Ten years ago, when I was pregnant, working an office job, and had no skills, experience or education to work with – just a vague idea that I’d like to find a way to make money as a writer, and be around my kids more - the idea that I could make a living from my living room seemed like a fantasy.
This was in 2003, before there were hundreds of other bloggers and online business owners to look to for advice and inspiration: I felt very much on my own as I sent those first few query letters (via postal mail, no less!) to editors at the magazines I longed to write for.
Still, I kept plugging along, putting one foot in front of the other every day, celebrating each little success and using them to fuel me toward loftier goals.
And it worked! Before I knew it, I was contributing to magazines and sites like Brain, Child, Parenting, Yoga Journal and Salon.com. More quickly than I ever could have dreamed, I went from making a little bit of cash to earning a solid living – enough that I was able to stop working in an office entirely and now earn around half of our family’s income.
My career has taken some twists and turns over the last decade – I’m now more focused on blogging and books than magazines – but looking back, I can see clearly how each step I took in those early days helped to build the foundation and momentum for the work-at-home life I now live.
No matter how far off your dream seems right now, I’m proof that with grit, determination, persistence and creativity, you really can build a flexible work-at-home career that pays the bills and feeds your soul.
Whether she wants to launch a blog, sell crafts, develop an app or manufacture a product, here are the five things I believe every work-at-home parent needs to succeed:
No WAHP is an island. Hopefully your spouse and family are as enthusiastic about your idea as you are (if not, I’ll have some tips for getting them on board in a future post) but that’s probably not enough: you need to be able to bounce your ideas off of other people in your industry and ask for advice from colleagues with experience at what you’re hoping to do.
The need for support is why I attend conferences, join email lists and Facebook groups for bloggers and authors. No matter what kind of business you’re trying to launch, you need friends and colleagues to help cheer you on! Don’t be afraid to reach out to other people who are doing what you want to do – both those ahead of you on the path, and those who are in the same place as you.
2. Willingness to sacrifice.
The summer I was starting to get my freelance writing career off the ground, you know what else I did?
No joke: I worked all day, got the kids, came home and made dinner, gave them their baths, put them to bed around 8, and then sat at my computer hammering out query letters and essays for the next 4-5 hours.
I didn’t watch TV. I didn’t read books for pleasure. I didn’t go out to dinner or the movies.
Yes, it was hard, but think about it: by giving up leisure in my evenings for a short period of time, I managed to “find” an extra 20-25 hours each week…the equivalent of a part-time job.
I’m a lot less sharp at night these days than I was in my 20s, so if I was just starting out I’d probably get up really early rather than stay up late. But either way, especially in the beginning when you probably can’t justify child care costs yet, you’re going to need to make time somewhere. And it’s amazing how much time you can “find” if you are willing to cut back on your free time drastically and commit.
I’m not saying you have to give up your evenings or mornings or weekends forever. But if you are willing to sacrifice deeply for a short period of time, you will get off to a much faster, much more satisfying start and that energy and momentum can take you far.
I’m not a terribly organized person, but what I do have is the ability to focus when needed. I’m a fairly scattered and easily distracted person by nature, so this is a skill I’ve had to develop and practice over the years.
But getting a small business off the ground and maintaining requires you to first dream big…and then narrow your focal point and dig in. Choosing a goal you’re really excited about helps: when I’m bored, I’m easily distracted, but when I’m excited about something I can concentrate like nobody’s business.
4. A great idea.
How do I define a great idea? It’s not necessarily the most unique, most exciting, or most cutting-edge idea…it’s the one that gets you most pumped up. In order to make a work-at-home business take off and stay afloat, you’ll need to be able to sustain excitement and passion and get other people excited about your idea, too.
Note: your “great idea” will probably change and evolve over time, and that’s fine! You can always reinvent yourself as you go, and nothing needs to be perfect right out of the gate…just something you can get excited enough about to keep at over the long haul as it shifts and changes.
5. Belief in yourself.
Self-confidence is contagious, and it makes other people feel confident in you, too. When you’re in situations where you need to negotiate or stand up for yourself, having a strong belief in your own abilities and value will go a long way.
But how do you create self-confidence if you feel uncertain? First of all, I believe in the old adage “fake it ’til you make it.” When you “act as if” you believe strongly in yourself and your idea, you can’t help but start to take a little bit of that manufactured strut to heart.
The second thing I’ve learned is that small successes build on themselves. When you work really hard and care about the quality of what you’re putting out into the world, it shows. Knowing you’re doing quality work gives you a boost, which will help inspire you to continue to work hard.
Self-confidence isn’t something you can get from other people. It’s nice to be recognized, but deep down, what really builds us up is to know that we’re doing our best at something that really matters to us. When you focus on those goals, over time your confidence can’t help but grow.
Readers, we’d love to hear about your work-at-home dreams. Are you trying to launch a career as a writer or sell a product? Please chime in in the comments so we can all support one another.
This is the second post in a series about pro blogging and working from home that will be running over the next few months. Check out post #1: The truth about making a living as a blogger.
Photo credit: Flickr http://www.flickr.