I get asked fairly frequently about working from home. It wasn’t that long ago that I was the one doing the asking about work at home jobs, so I always make time to respond. I’ve been thinking, “I should do a post about this!” for a very long time.
So here is my story of becoming a work at home mom (WAHM).
A year after Princess came home, it became quite clear to me that something had to give. She came to us at nine-years-old, so it was hard for people to understand why I needed to quit my job to be home for her since she was at school all day.
She was having tantrums nearly every morning because being separated from me during the day was just so scary for her. Oh, and she wasn’t sleeping at night either, which meant I wasn’t sleeping.
So I’d show up to work completely frazzled and exhausted just in time for my boss to walk in and throw her own tantrum, which rivaled Princess’s. I loved my work, but the atmosphere became unbearable.
I knew I needed something with flexibility and freedom, so if I needed to take time off to take Princess to the doctor or calm her down after a particularly rough meltdown I wouldn’t have to ask permission.
I was sick of asking permission to do what I needed for my child.
So I started researching work at home jobs. I went into it thinking they were mostly all scams. While there are plenty of scams (I’m looking at you, Crazy Fox), I learned there are so many legitimate opportunities in a wide range of field.
Writing instantly jumped out at me.
I’ve been writing as a hobby since I learned to hold a crayon. People have long told me I have a talent for it. I’d even had a few pieces published in a local parenting magazine as their resident “early childhood education” expert. However, it never occurred to me I could get paid for it!
I devoured the writing forums on work at home message boards. I applied to the places mentioned (commonly referred to as “content mills”) and started writing as soon as I was accepted. I worke evenings, weekends and early mornings for months while keeping my day job.
Once I saw that work was available and the companies really did pay, I gave my notice.
I hadn’t planned on doing it that soon, but I was working with pneumonia – doing the work of a coworker out on maternity leave on top of my own. I was out of sick days. My doctor ordered me to stay home, so I called in sick, asking to use a vacation day – of which I had over two weeks built up. My boss flipped out. I gave her my resignation letter the next day.
That was two years ago this past August. There were some “OMG! WHAT AM I DOING?!!!” moments, for sue. The whole first year was chockfull of them.
I started out writing for a penny a word on websites like www.textbroker.com and www.thecontentauthority.com. The work was often mind-numbingly boring. There were days I wrote about nothing except portable toilets.
Slowly, I gained experience and built a reputation that led to direct orders for more enjoyable topics that paid a bit more. I continued applying at different leads I saw online. I was accepted at www.skyword.com and www.writeraccess.com, both of which paid much higher rates. I had some articles take off at www.voices.yahoo.com.
I nabbed some private clients. I started submitting to regional parenting magazines. Then I began publishing articles at www.examiner.com, which has become my favorite place to write, other than here at Last Mom.
I now have a large basket of “eggs” to choose from when it comes to making money writing. I learned the hard way that these gigs come and go. Google or Yahoo change the rules and income takes a dive. Websites go out of business. It’s dangerous to count on any one of the “eggs” as your only source of income.
Two years ago I was writing about topics I didn’t care about for a penny a word. It takes a lot of words to make a livable wage at a penny a pop. Fortunately, I’m a fast writer.
It’s taken a lot of research, networking, following leads and going out on a limb, but I’m really proud of the career I’ve built in that short amount of time. I’ve now:
- Received over 100,000 hits in one day on a single article
- Been used as a source by Huffington Post and MSNBC
- Asked to be a guest on NPR
- Interviewed Carla Hall, of “The Chew” and “Top Chef”
- Received free tickets to review a Jake Owens concert
- Had work published in parenting magazines all across the US, as well as Canada and Tokyo
- Been published in a thick, glossy, nationally published magazine in the UK
- Been featured on popular websites including www.mamalode.com, www.scarymommy.com and www.blogher.com.
- Written about topics close to my heart, such as trauma, special needs parenting and adoption, as well as lots of fun fluff (like unicorn poop cookies and Miley Cyrus)
And I’m still able to pick up Princess and BFF from school at 2:45 every afternoon, as well as take time off whenever my family needs it – or if I just need a break. Sure, this means there are some late nights for me, but it’s worth it.
The biggest sacrifice has been losing my health insurance and paid time off. I don’t qualify for individual insurance plans (hopefully the new health care changes will benefit me), so I just have a discount plan that doesn’t cover hospitals or surgeries. Fortunately, I’ve been safe and healthy.
When you’re self-employed, you don’t get paid holidays, sick days or vacation time. If I’m not writing quality stuff people want to read, then I’m not getting paid.
Other things I miss about working outside of the home?
- Having co-workers and contact with the public. It’s just me and the cats all day.
- Wearing lots of hats. At my last job I would write grants, make phone calls, visit childcare centers, screen children for potential delays, meet with parents, give training sessions, plan fundraisers and schmooze with potential donors all in one day. My days are now pretty tedious compared to that.
- Separation between work and home. I’ve had a hard time getting on a schedule and drawing a line in the sand between “work time” and “home time.” There’s always errands and housework to distract me while I’m writing, then work that needs to be done when I should be focused on home. This means there are big chunks of time when not enough is getting down on either side.
Overall, though, quitting my job to pursue freelance writing from home was the best decision I could have possible made for my family. I no longer second guess it. I’m not rolling in dough, but I’m making enough to pay the bills and not max out our credit cards.
Sure, I could be making more money and moving up the ladder if I buckled down and sought out bigger gigs, like writing for national magazines. That’s not what I want right now, though. I don’t want to invest more of my time and brain power. I like what I’m doing. It doesn’t stress me out (most of the time) and I get to take time off to do fun things with Princess when school is out.
See, that’s the beauty of self-employment. You get to mold it to be exactly what you want it to be.
And writing isn’t the only option. There are opportunities in customer service, education, virtual assistants, graphic design, medical, travel and so many other fields. Some companies even offer health benefits and paid time off while you work at home! (In these situations, the worker is an actual company employee who happens to work from home, not a freelancer.)
Here are some of my favorite websites for work at home job leads:
Here are my tops for scoring a work at home job:
- Poke around the links above. See the types of jobs frequently available. Determine the type of jobs would be a good for you.
- Join message boards. Read through old posts. Ask questions. Gain knowledge from the people who are already doing it.
- Polish up your resume. Write an awesome cover letter. Use Google to find templates and samples.
- Research companies with postings you might be interested in.
- Start applying.
- Take a look at your resume and cover letter before you send it off each time to make sure it is appropriate it and as strong as possible for the position you’re applying for.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. Once you figure out what you want to do, look for websites, ebooks and other resources to help you achieve it. For example, when I started submitting to parenting magazines, I spent HOURS just trying to find email addresses for editors who accepted submissions. Then I found this, which contains hundreds of email addresses, sample documents and a wealth of knowledge:
Need to start making money right away? Try www.bubblews.com, which pays you for writing short (around 100 words each) blurbs about whatever you want. Another good option is www.fiverr.com, which allows you to post a wide variety of jobs you’ll do for $5 ($4 after they take their cut). I ‘ve even been paid for emailing someone photos of my sleeping cats. Amazon’s www.mturk.com has a variety of surveys and other quick jobs you can do for pay.
Patience and research are going to be key. Finding a good work at home job or building a career for yourself in a freelance/self-employed capacity will take time and hard work. It’s totally doable and so worth it, though!
“Work at home” can even mean “work at beach.”
Been down the work at home road? Please add your experiences in the comment sections! Feel free to asking any other questions. I hope this helped those of you who have been wondering how to get started.
(This post is dedicated to my good friend, Dr. Wendy.)