Written by Ally Loprete
First, let me say that I realize that the title to this piece may seem a bit partial, and while I supposed that it probably is, my intention is not to be inequitable against those who don’t have children and wish to be self-employed. However, this article is not really about becoming a wealthy entrepreneur. It’s about earning legitimate revenue to contribute to the survival of your household while balancing parenthood.
If you are a parent looking to be self-employed, my guess is that you are willing to make sacrifices. You would like the option of spending the majority of the time that you are awake with your children, and would prefer that your child not see a nanny, or the inside of a daycare more than they see you. This is not about how you may or may not feel judged by society. It is about what you innately desire as a parent, which is not in the least bit selfish. It’s a parental instinct, and there should never be any shame in that.
You are not alone in wanting more for yourself and your children. If you are like most parents you would give up your job in a heart beat to stay home with your children, but you probably believe that you cannot afford to do so. Or maybe you have already decided to stay home with your children, but you promised your spouse you’d find a way to earn an income, and it has yet to happen. Maybe it’s harder than you thought, and the research that you’ve done online has given you an overload of work-at-home “schemes” that has succeeded only in information overload. Well, I am here to give you some good news: Becoming a self-employed parent is a possibility….yes…even for you.
It’s a scary leap to make, yes. But you are no slacker, and you are willing to work hard…if only you had some sort of inkling how to go about it, knew for sure that quitting your job to start over wouldn’t be the worst mistake you ever made in your life. If all that you are missing is some necessary information to help you make that leap, than you’ve come to the right place.
To be clear, this list will not make you self-employed, but it will open your eyes to the possibility. It requires is diligence, focus, and some risk.
Here is the truth about what to expect:
- Stop looking online for the perfect work-at-home job. It doesn’t exist. There are a million companies that will tell you otherwise because they want you to buy into one of their programs, take their courses, or purchase a franchise. They promise all sorts of things, and make their programs sound really good…too good. Your instinct is to stay away from them, and there is a good reason for that. You know it can’t be that easy, and you don’t have the luxury of wasting any amount of time or money on something that won’t pan out in the end. Time and money are more precious now than ever. The key here is to find a legitimate way to bring in an income….it may not be a substantial amount, but it will be enough to contribute to the survival of your family while you are staying at home.
- Multi-level marketing opportunities are not scams, but recognize them for what they are before investing in one. There are millions of people who have found success in MLMs, and if they help to provide an income for a family, terrific! We support them, and we do not judge. However, don’t jump into the business of one without realizing what it is going to take to be successful. If your business relies solely on recruiting your family and friends, they may start to feel the need to avoid you because they are afraid of being “sold.” Unless you come from a sales background and you are already surrounded by a supportive network of family and friends who has no problem buying all of your MLM products, this may not be the best choice for you and your family. If you DO choose to go this route, don’t blame your relatives for not investing in your products. It’s not fair to them, nor is it their responsibility to grow your business.
- Realize that you already have what it takes to become self-employed. You don’t need to invent a new product, or come up with a new concept that has never been tried before. You have skills and the ability to do exactly what it is you have already been
doing. You don’t have to have a business degree to be a CEO, you just have to know how to offer a service. The question you need to ask yourself is this: “What am I currently doing for someone else that I can be doing for myself?” You are skilled at something. Accounting, marketing, graphic design, administrative support, dog grooming, hair cutting…Just to be clear, this is not a question of what you’ve always wanted to do, it’s what you are ALREADY doing. Chances are, you know how to do it well, and you know what it takes to keep doing it. Remember that this is a REALISTC approach to becoming self-employed. This is most likely NOT going to make you millions. It is simply going to allow you to survive doing exactly what you want to do- earn a bit of revenue while raising your children.
- Take a look at your finances. Don’t just ponder it for a moment and try to add up things in your head. Really, take out a piece of paper and write out what you are currently spending on things, paying special attention to the categories that will shrink once you are working from home: business attire, dry-cleaning, gas mileage and car maintenance, car insurance (yes, it will go down if you no longer have a long commute each day), daily lunches eaten out, daycare, etc…) Don’t judge the situation just yet, just do the task. You can also take into account that if your spouse becomes the sole provider, The family will get a significant tax reduction. Letting go of your stable paycheck will be the scariest thing of all, but if being at home is truly where you want to be, you'll be able to make the sacrifice.
