If you follow me on Twitter, you know that yesterday I was on the Sarah R. Bagley podcast. I had a great time chatting with Sarah and I think her podcast should be required listening for every mama! Each episode has so many great tips for letting go and pushing past perfectionism (which I think we all struggle with to some extent). One of the topics Sarah and I discussed was being a work-at-home mom. In thinking about our conversation after, I realized we only briefly touched on how one actually becomes a work-at-home mom (which obviously comes before my tips for being a work-at-home mama, found here and here), so I thought I would expand on that thought a little bit.
If you'd like to become a WAHM (or are just exploring your options), here's my advice:
- Start now, where ever you are. If you're not even a mama yet, perfect! I'm not sure if you are aware, but everything, literally everything, is easier when you don't actually have a baby. And that goes double for achieving any sort of career objective. If you're pregnant and/or already have children, you already have (or will very soon have) some intense demands on your time, but the sooner you start, the sooner you'll get to where you want to be. My path to becoming a WAHM began long before I even tried to get pregnant; I had a basic game plan and a time frame for resigning from my job.
- Be realistic. You can't work a 40-hour-a-week corporate job that needs to be done during business hours with an infant home. Not without additional help (unless your boss is extremely understanding; trust me when I say that your baby will not care that you scheduled a conference call thinking he or she would be down for a nap). Having a good idea of what you can realistically make work will save you time and energy in your work-at-home job search. On the flip side, perhaps your partner has an extremely flexible job or you have tons of family around willing to take on childcare. Obviously circumstances can change at any moment, but it's a good idea to hash out these details before getting started building your business or searching for work-from-home gigs, particularly those where you must be available at certain times.
- Figure out your game plan. I won't go into this too much because there's tons of advice out there to help you figure out what you're meant to do career-wise, but you do need to sit yourself down and figure out what "work" you're going to do from home. Blog? Design? Sell on etsy? Perhaps your current job has the potential to transition into a work-from-home position; now is a good time to work on a proposal for your boss.
- Do whatever it is you're going to do. I've been asked how to get started freelance writing and my advice is always to start a blog. It doesn't need to be fancy, but you do need something to serve as a portfolio. Clients will always want to see examples of your work, and a blog is an easy way to keep everything organized. And it's also great practice! Sarah wrote in her post about her day job that she knew she wanted a job that involved social media, web design, blogging and photography, so while she was waiting for the perfect opportunity to come along, she honed her skills in these areas. If you dream of selling handmade items, make a few things and test the waters on Etsy or at a craft fair.
- When looking for gigs, don't hesitate to leverage your interests and experience. I got started freelance blogging because of my sewing experience. I've sewn for years and years and never imagined the textiles class I took in high school would earn me an income in my late twenties. Sarah's job is a result of her experience as a customer for the custom home builder she now works for. Even the most random life experience or interest can help you land a gig.
- Think long term and don't get sucked into (what looks like) easy money. There are many, many work from home jobs out there (Work from Home Adventures is a great blog that reviews companies hiring remote workers). Generally speaking, unless you have a specialized skillset, I wouldn't count on using these opportunities as your new work from home career. The pay is not usually enough to make it worth your while for full-time or part-time work, plus getting paid is dependent upon work needing to be completed, which isn't always the case. I think these positions are useful if you really just need an extra $200 a month to finance your Starbucks habit, to supplement other freelance work or to get started in a particular field (like writing or transcription). But basically, there are probably other gigs available that will pay you more per hour, though they are obviously harder to come by. If you are wanting to be a WAHM long-term, concentrate your efforts on finding gigs that are sustainable in the long run, versus the quick fix.
- Don't forget to talk to your accountant! Taxes work quite a bit differently when you're working for yourself, so you definitely want to chat with a professional and make sure everything is on the up-and-up. Since I started working for myself in January of 2013, I discussed my new self-employment status with our accountant when we went to see him about our 2012 taxes, so I could make sure I was doing everything I needed to do.
- Not specific to being a WAHM, but rather just working online (either as your main gig or as a side project), I highly recommend checking out Kyla Roma's Create Freedom in Your Online Work e-course. I took the course on the first go-round and came away with many tips for maximizing my time and busting through mental clutter to just get the job done.
Like anything else, being a WAHM has its pluses and minuses, but on the whole, I love that I can pull in an income while staying at home with my son full-time and working around our schedule. It's definitely not for everyone, but I think anyone can make it work if they really want to. Hopefully these tips give you some ideas on where to start if you're anxious to become a WAHM yourself.