier.

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