I left my day job exactly 8 years ago to become a freelance writing WAHM. Prior to that I worked as a freelance writer for two years while still juggling a full time day job. Freelancing from both sides of the fence wasn’t always easy, especially when just starting out. Thankfully I worked hard and stuck with it. Thankfully, I was successful and didn’t have to return back to an office job.
Working at Home: It’s Not What You Think
In ten years time, I’ve seen many of my fellow WAHMs start a business but go back to full time outside of the home work because they weren’t succeeding, or the money wasn’t rolling in as much and as fast as they hoped. The truth is, this looks so easy and glamorous to the outside world. What can be more attractive than working from the back deck while sipping premium coffee as the youngsters run around?
Except that’s not a far picture of the WAHM lifestyle. Working at home involves actual work and very little of it is glamorous.
After building relationships with WAHMs over the past decade (and being one myself) I think I have some insight into why some of us succeed, or why some of us have to “go back to work.” I can tell you many of us didn’t expect it to be so lonely. Also, plenty of WAHMs found out they need to have other members of a team at hand to motivate them and keep them on task.
The truth is, there are many reasons WAHMs go back to their day jobs.
1. It’s Harder Than You Thought
Working at home isn’t easy. I’m not talking about the job itself, I’m talking about the physical act of working. At home. If there are kids in the house your attention is constantly being diverted in different directions. You’re constantly called on to open juice boxes, referee arguments and act as taxi driver for playdates and cheerleading practice. There are other distractions as well: lunch with the girls, Dr. Oz, the fridge…and the list goes on. Sitting down and completing one task at home is a rude awakening when compared to the ability to sit down and complete one task at an outside job.
2. You’re Lax in Your Habits
When you’re a WAHM there is no boss standing over you reminding you of project deadlines. There are no team members waiting on you to do your part. You’re accountable to you, and you only. When you’re a WAHM it’s easy to take sick days whenever you want or blow off work in favor for a day out on the beach or afternoon at the spa. Truthfully, the most successful WAHMs are those with the best working habits. They know they can enjoy down time, but they make sure all their commitments are complete before taking fun time. That isn’t to say that as WAHMs you can’t schedule fun time, just be sure to get your priorities straight.
3. You Have No Defined Path
Many WAHMs leave the traditional workplace wanting to work from home but not really sure of what kind of work to do. The choices are overwhelming. Should you write? Become a virtual assistant? Consult as a business coach? The most successful WAHMs know exactly what they will do before leaving their present job and research accordingly. They don’t quit a job and wonder what to do next.
4. You’re Looking to Earn Money Rather than Looking for a Job or Career
Many WAHMs aren’t necessarily looking to have a career. Rather, they want to earn money so they can contribute to the household while staying home with their kids. There’s nothing wrong with this until it leads to a lot of “here and there” earning. Instead of focusing on one particular avenue, some WAHMs simply take whatever pays. They’ll do party plans, residual writing, transcription and anything else where a mom can work at home. The problem is, all this piece mail working can lead to burnout. Scrambling to fulfill obligations from several different ventures diverts focus and procrastination sets in.
5. You Work Whenever
Another common issue among WAHMs is finding the time to work. Or, rather, finding the time to work without interruption. Just like taking piece mail jobs, working here and there throughout the day also diverts the focus. As mentioned above, it’s hard to pay attention to a task when attention is demanded elsewhere. It’s true not everyone has the time or means to work an eight hour day, undisturbed. However, even one or two quiet hours make a difference. Having regular business hours can help you — and others — respect your time.
6.You Don’t Take Your Clients (or Your Business) Seriously
Deadline. Schmedline. Your client will get his work when you’re good and ready. Cable outages, sick kids and Aunt Martha’s funeral are some of the excuses you use when not fulfilling your promises. Eventually though, clients stop being sympathetic and start seeing excuses as, well, excuses. Even though you like being a WAHM because of the flexibility, you can’t blow off your work all the time because now you’re letting down the people who pay you – and the people who can refer you to other clients.
7. You Don’t Want it Bad Enough
Eh. If this doesn’t work out I’ll just do something else. Whatever.
8. Your Few Precious Hours of Working Time are Spent on Facebook, Twitter and in Forums
Social media and social networking can do wonders for a career. It can also be an amazing timesuck. If you only have two hours to spare for client work and that time is being spent playing Mafia Wars or Tweeting about your kids, you may want to rethink your priorities.
9. You’re Not Cut Out for the Lifestyle
My sister in law worked at home for a couple of years and hated it. She had no kids at the time and telecommuted for her full time job after moving out of state. The problem is she was lonely. She missed the camaraderie and the lunches out with her friends. She missed being a part of a physical team rather than a virtual team. She missed the commute and being around people all day. This isn’t the lifestyle for everyone and you’re not a failure if it’s not your cup of tea.
10. You Actually Thought You Could Earn $50,000 per Month
You decided to work from home because those ads with all the exclamation points lured you in, didn’t you? I’m sorry to beak it to you that doesn’t happen. Plenty of WAHMs earn several thousand each month but we worked very hard to get where we are. No job, in virtual land, or the real world, is going to pay you that much money – especially during your first week on the job. Realistic WAHMs make it. Those who follow false promises fall behind.
excellent excellent post!!