- Make some cuts. This is one of the hardest first steps to becoming a self-employed parent, because it means you are going to let some things go. First, realize that just because you have to cut down on some indulgences does not mean that you are living in poverty. You will survive. Look at your credit card statements, your cell phone bills, your other spending habits. Lower your cell phone plan minutes, brew your own coffee, use the library to borrow books and videos. Consider how often you use your gym membership and if your physical activity can be replaced by taking the kids for a walk, or joining a weekly stroller strides group. You will not be seeing as many movies, so invest in a video service such as Netflix, which is significantly less expensive. Instead of meeting friends out for drinks, (which has suddenly become even MORE costly from the need to hire a babysitter) invite them over for a game night. Let go of your season tickets and watch the games on TV for free, or check your local listings for community events such as free concerts in the park. You must learn to change your lifestyle a bit, but now that you have become a parent, your life has already changed and you may have found that you have said goodbye to a lot of these luxuries anyway. It won’t be long before you may actually prefer a night in with the kids and an animated video. Most likely, you will begin to enjoy the creative activities that you are able to come up with as a family. On the rare occasion that you are able to hire a sitter and get out with your grown-up friends, it will mean more to you than it ever did before.
- Start with the basics. Make a list of the things you need in order to offer your service- even just on a limited basis. Hold off on hiring that webdesigner for just a bit, and ordering those businesses cards. Start with the basic tools you need to be able to provide your service. You may find that you already have much of what you need. If not, then make a small investment in these basic tools. This is a lot more cost effective than purchasing a franchise, or renting an office space. You can always upgrade later, as your business grows. Once you become self-employed, you will be your own boss, and that means you will be able to create your own rules. You can charge less that your competitors, because you will be working out of your home, and your overhead will be absorbed into what you are already paying for rent. You can choose your own hours, and re-arrange your schedule around naps, playdates, or your spouses work schedule. Remember to get creative. You are the boss, so you call the shots. For example, if you are a hairstylist, you can offer to go to you clients home. This will circumvent paying rent at a salon so you will be able to charge less than your competitors (which your clients will appreciate). You may even be able to bring your kids with you to play with your client’s kids- a playdate while you work! It's a win-win.
- Start slow. Offer your services for free to family and friends- just in the beginning. This will help you build up a client base, as well as give you a chance to get the hang of things without the added pressure of being perfect. Send out an email to friends and family telling them of the service that you are offering, and tell them that you are willing to waive your fees just so you can gain a bit of necessary experience. In exchange, you may ask for them to support you in another way such as contributing to an email campaign, or watching your kids for a few hours a month. If you have never done anything like this before, give yourself room to grow, and don’t be so hard on yourself if you mess up. You will learn from the mistakes that you make, and this will make you a better entrepreneur.
- Barter your services. This is a great way to minimize those start-up costs that you were worried about. It’s also a great way to network, and get testimonials, not to mention gain experience in your chosen field.
- Use the internet and become a master of online research. You can get just about anything you need to start your business for free. Basic websites, templates, voicemail boxes, advertising opportunities, legal advice, newsletter services, even business cards. Some services are free for only a certain amount of time, so take advantage while you can. Check out the OurMilkMoney.com Resource Page for a list of services that are free or minimal. Talk to other parents and ask them about the resources that they use. Everything else can be bartered - especially with other self-employed parents- and that is who you want to be supporting from now on, anyway. It’s good karma. Trust me, it always comes back to you.
- You are not in this alone. There are currently more than 5 million work-at-home parents and that number grows every single day. These are not your competitors, this is a large support network of people, who are just like you. They need you just as much as you need them. Reach out, ask for help, and be ready to listen and learn. There is an abundance of information out there at your finger tips FOR FREE. This can sometimes feel like information overload, but it can provide you with exactly what you are looking for the moment that you need it.
Remember to pat yourself on the back often. As your own boss, you will need it. Rome was not built in a day. Earning a revenue will take time, so expect to struggle for a few months. Even the most successful businesses take time to become profitable. Finances will be tight, and it may seem like you are working twice as hard for less reward. But keep your eye on the prize, and trust that you are as good as anyone else who has chosen to work from home. Your greatest reward may not be the income, but the abundance of time you can now afford to have with your children, and being able to call the shots in your own life.