Are You Cut Out to Be a Work-at-Home-Mom?
No commute and no need to even change out of your pajamas. Working from home may sound like heaven, but how do you know if it's the right fit for your career and your family?
Is working from home a viable option for you? Jennifer Forest, author of Work Women Want—a new guide to helping at-home moms set up shop—says a good first step is to check out the six key characteristics that most successful work at home moms (a.k.a. WAHMs) have in common.
Do you share some, most, or all of these traits?
1. You’re willing to take a risk: Whether your goal is to negotiate flex-days in your current job or start a home-based business, “doing something new always means taking some kind of risk,” says Forest, who says that before taking that leap, it’s a good idea to check in with yourself to find out the answer to the question, “Are you OK doing something that might not work out?”
2. Your personality matches your new career: An introverted mom may find it difficult to run a home-based jewelry party business, but an extrovert mom may take the same business model and run with it. And, of course, the opposite may be true if the job in question is something more low key, like at-home medical billing coding.
Among the WAHMs she interviewed for her book, Forest says women who thrived working from home tend to be those doing things that are a perfect fit for their personality type, whether that’s being an extrovert, introvert, or something in between.
Don’t have a clue which one you are? Forest recommends taking a standard personality test, such as the Myers-Briggs personality assessment, or the Herrmann Brain Dominance test. However, she also cautions women to not make decisions based only on test results.
“Think of [personality tests] only as guides to help you work out your preferences, strengths and weaknesses. They are, after all, only one way of looking at a person. Because a person is a bundle of feelings, styles and experiences, one test alone does not define who you are.”
In other words, if you really want to try a home-based party business, but your Myers-Briggs results firmly label you as an introvert, use this information to help you find a creative solution. For example, maybe you can try hosting an online party on Facebook, or stick with more intimate gatherings at first. Likewise, an extrovert could schedule in volunteer opportunities with lots of people contact in order to make their solitary work hours a better fit.
3. You have transferable skills: The perfect work-at-home opportunity for you could be surprisingly close to the type of job you are already performing in the office.
“The easiest and quickest way to get started making money from home is to work with what skills you already have,” says Forest. “These can be the skills you have from a degree, career or life experience. Then it is a matter of matching what you have with what customers or clients want.”
For example, “if you work as a staff accountant or bookkeeper for a business, you may be able to take these same bookkeeping skills and run a freelance accounting business,” suggests Forest. If you’re a high school math teacher, you may be surprised at the money you can make tutoring just a handful of students in the evening. If you’ve worked with young children before, you may want to open up an in-home daycare.
Look through your resume, write down your interests, and think about what special skills you possess that others may be willing to pay you to tap into. Forest also points out that many successful WAHMs first take time to learn a special skill by returning to school before launching their businesses.
4. You have other forms of income support in the short term: Depending on what it is that you will do to earn money at home, it may take a while—especially in the case of many home-based business models—before you see any income. To cover the year or two or three before your revenue stream hopefully becomes strong, Forest says that having other means of financial support is important. “This usually means having a partner who is willing and able to take care of the family financially until your business starts to generate revenue.”
Before you quit your day job, sit down with your partner to discuss what a work-at-home career may mean for the family’s finances in the short term, and how you can budget in the meantime. Single moms may need to be more flexible in finding financial support, including asking for assistance from parents and other family members.
5. You know business and tax rules: Business know-how when it comes to billing, keeping track of expenses, and filing your taxes correctly, are key skills that few successful WAHMs are without. “Many working-at-home options do mean that you become a business owner, even if it is freelance work doing projects for someone else or joining a party plan company,” says Forest. Don’t know what a 1099 form or Schedule C is? Take time to learn these before proceeding.
6. You’re OK being lonely: Do you love getting compliments from your coworkers on your new shoes? Always win first place in the the holiday cubicle decorating contest? Depending on your choice of at-home job, you may need to readjust your expectations for daily social interactions, and “be prepared to be a little lonely,” says Forest. For some moms, isolation is far from a deal breaker, but for other moms, a work-at-home career that doesn’t come with much of a social component may not work out in the long run.
If you identify with most of these six traits, your next career could be waiting for you right in the comfort of your own home. And if you’ve discovered that you’re an risk-averse extrovert who needs coworkers to thrive, you might want to rethink your work-at-home plans. As Forest has found, “The most important thing is to be honest with yourself,” says Forest, “no matter what the answer is.”
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