When day care costs overtake your take-home pay, it might be time to think about working from home. No commute means saving gas and wear and tear on your vehicle. You can work in your sweats, so no power suits will show up on your credit-card bill. No child care expenses results in a huge savings.
It’s not for everyone, obviously. You can’t be a nurse from home, or a retail sales clerk or a waitress. But there are jobs you can do from home and make a decent income, says Jennifer Forrest, author of five books, including Work Women Want, which was released by Amazon as a Kindle book in March.
“I have been working from home for four years as an author and museums consultant. In that time, I met so many parents — mostly moms — who wanted to work at home. It felt like I was having this conversation everywhere I went, so I decided to explore different ways of working from home,” she says in an email interview from Australia, where she lives.
“In my new book, I share my story and the stories of the women I interviewed who each make money at home. Some of the ways to make money I explored are party planning, multilevel marketing, blogging, eBay sales … craft and food industries, professional service businesses and share trading.”
Here’s our conversation with Jennifer:
Name three jobs that are ideal for stay-at-home moms (or dads). Tell why these jobs are good for working from home.
What you want from work at home is flexibility in hours – so you can do it when you can and not in the traditional 9 to 5 – and that it pays decent money. I also think it is really important to match the job to your personality style. So if you are an outgoing person who likes to socialize, getting into a reputable party-planning business is much more likely to work for you than being a professional blogger in an office by yourself.
My top three jobs for stay-at-home parents are:
- Professional service business: Take a skill from your career and turn it into a business. Skills like bookkeeping and accounting, public relations and Web design. Why? Most professional service businesses are well-paid, companies and clients are accustomed to outsourcing work to other businesses and as your own boss, you manage the number of clients you can service and how you get the work done.
- Party planning: If you don’t have a saleable professional skill, (working for) a reputable and established party plan business is a great way to get started in building family-friendly income. Why? These businesses have established systems in place, provide training and give you the support of a team leader to help you get started.
- eBay store: This can be a great option for someone prepared to find a good market niche and can source their inventory at good prices. Why? eBay is where so many customers look and if you have the right product at the right price it can be both flexible and a way to earn decent money.
Can a home-based job net you anywhere close to the income that a traditional job can?
Yes, it can – as long as you pick the right industry and are prepared to put in the hard work and effort. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at this question. And what I’ve decided in the end is that it doesn’t really matter where you do the work – in your home office or someone else’s. What makes the difference in the income you make is the industry you choose. Some industries, like crafts, are generally not well-paid, regardless of whether you work in the local knitting shop or run your own online Etsy store. While other industries like information technology and Web design are usually much better paid, both for freelancers and those who are employed. The key difference between working at home and a traditional job is that most work-at-home options mean that you have to take on the role of business owner and entrepreneur. You find the work and the customers or clients, and you then make sure you get paid.
What is your own experience with working from home?
I found that there are actually quite a lot of options of work I could do. But the tricky part for me was finding one that was authentic to me, which suited my personality and my values. I also struggled with respecting my own work at home; I felt that because I didn’t commute to the office or wear a suit every day that somehow my work was less important. But, happily I have come to realize that it’s the outcomes I produce that matter. It just took me a bit of time to get there!
What are the pitfalls and dangers?
There are a lot of work-at-home scams and it can be hard to sort out the real jobs from the scams. I would just say, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Any real job requires effort and work regardless of whether you do it at home or somewhere else.
The other big pitfall is the isolation. It can be very lonely working at home alone, especially if you are used to working with a team in a traditional job. From Day One of working at home it can make a huge difference to your level of happiness if you build professional or business networks. So (consider) joining local business groups or having a regular coffee catch-up with others who also work at home.
(Also note that you’ll have to find your own “benefits” package – at least a healthcare plan.)
Any last words of encouragement?
Jennifer says she is “on a quest chasing the promise made to her as a teenager: that women can have it all. Why can’t women have time to take their kids to the playground but still make decent money?”
“Work Women Want: Work at Home or Go Part-Time” by Jennifer Forest will be released May 1 in print and was released as an e-book. Jennifer has been a guest columnist for Living on the Cheap and maintains her own website, Work Women Want.
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