Editor's Note: This interview was originally published in the May '08 edition of Debt-Proof Living.
There are more opportunities than ever for women who want to take care of their families while working at home. Of the 36 percent of moms who describe themselves as stay-at-home, 26 percent already do some sort of work for pay from home, according to a May 2005 Washington Post study.
If Mary’s inbox is any indication, we know that many readers are interested in work-at-home opportunities—so we decided to interview author Sarah Hamaker, whose brand-new book, Hired@ Home: The Christian Mother’s Guide to Working From Home, (DPL Press, 2008; $14.95) will be hitting bookstores in late May.
As a freelance writer and work-at-home mom herself, Hamaker knows the ropes of being both a professional and a mom—and she’s ready to share her experience, tips and advice for making working at home work for moms from all backgrounds and in all stages of life:
DPL: What kinds of jobs or areas of at-home work have grown in the last few years?
SH: The Department of Labor has seen a lot of growth in service-based jobs, which are basically anything you can do for other people. Education and health services are two big areas—for instance you could be a tutor for special needs kids or work as a medical transcriptionist.
Hospitality services are also on the rise, with opportunities to work as a landscaper, cook, quilter or crafter. Anything that people might not want to do in their leisure can be turned into a home-based business. You could be a personal chef and cook meals in someone’s home a couple of times a week, or you could work as a professional organizer and help people clean out their garages.
Also, almost any business related to pets can be a good choice. Children’s art and music education is popular right now, too—parents are often scrambling to get their kids in these types of classes.
DPL: How do moms or moms-to-be decide whether at-home work might be right for their family situation?
SH: I think as Christians our perspective on family and home life is different. There are other books about working at home that simply assume that you are going to do it, but I wanted to help women think through the decision. I anticipate that some women may read my book and realize that working at home might not be right for them at this stage in their life.
You have to ask, “How is my family going to be impacted?” and think about your husband, children and any other responsibilities you might have, such as taking care of an aging parent.
You need to examine your financial situation. Do you need to work to make ends meet? Do you have extra income for the start-up costs of a new business?
Your personality also plays a role in the decision. Are you already stressed every day taking care of your kids?
Working from home is a trade-off—you have to sacrifice some things. Every woman can work from home, but each one has to figure out if she can do it in this stage of her life.
DPL: What are some of the main challenges that work-at-home moms face?
SH: Balance of work and family is a big one. If you work out of an office, it’s easier to leave work there, but work at home often spills over into home life. You have to work at keeping the line between work and home drawn.
Finding time to do the work can be challenging as well. Some days the kids are better behaved and can play by themselves, and other days they are more grumpy and don’t get along as well. You always want to do the best work you can, but there are distractions and it can be difficult to focus on one task.
It also can be difficult to find time for yourself. I realize that if I didn’t work at home, I would have more time for myself to relax or nap—not that I don’t do those things once in a while, but the key is to find balance.
DPL: What are some of the benefits of working at home for you and the moms you interviewed?
SH: The best part is that you are at home with your kids and can be involved with their lives in many ways. You are more flexible with your family time and can do things such as going on your kids’ field trips. Some moms even homeschool their kids while working at home.
It is wonderful to be able to fit working into your family situation rather than the other way around. Some women have to keep regular office hours at home, but many are freer to work at times that fit their family’s schedule.
A huge bonus for many women who work at home is the lack of a commute and other expenses of working outside the home. You don’t have to spend money on business lunches out or maintain a full business wardrobe.
I also love being my own boss. As a freelance writer, I can choose to take a job or not. If we have family things coming up in the future, I can easily cut back on the work I take.
DPL: In the book, you discuss the ways that moms who decide to start their own business can find a niche and target market for their ventures. What are some simple ways that a work-at-home mom can get the word out to potential customers?
SH: Once you know your audience there are many low cost marketing ideas that you can try. Contact complementary local businesses and ask if you can post flyers or leave business cards in their store. If you have a pet-related business, for example, you might try a dog park or the local pet store.
You can always send a press release to your local newspaper, which they might print if they have some space they need to fill. Or offer to provide them with free content related to your business. For a dog grooming business, you might write an article on keeping a shaggy dog cool in the summer, for instance.
Offer to speak about your area of expertise at a local organization’s meeting—they are always looking for speakers. Ask family and friends to spread the word, since word of mouth is often one of the most effective ways to get your name out there.
Another idea that can be effective is to donate your services or products to a local charity auction. A personal chef might give away a meal for four, for example. You can leave some business cards by the display to get more publicity.
DPL: In interviewing various work-at-home moms for this book, did anything in particular inspire you in your own at-home work as a writer?
SH: It was immensely encouraging to talk to so many different women in all stages of life—women with all different ages of children and talents. It was amazing to see that there are so many options out there for working at home. When I started my research, I wasn’t sure whether I would find anyone working at home beyond freelance writers like myself and crafters, but I interviewed lawyers, scientists, teachers—women from so many different careers who are finding ways to work at home.
You don’t have to be especially creative or crafty—although if you have that talent, that can be a great asset for your work.
The real-life stories of the women in the book demonstrate how anyone can work from home.
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