Why business skills are crucial for family day care educators

family day care educators

Operating a family day care business from your home brings a range of considerations, most of which relate to the National Quality Framework. But having a financially viable business is the difference between survival, satisfaction or failure. 

Whether you are an educator working in a centre, employed by an organisation, or running your own family day care business, if you plan on advancing in your career into management or leadership, then I will the advice is the same: Business skills are crucial.


Put simply, because it is a business! if you’re accepting money for a service, I’m not sure what else to call it. Some family day care educators may find it offensive to refer to child care or education and care as a business. However, without taking this approach, you won’t reach your fullest potential in your career and finances. These 6 business skills for family day care educators are vital to the successful operation of your family day care business. 

  • Financial management 
  • Marketing and sales 
  • Customer service 
  • Communicating and negotiation 
  • Leadership 
  • Project management

Everything you do in your family day care program is underpinned by the ability to operate a business – how you arrived at the rate you charge, what you provide to children as far as resources and equipment, and consumables such as food, nappies, art and craft materials and so on, and how you manage your clients. In fact, you are being remiss if you do not apply these principles to working for yourself. 

I’ve worked with countless self-employed educators over 30 years and the successful ones always have one thing in common and that is the mindset of a business owner. Understanding and applying business skills leads to more satisfaction in your work, financial security, and positive and professional working relationships with families. The ability to run a business is vital for financial security – even nonprofits rely on surplus (profit) and wouldn’t survive without it. Business skills allow for investment, growth and improvement, and I can also emphatically tell you, my success in service delivery is due to my ability to run a viable business whether for profit or not. 

The top 6 vital business skills for family day care educators.

Family day care educators know how to provide education and care to children, right? Most are passionate about children, and their work comes naturally for them. However, what may not come naturally is managing a business. 

Let’s look at the top 6 business skills vital to family day care educators.

Financial management for family day care educators

Whether you’re just starting out or have been doing this for some time, undertaking a cost analysis may be unfamiliar to you. Without adequate financial management in place, you won’t be able to identify why you are not making a profit. And, if you are not making a profit, then you are not financially secure. Every business needs to cover its running costs, otherwise it would be considered an unviable business.

Dissatisfaction in your business affects all aspects of your program and you may decide it’s not for you to continue. You are working so hard, yet not living the life you envisaged. If there is no money left over for you, then what is the point? Additionally, running a non-viable business will do you no favours if you intend on applying for a bank loan, and it could also affect your credit rating.

Sound financial management and planning will not only ensure you meet your financial obligations and make you a profit, but will also enable you to identify when (and by how much) to increase your rates, plan for growth and improvements, and minimise the risk of losing money due to enrolments decreasing. I hear all too often that educators are left reeling when a family leaves and they don’t have another family to take their place, which can result in months of lost earnings. Financial management will not only help you to set your rates appropriately and protect your income but can help you get that cubby house or outdoor climbing equipment you want without using  your own personal savings.

The first step in financial management for family day care educators is to conduct a cost analysis which, once completed, needs to be followed up with a budget. Only then you can see the financial standing and projections of your business. By undertaking these exercises you will know if your business is not going to be viable, and only then can you set your rates based on actual expenditure to determine your required  income.

Spending money not allocated in your budget can cause long term detrimental effects for family day care educators. A prime example is practices like Father’s or Mother’s day celebrations. If your art and craft costings and budget is based on day-to-day operations and does not include the cost of the increased spend for celebrations, then your budget could easily be out a few hundred dollars for each celebration. Another example is when  you go to the expense of purchasing new outdoor equipment only to get it installed and have a family cease their enrolment. Then the worst of all – you have to put up with your own spouse complaining about the money you spend!

Family day care educators who have sound financial management in place to run a ‘good little business’ have better financial rewards, experience better relationships, and have longevity for their business. And what if I told you, sound financial management can get you the help that you want to run your business, whether that be an assistant, gardener or cleaner.

Do you know why you can’t afford that now? Because you are doing everything for your business including the administration that goes along with it, and in almost all cases the work you do outside actually delivering the program is unpaid and unaccounted for. Not costing and factoring in all of your expenses, will lead to you working for nothing with no room to grow or improve.

Marketing skills for family day care educators

Marketing and selling is the role of a business owner, and by marketing yourself you are able to attract new enrolments with a view of having a waiting list to minimise the financial risk if a family ceases care. In many cases in family day care, the service provider does not help you manage your enrolments, and family day care educators are regularly left without income for periods of time.

