A client contacted me for help starting her own business. She wanted to stay home with her toddler but she couldn't afford to give up the income from her job. Since she loves children, she wanted to open a home daycare business.
In working with childcare providers, I meet many who initially started a home daycare to be home with their own children. Far too many of them fail, usually for lack of basic business planning.
Let me share with you a few tips from the most successful providers.
Never forget this is a business – Great daycare providers fall in love with the children in their care. When a parent does not pay their bill, providers have to make the tough decision to dismiss that child from care. Clear, written payment policies and the ability to process credit card payments – look into Square or PayPal – will help you continue to care for children without putting your business in the red.
Make sure you follow the law – Home daycare providers must be licensed by the state if they care for more than a threshold number of unrelated children. The threshold varies by state so be sure you find out what your state requires. There will be health and fire regulations to follow and cities or homeowner's associations may have regulations governing home daycare so investigate these before you open your business.
Decide whether to accept government assistance – The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) offers reimbursement for meals and snacks served by daycare providers. There are also federal daycare subsidies for low-income parents. These programs can help your bottom line but investigate what is involved before you decide to participate.
Interview parents face to face – When a parent contacts you, meet them in person. Discuss your policies about payment, drop-off and pick-up times, sick child care and discipline and have them sign a copy of these policies for your files. Meet the child before you agree to enroll him or her in your program. It's important that you, the parents and the child are a good fit.
Network with other providers – Home daycare can be a lonely business and if you don't have a vehicle adequate to transport all of the children safely, you can be homebound. Getting to know other providers gives you someone you can talk to when you need advice – or just adult conversation!
Home daycare is hard work and many who try it end up giving it up and going back to work as soon as their own children are able to go to school. If you really love children though, and are willing to work hard and keep your eye on the bottom line, it can offer you a comfortable home based income.