12/06/2007 11:28 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Only Business Advice You Really Need

Moms, want to work at home but don't know where to start? Wish you could make money in your spare time but aren't sure how to succeed?

There's only one piece of advice you really need: Don't do the laundry.

That's it, the most useful thing I can tell you.

Never ever, no matter what, do the laundry during the hours you've earmarked for work.

I've been a freelance writer for over 20 years now, part-time for the years my three children were small, always earning more than I did as a magazine editor. I've written six novels, eight non-fiction books, and countless articles. I started and still run a writers' and editors' group that now has 650 members. What's your secret?, everybody wants to know.

Simple. I don't do the laundry.

Here's why following that advice is so key.

When you refuse to interrupt your work to throw in a load of wash, you're making a statement to yourself that your job -- whether it's to earn money or fulfill your creativity or both -- comes before even the most negligible of chores. You allow yourself to focus completely on your work, and to fully inhabit your role as writer or web developer or lawyer.

And you force yourself to look to your work for a sense of accomplishment and worth, which may be ultimately more satisfying but a lot harder to come by via writing than laundry-doing. For women, getting the laundry done -- or straightening up the house or cooking dinner -- can seem intrinsically valuable, while the rewards of working may feel more difficult to pin down. Which is exactly why it's more important to push through a thorny work problem than going to the easier hit of folding the clothes.

The other issue with doing the laundry is that allowing any kind of housework to intrude on your work life is a slippery slope: just moving the clothes from the washer to the dryer turns into cleaning up the breakfast dishes becomes reorganizing the closets and vacuuming the North 40. Better to make a rule that you don't do the laundry - or any other housework or shopping or childcare or bill-paying -- at least until your workday is done.

That forces you to spend the time you've carved out for work, whether it's an hour or 10 hours a day, actually working. And when you don't fill that time with other tasks, you have to figure out how to fill it with work.

Making it in your own business from home undoubtedly also takes drive and talent and discipline, too. But start with not doing the laundry, and the rest can fall into place.

Pamela Redmond Satran's most recent books are The Baby Name Bible and The Home for Wayward Supermodels. Her website is