Two years ago, I walked away from a paycheck that was always there for the adventure known as the Work-At-Home-Mom. My son who was a couple of months old at the time is now a big brother. My freelance work that barely replaced my part-time paycheck is now nearly covering my old full-time wage. I earn my living as a freelance writer and editor—but many of the things I've learned in the past two years can still apply to my fellow work-at-home warriors in other career paths. Here are just a few of them.
1. Never Write Off a Failed Effort On the First Try
Half my current work comes from a platform that I used for months before actually earning money. It took that long to find a client willing to trust a new freelancer that wasn't yet rated. Once I completed that first job and earned a five-star review, the work was much easier to come by. Of course, that doesn't mean you should waste time with ideas that continue to disappoint time after time—but you should be willing to try at least one more time.
2. Schedules Should Exist, but They Should Be Flexible
Schedules go well with work, but not so well with mothering. I still keep a schedule—it helps prevent me from wasting time deciding what to tackle first in my free moments. But my schedule doesn't actually include any times in it (just days)--that's where the flexibility comes in. For each weekday, I have a list of work tasks and household tasks to accomplish each day, (outside of the occasional client meeting at a set time). What time I achieve those tasks depends a lot on the "mom" part of my role.
3. Specializing Is Essential
I didn't find much traction in my freelance work until I found my niche. I am also an avid photographer, so why not write about photography? Specializing here made it easier for clients to trust my work and helped my bids and applications stand out from all the other writers applying. Narrowing down my focus to a topic I enjoy helped cut back the time I spent on research as well.
4. But Having a Diverse Skill Set Is Essential, Too
About half my work is in my niche area—having a diverse skill set helps to round out my work and makes it possible to achieve my financial goals. Once I identified “photography-related web content” as my niche area, I also identified smaller areas where I could also excel. For instance, general web content as a whole, and additional topics I'm familiar with like technology and parenting.
5. Never Stop Searching for New Work
I was terrified when I quit my job—but even though I've had a number of projects dropped unexpectedly, I've still managed to hit my modest financial goal every week. I have to attribute that to constantly looking for new work—every time my work load lightened, I had a new assignment to add a week or two later. I have email alerts set up from a few different sources so searching doesn't take up a huge chunk of my time, and whenever I see something in my niche area that meets my financial expectations, I apply.
6. Multitasking Is Great. Multitasking 24/7 Is Not
I quickly learned to multitask when my first was born. As I added additional work and now a second child, I'm multitasking more often than not. But I quickly learned that some things should just be taken once at a time. It's great that I can work while raising my kids, but if I don't give them some time not distracted by work, I'm missing the entire point.
7. The “Do-It-All Mom” Is a Myth
She's everywhere—Facebook, the grocery store, the playgroup. The “do-it-all mom,” the one who works, keeps the (well-dressed) kids happy, concocts elaborate meals three times a day, keeps the house sparkling, creates Pinetrest-worthy crafts all with perfect hair and not an ounce of spit-up on her person -- well, she doesn't exist. Moms who work outside the home have help—moms who work from home need it, too. My mom and mother-in-law each take the kids once a week so I can have an 8-hour work day when they do. My elaborate meals usually consist of ten minutes to toss a bunch of ingredients into the Crock-Pot. I'm more productive if I get out of my pajamas, but most days I never actually get around to putting makeup on. And while a cleaning routine prevents my house from looking like it should be on Hoarders, there's usually toys on the floor and laundry folded on the couch. I've decided to change my definition of having it all—and I'm happier that way.
Working from home is sometimes just as scary as the day I quit my job, but two years in, I'd still do it all over again. Here's to learning a few more things this year.