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5 things every work-at-home parent needs

by Meagan Francis on May 28, 2013

5 things every WAHP needs

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:

1. Support.

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?

Nothing.

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.

3. Focus.

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.com/photos/shimelle/

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Chaunie May 28, 2013 at 1:49 pm

I’ve definitely been working on reaching my goal of supporting my family as a writer. I’m almost there! I’ve set a new goal of quitting hospital nursing by the end of the year! And quite honestly, my entire journey began here–finding this blog and taking Meagan’s writing class. It is possible!

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Meagan Francis May 28, 2013 at 3:43 pm

this is so exciting, Chaunie, and I’m THRILLED for you. You’ve worked really hard, and you deserve your success.

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Jennifer Fink May 28, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I’m going to vote for a good WiFi connection. Sure, it’s an absolute necessity for work. But it’s also invaluable for keeping kids amused and engaged on days they’re home sick. (For the record, it’s how I’m managing to work today!)

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Meagan Francis May 28, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Absolutely true!

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Darcy May 28, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I’d like to increase my income and eventually publish a book. Support is so crucial as is belief in yourself. If you don’t believe you can do it it’ll be even harder to get doubtful family members on board.

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Meagan Francis May 28, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Very exciting, Darcy! Do you know what you want your book to be about?

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Regina S. May 28, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Lovely post. Nice way to sum up how you were able to accomplish all you have done. I’m definitely storing this advice away.

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Meagan Francis May 28, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Thanks, Regina!

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Nanouk May 28, 2013 at 2:36 pm

So inspiring! I already gave up most of my free time and it is nice to read that in the end, I will benefit from that. Thank you for sharing your story and provide us with tips. Regards, Nanouk

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Meagan Francis May 28, 2013 at 3:45 pm

It really does pay off…don’t worry, you’ll get it back eventually :)

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Kathleen May 28, 2013 at 3:36 pm

So glad you are writing about this! I have been working from home in a variety of ways since my now 5-year-old son was born. I absolutely agree with the need for single-minded focus and foregoing some free time when branching out in a new career. I am trying to shift my writing career a bit, branching out into new arenas, and I need to remind myself that while it will take sacrifice, it wont be forever.

I would also add you need to have realistic expectations for what you will be able to accomplish. So many people think when you work from home, you can keep on top of housework while raking in the big bucks. My son goes to pre-k for only two hours a day, so no matter how much cleaning I do, with him home, there is always some sort of mess. And working from home means just that – working.

I really look forward to more posts like this.

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Meagan Francis May 28, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Very good points, Kathleen! Will definitely be writing about expectations in the future – it all plays into time management and focus and how to get a lot done in a little bit of time. :)

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Gemma Hartley May 28, 2013 at 8:24 pm

I’m just starting to get serious about wanting to be a WAHM as a writer. It’s such a struggle some days, when I’m clocking tons of hours without any promise that it will turn into a career (or at the very least a bit of cash). Hearing stories like yours and Chaunie’s helps keep me going. And the tips you are able to offer are invaluable!

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nattie fattie May 29, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Hi! I was so happy to see your post today on FB…always and inspiration! As I wait for my very first comment on my blog from someone who is redaing it just because (versus family) I hope to be an inspoiration to others and to see those who have walked the path before me succeed is an AWESOME inspiration! :)nattie

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Anne Gitonga May 29, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Hi Meagan! First of I just wanna say thank you so much for your Incredible posts. They have truly changed my life! When I found your site I just could peel myself off of it, so much so that one day I spent (3 hrs reading most of your posts:). I truly Love all your posts and this one struck a cord with me. I’m a WAHM and everything you said is right on point! One thing that I want to expand on Support is getting a quality Nanny. My fam most times is either not available or dependable so I hired a sweet, experienced nanny to be with my son 2-3 days a week so I can get concentrated, uninterrupted work done. Btw, I also wanted to reach out to you after I read your Self Care post on the health issues you are experiencing. I urge you to please check out my husband’s site: theSSmodel(dot)com … even a small glance you’ll see what I mean. I don’t want to share much about him but more on information that can truly assist you in your health journey. Fyi.. he recently did an podcast on cancer in particular breast cancer which I’m sure you’ll find very informative. This is the least I can do for truly changing my life and making mommyhood so much more enjoyable to me:)

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Nina May 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Good advice all around, especially about putting the time into your projects. I noticed that when I don’t put the time into my blog or am feeling lackluster about writing, it shows, compared to when I’m excited and working on it for hours on end. Although I do treat it like a “business” of sorts, I look at my blog as more of a hobby since I don’t want to feel the pressure of it as a second job what with just having given birth to twins (e.g. no time!).

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Amy May 29, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Help! I am just starting on the writing journey hoping to work from home. I have started blogging again and am learning about all of the available social media avenues. I don’t know where to best focus my energy. I am overwhelmed by information. How do you find a good network? The blogs I read that I really like are written by women so popular I know they don’t have the time to return the favor and read mine. The good news is that I have recently found an agent for the nonfiction book on motherhood I am hoping to get published. Any specifics would be most helpful. Come fall both of my boys will be in school, but I am going to have to strain for the time this summer when my oldest is out in a few days.

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Lisa May 30, 2013 at 9:43 am

I love to read your inspirational stories Meagan. I’ve been writing for a living since college days but the freelance gigs and working from home has never garnered as much income as being in the office for me. Of course I’ve always wanted to make it all work from home instead, but as a single parent I couldn’t seem to find a way to break into the type of work I wanted and also meet the bills at the same time. Almost 7 years into a second marriage, with triplets (4-1/2, two with autism), and a teen finishing her junior year of high school, I’m at home full-time and re-working the great idea. While the money would be nice & I’ll keep working toward it, writing from home is now more about keeping my own sanity, learning all I can about autism, practicing what I learn and sharing along the way. The writing really does help me focus.

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Ashley @ Forgetful Momma June 9, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Hi! I just found you this morning from a link that Darcy from Tales from the Nursery shared, and I am so glad I did! New follower and can’t wait to read some more. I am currently a stay at home mom, blogger and student. I am learning Web Design and plan to freelance once I graduate next year.

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Phil June 11, 2013 at 11:35 pm

I do agree .. you are going to have to sacrifice .. and give up a lot .. the biggest thing I’ve found to be rough is the support aspect.. a lot of people dont understand that even though you are staying at home… you are working.. you dont have time to play .. this is business… great read btw!

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MJ July 22, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I really needed to read this! I just made the leap from 9 to 5 to freelance writer/social media manager the beginning of this year after I decided not to go back to work after maternity leave. Sometimes I feel like I’m not getting anywhere and then a little success comes along and I milk it for all it’s worth! Trying to balance things can be a challenge sometimes but I have to believe in the end it’s all worth it!

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