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I’ve made a ton of mistakes in 23 years of keeping my family childcare flourishing. Here is what NOT to do when starting a home daycare. Running a home daycare can be a challenge, so follow this advice.
Running a home daycare is not as easy as people think it is. People always say, you must make a lot of money, or I bet it’s fun to play all day. While it is, it’s a professional business and it’s a lot of hard work. There is a lot of wear and tear on your home, your family, and your body.
For everything you need to know about running a home daycare in one place, check out How to Start and Run a Successful Home Daycare Business.
Opening a daycare
Don’t let parents pay at the end of the week for care. Get paid in advance. Parents should pay for care before they receive it. If you collect payments on Friday, it should be for the following week. Then no one can leave owing you money. Of course, you want to provide affordable daycare, but not free!
Don’t accept late payments. No pay, no stay. Enforce this or you will burn out very quickly. No one wants to work for free. It’s the parent’s responsibility to pay for services they expect. It’s not your fault. If they go to Walmart to buy groceries, they can’t leave the store without payment. Life doesn’t work that way and daycare is no different. This is how you make your living, don’t forget. It’s a business, not a charity.
How to start a daycare
Don’t give discounts. That’s like saying, your income is more important than mine, and you will end up resenting that. This is your business, you work with your heart, but you have to run the business with your head. Be business-minded so you can make a living doing what you love.
Don’t forget to get a deposit for the last weeks’ care before you start keeping kids. This will prevent so many future problems. Put it up and if something happens, use it to pay yourself.
Don’t charge too little for care because you’re new. It’s hard to raise your rates later. Trust us on this one! My contract states rates will increase in September each year. Sometimes they don’t, but when I need them to, it’s there. I don’t feel bad about raising my rates because prices go up on everything. Many providers are scared parents will leave, but you are worth it.
Don’t forget your family’s needs. Your family comes first. It’s tough to put family first when other families are presenting their needs to you, but make sure you make your own family a priority. You are the mom and wife to some really special people and they are your number one priority. Obviously, you need to be a reliable provider, but if your family needs you, don’t feel guilty. Daycare parents will understand. Do your best to be reliable for them and they should be okay that you are human.
Don’t be a pushover. Set rules for your business and STICK TO THEM. Don’t make rules you’re not willing to enforce. Decide what is the main priority for you and focus on that and let the small stuff go. My pet peeves are being late to pick up at the end of the day and paying late. All the other stuff is minor to me. So I tell everyone I want to be paid on time and close on time and it works out fine.
Don’t be influenced by what your clients want. Make your rules for you. Set up hours that work for you. Set up payment schedules that work for you. It’s your business, do what you need to. If you give and give to everyone who asks, you will burn out quickly and be miserable. I wish I had known this when starting a family childcare!
For a planner made JUST for home daycare providers, this jewel will help you get all of your business organized-AND, it’s gorgeous! There are tons of great provider helps on this site. I wish resources like these ladies have were available when I started. There was no help for home daycare providers back then.
Don’t let people run over you. Stand up for yourself. Parents are not going to see that you can’t pay your bills or can’t get your kids to their events on time. You have to tell them what you want. If you try to be nice to people, they will take advantage of you. Keep it professional. Treat people how you would want to be treated.
TRUST US ON THIS ONE
Don’t keep your friend’s kids, your neighbor’s or your spouse’s co-workers. Do not mix business with pleasure, just don’t. My rule is, if I can see your house from my yard, your kids can’t come here. If you work with my husband, your kids can’t come here. Many times if you enter into business with your friends, you won’t be friends after. I REALLY wish I would have known this before starting a family childcare.
Don’t do something you don’t feel is quite right for your business. Trust your instincts. If something feels wrong, it probably is. Do what feels right for you.
Don’t take a family into your family childcare if it’s not a good fit. Choose your clients wisely. Just because you need kids, doesn’t mean it’s best to take a family. Work with families that are a good fit for you.
There’s no sense taking kids from a family of fitness trainers if you run the couch potato daycare. They will not be happy and neither will you. Not everyone will get along with every provider. Some families will love me and some will not, it’s okay. Remember that everyone is different when starting a home daycare of your own.
Starting and in home daycare
Don’t give in to pressure to be something you’re not. Be true to you. Your program should be unique to you. You have a special gift to share. Embrace it and do you.
Don’t forget about you. Make time for yourself. You can’t take care of everyone all the time without taking time to take care of you. Take a bubble bath after work, go for a run, drink lots of water, remember to eat nutritious meals, read a book, go out for a drive, whatever you need to do to unplug from your daycare day. This job takes all of you, your whole being, so make sure to fill yourself up daily.
Don’t forget to learn. Take all the training you can, read all the books you can, get as much education as you can and learn as much as you can about your craft. The more knowledge you have; the better provider you will be. The better provider you are, the more you will enjoy your job.
Don’t treat the job like it doesn’t matter. Be professional. Clients will respect you more if you act respectably. Remember that each family you work with is talking about you. What are they saying? You want it to be good. That’s how you get more business. Give respect and expect it.
Starting a home daycare
Don’t be isolated. Network with other providers. This job is very isolating. No one will understand what your day is like. Your mom won’t, your husband won’t, no one will. Don’t expect them to. Be prepared to feel a little shut off from the outside world because you are confined to your home. It takes some getting used to, but you can learn to enjoy it. Reach out to other people who do what you do. Share ideas with them. It will keep you sane.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. It will drive you crazy. Focus on the big picture. Your dishes and paperwork can wait. Hold the babies, watch the butterflies, make a mess. It’s okay. If you just can’t stand a mess, maybe you should reconsider starting a home daycare.
Don’t forget to take a break. Take vacations! You need time off just like everyone else. You will be a better provider because of it. I promise.
Don’t work more than 11 hours a day. It’s tempting to be everything for everyone and meet everyone’s needs, but you are only human. Set reasonable limits. Remember, you’ll be working before and after the hours kids are in care.
Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare. Pre-plan each day and BE PREPARED. Cook ahead, plan activities ahead, get out supplies ahead. This will save you!
Don’t be wishy washy. Be consistent with kids AND parents.
Don’t do it all on your own. Get parents involved and you will have more fun. Parent involvement is great for your business. Do things with the parents, invite them to events, have the kids make things for them, ask them to bring supplies, and get them engaged.
Don’t waste your money on cheap plastic toys. Buy quality toys that will last. Wooden toys that will last forever are a great investment. Cheap plastic toys that are inexpensive will be broken in no time. Invest in quality. Also, you don’t need your house overflowing with toys, a few quality toys will be much better in the long run.
Kids can get overwhelmed with too many options and become bored. They can also get aggressive from being overstimulated. It’s easy to get overexcited and buy too much. Isn’t that true in all areas of life? When I was a newer provider I thought in needed everything but I found out over time that less is more when it comes to supplies.
There is so much I wish I would have known when starting a home daycare for myself. Hopefully, I can help you with what I have learned. But remember, there are qualities you need to run a home daycare, see them in this article.
You will thank yourself later if you keep these things in mind when starting a home daycare. You can save yourself a lot of frustration by starting your business in a professional and well-prepared manner. Starting with good habits will make your job fun for years to come. Family childcare is a hoot, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had, and I’ve been doing it for 21 years and I still think the same thing every single day (almost).
Check out all of our wonderful helps for home daycare providers on etsy here.
Here are a ton more helpful printables you can get that I would have loved to have!