It’s the perfect way to make money while staying home with your kids: opening your own home daycare. It’s easy to start up, but it’s a business that can leave you stressed, burnt out and totally mistrusting of people.
From my own experience and from the experiences of others, here are the common mistakes people make when starting their own home daycare.
1. Not having a contract and policies in print. It’s important to discuss your expectations, hours, pay, etc., with parents during the interview, but having it in writing is essential. This eliminates any misunderstanding or miscommunication down the road.
2. Not enforcing their contract and policies. Having it in writing and signed is half the battle. The other half is making sure you enforce it, because there will always be that one parent that may think your policies aren’t that important. You should have consequences in your policies and you should be enforcing them. In my handbook, I have late fees listed. But if I didn’t expect and bill for them, they would have been meaningless.
3. Not charging late fees. It’s not that you need the extra $5, it’s that you want parents to understand that your time is valuable. This is a job, and you need to be paid what you’re worth for it.
4. Working overtime when they don’t want to. Just say no. Repeat it after me: “No, I’m sorry, I can’t.”. Trust me, I know from experience that while working overtime can be a wonderful thing to do for your families, you shouldn’t feel obligated to. Suggest that they hire a babysitter to pick up their child from your care and take them back to their home. Whatever you do, don’t put your own family’s plans on hold for someone else’s.
5. Not choosing the families they take on carefully. When you meet with families, you are the one interviewing them. Not the other way around. The parents will be in your home at least twice each day, and their children will be with you for 8-12 hours every day — make sure you’re comfortable with them! You should be considering whether they’ll be on-time for drop off and pick up, whether they agree with your childcare philosophy and how they feel about the style of discipline you use.
6. Not having a clear direction or philosophy behind their daycare. Make sure you know how you’re going to spend your days. If you prefer a routine-oriented day, make sure you convey that to your prospective families. If you prefer a casual kind of care with spontaneous crafts and days at the splash pad, you should also make sure your families know that. You need to have fair expectations for yourself, and your families need to know what their children will be doing during the day.
7. Not researching or understanding the legislation surrounding home daycare in their province or state. It is so important to be operating legally, according to the legislation in your province or state. Ontario’s has changed, and providers need to be aware of the changes. Not only will you be protecting the children and your business, but you’ll be protecting yourself in case of the unthinkable.
8. Not communicating with parents before it’s too late, on their child’s behaviour or any other issues that arise. Maintaining open communication with each child’s parents is so important. Letting them know each day, whether it’s by word of mouth or written in a daily log, how their child’s day went and if they needed any time-outs or redirection, is essential. That way there won’t be any surprises if you ever need to terminate care for a child.
9. Not treating their home daycare like a business. Maintaining a professional attitude will save you in so many situations. Keeping that distance and treating your daycare like a business will fend off many of the requests to stay open late or to babysit on weekends. And trust me, you’ll need your evenings and weekends to spend catching up, resting and doing things with your own family.
10. Not requiring pay up front. The best time to start requiring pay up front is right when you first open. I didn’t do this, and as a result, lost a total of about $800, spread over a few families. In each case, it was a matter of them leaving suddenly (even though I required 2 weeks notice) and of them not paying what was due. Yes, I could have taken them to small claims court, but that would have meant taking time off work, which would inconvenience my golden families. However, I could have avoided losing that $800, if I had just required pay up front.
What other mistakes have you made yourself, or seen others make when it comes to running your own business?