Marketing is a skill. You need to know how to ‘talk’ to potential clients and get them interested in you before they even meet you or see your facilities. How will they know how to find you if you don’t tell them what you do and where you are? Strong marketing skills will enable you to build a waiting list (some educators even charge a nominal fee for signing up onto their waiting list resulting in another income stream) and a waiting list will minimise the sleepless nights of worrying about families ceasing care.

The upgrades or improvements you make to your program through your financial management is also another opportunity to market and sell your business to your community. All families want their child to have the best and you want to be the first one they think of when seeking care for their child. Where are you going to advertise, when and how much will you invest in marketing and advertising  your business?

By selling yourself to potential clients, you are establishing a working relationship and determining ‘the fit’ of the family in your home. The skill of selling yourself and your program sets the standard of the relationship and is a negotiation. It’s not only about meeting the needs of the family, it’s also about meeting your business needs and attracting the ‘right’ families for you. 

Customer service skills for family day care educators

for family day care educators, customer service skills are not about ‘making or keeping families happy’. It’s about ensuring you can work together, and making sure they are receiving the service they are paying for. By understanding customer service skills you are better able to let go of the feelings of ‘doing a favour’ or ‘doing your best’. A customer service attitude maintains the boundaries needed in a professional relationship and avoids feelings of being taken advantage of or disappointment.

Communication and negotiation skills for family day care

 Communication strategies are a must for any business, especially when providing care for other people’s children. The National Quality Framework addresses relationships at length and provides us with the standard of the relationships that support positive outcomes for children.

When providing care for other people’s children you must keep families informed as much as they must keep you informed. But information sharing is only one aspect of communication. If you want families to respect the work you do, it is your communication that leads them to understand the role of an early childhood educator. And by families better understanding the work you do, they are more likely to become your advocate which will lead to future enrolments.

A communication strategy that educates families, will lead to satisfied customers and improved confidence in you. This will enable you to negotiate care arrangements based on your business operations with the sound  knowledge of the benefits you are providing. But not only that, by developing your negotiation skills along with your customer and communication skills, you are better positioned to negotiate the terms and conditions in your contract with the service provider and, if you’ve done your cost analysis, you can confidently re-negotiate your rates and increase your income.

Leadership skills for family day care

Working with families goes beyond ‘getting along’ or ‘liking’ each other, and sometimes we may have to work with people we don’t feel a ‘connection’ with or who have different styles.

Working with others can bring challenges and families can sometimes make family day care educators feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or confronted. By positioning yourself as a leader, you are more likely to be able to use these types of situations as an opportunity to educate families and negotiate better outcomes. A leader implements strategies that are engaging and empathetic, and can negotiate remedies to ensure others align with your business, including an educator assistant or residents in your home. 

Project management skills for family day care

Having project management skills enables you to drive change and improvement in your business. If you want to implement something new in your program then taking a project-based approach to engage others, delegate responsibility, and set a budget and deadlines, will have everyone working on the same goal. 

Project management skills give family day care educators control over the direction of your business without  having to do all the work yourself. Engaging others in projects is an opportunity to improve and develop other people’s skills and knowledge – a skill I have relied on heavily over the years.  Additionally, let’s say for example, you want to improve your sustainability practices, or embed Aboriginal Pedagogy into your program – project management skills are what you need.

So let’s reflect again on why business skills are crucial for family day care educators. Put simply, it places you in the driver’s seat and enables you to achieve what you set out to achieve (to be your own boss doing work you love that is profitable and brings you satisfaction).

Never forget! A family day care educator’s business is their livelihood. 

I have developed a course that teaches family day care educators the skills they need to be successful business owners. Check out The Business of a Family Day Care Educator course here.

Family day care educators can also check out my free videos on YouTube and make them part of your professional development strategy too.

Running a business, any business, takes consideration, planning and time to make sure you are getting all the benefits you deserve, including financial, longevity, and reputation. 

Your business is YOUR business, and there are plenty of opportunities to reach your fullest potential and have great success if you develop the right business skills. And remember! Business skills are transferable. This means they are skills that will enhance whatever job or career you choose.


P.S. If you are considering becoming a family day care educator, a business plan will lay out what you must know. Get a FREE business planning template here – made specifically for family day care  educators.

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