.-= allena´s last blog ..First Step to Freelance Writing Jobs =-.
Deb Ng says
Thanks, Allena. Sometime I feel reminders are in order, you know?
Andy Hayes says
Indeed, all very good points.
And hey – why are my slippers posted up there? =)
.-= Andy Hayes´s last blog ..How Tourism/Hospitality Underdogs Can Fight & Win =-.
Deb Ng says
Andy, a funny thing…I usually use bunny slippers to illustrate my WAHM posts because everyone thinks we hang out in bunny slippers and eat bon bons all day. The interesting part is how much traffic I receive from the term “bunny slippy.”
yes…you just have to keep at it and believe in what you’re doing…great post!
Dann Alexander says
Another great read,,,thanks Deb. Im juggling the day job, keeping it for now, and use my writing work to keep my sanity.
Great post Deb!! I have been an WAHM for almost 14 years – and it is not always easy, not always fun, and it can get lonely. However, if you create the right work environment for yourself, set working hours, have goals and work in ways to have fun along the way, it can work and be very rewarding, too.
I am lucky that I have a fun part-time job I do a few afternoons a week and that gets me out of the house – plus it is totally unrelated to my WAHM job.
I actually can not even imagine working in an office environment for anyone else ever again.
.-= Char´s last blog ..Essential Tools Featuring Kim Woodbridge =-.
Deb Ng says
Char, though I have taken virtual opportunities, there’s no way I’ll go back to an office job at this point. I’m too spoiled being away from that atmosphere for so long and too set in my lifestyle. With that said, though, this hasn’t been an easy ride at all. I think it’s harder to work at home than in an office because you have to have a much stronger work ethic to succeed.
Excellent post! I know too well how difficult it is to work from home and be a mom. I homeschool my three boys. My youngest is 3. Finding time to sit down and work is next to impossible. I learned the hard way that I can’t do it. I took on full time jobs. I was working as an assistant to an entertainment reporter. All I had to do was make her schedule every day. Easy right? Wrong. It was more than a full time job trying to keep up with her and to keep her on track. Then I landed a great job as a homeschool blogger. I was thrilled as I had beat out hundreds of applicants to get the job. Be careful what you wish for. I was required to produce 6 original homeschooling articles a week. Yeah, ok. I was stressed beyond belief and it was taking its toll on everyone. When I did the math I realized I was making pennies but putting in 8 hours or more each day. Meanwhile, my kids were constantly being told “not now, maybe later”. I finally faced facts and admitted I couldn’t do it. Right now I’m working for a travel website. It is not difficult work. I make very little each month, nowhere near enough to live off of. But that is ok. I’ve decided to keep working small jobs. As the kids get older I will take on more. The hope is that when my husband retires in 8 years, I will be able to put my writing skills into full gear and pull in enough to sustain us, along with his retirement pay. That is the dream anyway.
Awesome post. I’m not a WAHM, but it’s still frustrating when people don’t get how hard it can be to work at home on your own schedule. Or how flexible you have to be in dealing with different kinds of clients, who have their own set of attitudes and demands, as opposed to writing for just one client at an office. Even working at an agency has it’s perks, because at least you get the support of your team. When you work from home, you just have YOU. Which is why I think it’s crucial to find other people who work from home, because there will be times that you will need that support group!
This rings all too true! I’ve been working from home for almost 5 years now and just when I think I have a schedule down, it gets messed up. I think an important thing to remember is working from home is not going to work out if you don’t have the support of the people around you. If you let your husband and kids in with every little request instead of teaching them to handle some things on your own – you are going to fail.
Great post Deb! Now I know why I subscribed!
.-= Nikki´s last blog ..In Which I Eat My Words and Apologize =-.
Don’t forget about having the right support team in place to help you succeed at home: the babysitter/mommy’s helper, the drycleaner (to keep the husband’s work clothes fresh and clean!), a part-time housekeeper if needed. I tried to do it all myself for awhile and everything fell apart. Yes, it costs a bit but my quality of work (and stress-level) was better when I wasn’t trying to do it all.
I have to agree with Amy who is trying to balance working at home with homeschooling. I tried that too. It only worked for a few months as I was going crazy, getting behind on my son’s schooling and on my writing deadlines. I had to decide what was most important – my son’s schooling. Now I only keep two (simple) clients so I can keep my skills fresh and bring in a little extra spending money.
I LOVE this post! Completely truthful and honest without downing anyone, intentionally or not.
I quit working because my husband and I agreed it was the best option when our 1-year-old was born early. She’s spent that year in and out of the hospital. Doctors are telling us she’s over that hill now, but we’ve since learned that the money I save us is nearly as good as the minimum wage income I could make.
I have started working on a book, blog and a hand-knit shop, and the knitting itself is the only thing I manage to do when the babies awake! I love how this post makes no-nonsense of the reality I’ve learned. You barely make pennies when you start. I’m amazed at how the WAHM’s who need that income manage the stress and work plus their kids!
Great post! I’m a WAHM and definitely can relate that working from home is harder than I thought. I’ll have to share this site with others 🙂