By Stacy Helt
My service helps homeowners find the most suitable plants for their yard and their plant zone, and I also do some landscape design, if requested. I've always loved flowers and gardening, and while in college, I chose landscape architecture as a major.
My husband and I had our first daughter when we were still in college, and my priorities began to change rapidly. When I graduated with a 5 year Bachelor's Degree in landscape architecture, I contacted over 200 landscape architects, designers, and nurseries in my state. After all the work of job-hunting, I did get a few offers for employment, but none of the jobs looked as though they'd come close to fulfilling me as much as staying home with my daughter.
So, my husband and I had several discussions about the topic, and we decided that he would look for employment first. Thank God we had family members who were willing to help us out at this point in our lives. When my husband found a job, I decided to try home child care for a while. Looking back, I know that I provided a safe, nurturing place for the children I cared for, but it just wasn't a career for me. I stopped baby-sitting after a year and a half when our second daughter was born, and I really was too busy learning to adapt to two little ones to want or need much more in my life.
Last summer, when our younger daughter was a year old, I started looking for something else I could do from our home. I had gotten into the world of the Internet; subsequently, I began looking into many different "opportunities" that ended up being scams.
Finally, a few months ago, I made the realization that if I really wanted to stay home with my kids, whatever I chose had better be something I loved to do. Landscaping was an obvious choice, and I had done some landscape plans for family and friends in the past, but I didn't really want to have to leave the house to take measurements and have meetings with clients so often. Could I help people choose the right plants for their homes without leaving my home to do it? After chatting online with many other work at home moms, I had a brainstorm. If I could ask all the right questions to assess each individual situation, I could use a customer's questionnaire answers to research the right plants for them.
I went through college textbooks and other resource material I had acquired until I came up with a questionnaire I thought would tell me all I needed to know about a customer's landscape needs and desires without visiting them personally. At the same time, I was also trying to learn the basics of web publishing. After a lot of long hours, I finally had a web page up that I had designed myself!
After my web page was up, I had to let people know I was in business. I told every friend and family member I could think of, bought a new computer, made up flyers, created a logo, got my business licenses, designed business stationery, and made a cover sheet to send back to the customer with their personalized plant list.
I'm definitely a "real" business owner now, and the hardest part is remaining upbeat and persistent, even though I have few customers. If you talk to many new home-based business owners, you'll probably also find a common thread of financial difficulty. But, as the saying goes, "It's only money," and you'd be amazed at how many people are willing to help you out when they see you're willing to help yourself first. I'll have to admit, I don't know that I would have had the courage to try this if I had already been in the workplace and was making a decent income. I haven't had outside employment since graduation from college, so my husband and I were already used to making ends meet on one income.
If you can provide the basics for your family, your children will someday be more proud of the fact that you tried putting your future in your own hands (whether you succeed or not, at first) than if you'd given them all the materialistic things they thought they wanted. The best part of working yourself is doing what you love. Think about the things you love to do, and do everything possible to think of a way to make it a viable business. You've taken a great step already if you're searching through the pages of this web site, and talking to other work at home moms (or dads) will make your life richer, if nothing else.
Your Perfect Landscape