As a work-from-home parent, I find the thought of putting on "work clothes" and traveling beyond the four walls of my house to earn a living pretty grim. Don't get me wrong; working from home can be challenging, frustrating and exhausting, and it's not suited to everyone. But in my experience, the pros far outweigh the cons.
I love being able to set my own working hours, which allows me to do all the school drop-offs and pick-ups, and not caring peanuts about my appearance (unless I'm doing a conference call, in which case I will try to at least make my top half look semi-presentable). I have complete control over when I work, where I work, and, to a certain extent, how much I earn.
To make working from home work for you, here are tips from the people who know best: work-from-home parents.
Beware of scams
Work-from-home jobs come in all varieties, and not all of them are legit. So my first tip for work-from-home parents is: Beware of scams! If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of any job that requires you to part with cash up-front, as well as anything that "promises" or "guarantees" overnight riches yet doesn't have a set pay rate. If you're considering a position but suspect it might be a scam, check with the Better Business Bureau or the Trade Commission.
Consider what you're good at
As a growing number of parents seek work-from-home jobs, the market becomes more competitive. You have more chance of securing a great work-from-home job if you have the skills and experience to impress prospective employers. Make sure your résumé is up-to-date (check out these simple ways to refresh your résumé) and highlights the skills, experience and qualities necessary or desirable for the job you're applying for.
Some potentially lucrative work-from-home jobs include:
- Freelance writing and/or editing
- Home day care
- Graphic/web design
- Human resources
- Database entry
- Virtual assistance
- Fundraising/grant writing
Cast your net wide
There are a ton of resources out there to help you find work-from-home jobs. Check these out for starters:
- Craigslist: It may have a reputation for scams (if anything asks for fees, bank details or other financial information, move right on), but you can find good work-from-home jobs on Craigslist. Check the "telecommute" box on the job search page in order to return a list of all work-from-home-friendly jobs.
- Upwork: Formerly Elance, this is an excellent resource for finding online work positions.
- Facebook/Twitter: Social media isn't just for posting pics of your kids and getting into heated political debates. If you follow the right people, you can find some sweet work-from-home gigs.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is quickly becoming one of the best online networking platforms. Many companies post job ads on LinkedIn before anywhere else, and features like Open Candidates give recruiters the signal that you're interested in remote work.
- Guru: It's quick and easy to create a freelancer account on Guru, which is billed as the world's largest online marketplace for freelance talent.
- iFreelance: A variety of jobs are available on iFreelance in fields from accounting to writing.
- Fiverr: Don't be put off by the fact that Fiverr is best known for $5 services. You can make good money through the site if you have an eye-catching profile and work hard to get great ratings from clients.
- Indeed: More of a search engine than a jobs board, Indeed lets you create an online profile, upload your résumé and search job sites, newspapers, associations and company career pages.
- Monster: Monster is one of the top job-hunting websites, which lets you filter your search for off-site/freelance opportunities.
- WAHM.com: Created by a work-from-home mom to help others find flexible jobs, the site offers business opportunities and plenty of tips and advice for work-from-home parents.
Once you've bagged your ideal work-from-home job, you'll need to make a few lifestyle tweaks.
Get creative with childcare
You'll probably have to get creative with childcare because, well, you have no choice — unless you're lucky enough to have a work-from-home job that's just during day care or school hours, in which case… hold onto it.
Childcare is a major expense, whether you work in or out of the home. When you're working out what you can afford, calculate every billable hour against childcare costs. If you barely make enough to pay for childcare after taxes, you either need to try to earn more or rethink your childcare plan.
Less expensive options include help from friends, family and neighbors, hiring a mother's helper (such as a high school senior) and swapping playdates with other working parents. Michelle, a work-from-home mom from London, U.K., has an arrangement with her retired neighbor. "She looks after my kids for a couple of hours after school, twice a week, and in return I do her grocery shopping and wash her car," she tells SheKnows. "It works for both of us, and a lovely bonus is that she and my kids have developed a really great relationship."
Don't ignore your kids
Multitasking is a great skill, but you simply can't give 100 percent to your work and your kids at the same time.
It sounds obvious, but I've definitely been in the situation in which I'm deep "in the zone" and my kids are craving my attention. I've found that when I dedicate a set period of time to them, whether it's reading, drawing, walking the dog together or just having a chat, they're then cool with amusing themselves when I go back to work for an hour or so.
Get excellent at time management
This is a no-brainer. To maximize efficiency, you have to make the most of every available moment. "If I'm waiting for a conference call, I'll pay some bills online, start planning my family's meals for the week or give the room a quick tidy up," says work-from-home mom Kristi from Miami, Florida. "This has actually made me more productive in all areas of my life. And when I do get the chance to sit down in the evening and relax, I can do so knowing I've achieved a lot during my working hours."
Remember: You're only human
You're a parent, not a superhero (except in your child's eyes, naturally). So don't put crazy pressure on yourself to be 100 percent on top of everything, 24-7. Things happen: Kids get sick and can't go to school, work projects go over deadline, the dog throws up just as you're about to Skype your boss…
"You just have to roll with it and keep a sense of humor," says work-from-home dad Tony from Brazoria County, Texas. "Working from home when you have kids presents some very unique challenges, and decent employers understand that. Being honest about setbacks and problems is the only way to establish a relationship of trust."
Working from home may not be for the fainthearted, but it can definitely be worth it.