Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thrifty Thursday: How to be a full-time Work at Home Mom (even if you're single)

This isn't my typical Thrifty Thursday kind of post, but it ties in, and I think this is a topic many moms will find interesting as studies have shown that most women want to either cut back hours or be at home full-time once they become mothers.  In many cases, single moms have a greater need to be at home because of the high cost of day care and sitters and the fact that the father is often unable or unwilling to participate in the daily care of his child(ren).  Many single mothers find themselves ineligible for government assistance because they meet or exceed the minimum income requirements, which is around $24,000 in Georgia for a mother with one child (so take that Phyllis Schlafley!).  This, however, creates a paradox.  You can't afford child care expenses if you work, but you can't afford everything else if you don't work.

As a woman who unexpectedly found herself a single mother living 250 miles away from her child's father, I've discovered that the best way to be a stay at home mom is to plan your career with that goal in mind.  Choosing a well-paying field with flexible work options is the path that will lead to most satisfying work at home mom opportunities.  It is also very hard to transition into full-time self-employment AFTER you become a mom because your time and attention are pulled so many different ways.  If you don't or can't plan ahead, you may have to settle for a less than ideal job but to me that was a small sacrifice in order to actually be the person raising my child rather than a day care employee getting paid $10 and hour to baby sit my son and 15 other kids.

Even if you have to suddenly change all your career plans, it is possible, however, with time, dedication, perserverence, and patience to successfully make a living wage and actually thrive from self-employment even as a single parent.  In the past few months, I've been piecing together bits of freelance work and self-employment opportunities in an effort to figure out the best fit for me in my current geographic location. 

In no particular order, these are the best opportunities I've found for any moms who are already stay at home moms and would like to make some extra money or moms who want to transition into full-time work at home status.  I'm even working on a few of them.  That's part of the beauty of work for yourself:  you don't have to limit yourself to just one thing.

Private Instructor

Depending on your background, there are a number of subjects in which you can offer tutoring.  If you have a music background, you can give private lessons from your home. Rates for these services range from $15-80 for a 30 minute session depending on where you live, your experience, the difficulty level of the material, and the instrument being taught if you are giving music lessons.  For those who have trouble finding help with child care during normal business hours, this is a good scheduling opportunity since most of the appointments needed will be after school and work hours.

Personal Trainer

For the fitness buffs out there, being a personal trainer can be a fun and lucrative way to make some extra money.  Certification is relatively inexpensive and easy to get if you are interested in specializing in a specific fitness activity such as yoga or pilates.  Classes may be taught from your home or you can schedule private sessions.  For reference, the personal trainers I know charge $50-100 for the initial meeting and assessment and then $35-60 for subsequent sessions.

Child Care

If you're anything like me, you already know several families with children who need child care ranging from ocassional nights out to full-time care while the parents are at work. The average cost of daycare in Georgia is about $135/week for infants and toddlers and $115/week for preschoolers.  Even government subsidized child care can be in the $75/week range.  You can offer child care services to people who already know and trust you.  The benefits are that you can choose who to accept since you already know the child(ren) and have a good idea of whether or not you can handle them in addition to your own and you will also feel comfortable and certain of disciplinary boundaries.  Having a mix of ages isn't necessarily a bad thing.  The older children can help with small tasks like getting their little sister's diapers or throwing away their juice boxes so that you don't have to do it all.  Build a good repoire with the families you work with, and you may be needing extra help to handle the business demand before you know it.

House/Pet Sitting

This isn't something you can necessarily count on as a full-time opportunity, but it's an easy way to make some extra money once or twice a month, especially if you know a lot of people who travel or can be referred by trusted associates.  In many cases, you don't necessarily have to stay the whole time but can come once or twice a day to check the house and take care of the animals.  Either way, you're at liberty to take your child with you.  If your son or daughter is old enough, they can even help out and might enjoy the change of scenery and/or furry friends.


Start your own maid service for great flexibility with scheduling and a casual enough setting to bring your child when you have to.  Use a carrier like a Mei Tai to keep your baby close but your hands free and a gated play yard to keep your little one in a contained area while your work.  Worried about fumes and exposure to harsh chemicals?  Use green cleaning products to avoid the harmful side effects of conventional cleaners, and advertise your services as ecofriendly.  Depending on the size of the home and other factors such as messy pets or ceiling height tiles in the shower, typical charges range from $40-100+ per cleaning.  Clients usually request ongoing weekly or bimonthly services.  If a home requires a lot of extra work for the first cleaning, you may assess a higher rate for the first cleaning.  Once word gets around, you might be able to gain a commercial account or two such as a church or local business.

Freelance Writing

Being a freelance writer has never been as romantic a job as it may seem.  Today's freelance writer is even less so.  In addition to ghostwriting, editting, and other technical writing jobs, the internet provides a huge venue for those wanting to make extra money by writing.  The business model for many freelance writers involves supplementing more creative work with ad revenue driven online writing.  There are several ways of generating commercially driven income including pay per click ad space and receiving a cut on sales originating from your work.  Build enough of a portfolio with your personal work, and you may eventually land a paid writing position for a web-based company.  This option takes the longest to develop but is the ultimate in flexibility, time available to your children, and income potential.  This doesn't happen for everyone, but there are real live bloggers who make millions from the traffic to their websites.  Their readership is obviously much larger than what the average online writer ever achieves.  I believe most online content writers can realistically expect to achieve a minimum of $1000/month with high quality, consistent output over time.