After I had my fourth baby, I decided it was time to officially stay home. I turned in my scrubs and badge at the hospital where I worked as a labor and delivery nurse. I braced myself for life at home full-time. To the outside world, I was just your everyday SAHM rocking yoga pants and a near-constant cold cup of coffee.
I also happened to be running a six-figure freelance writing business.
Like most business successes, mine didn’t happen overnight. It took six years to build it and make my goal income. By the time I was writing full-time, I had four kids under the age of 6, three of whom who were at home full-time as well.
Needless to say, my life was chaotic. But I soon realized that being a work-from-home mom can be a manageable task. These are my biggest takeaways from building a successful home business with young kids in tow.
BE CLEAR IN YOUR GOALS
Some writers may want to create only the finest of literary prose for glossy magazines. I just wanted to be able to make a buck without leaving my couch, where I was nursing my baby. So I focused on taking any and all work I could find.
I wrote everything from frozen food ads to parenting blog posts to copy for medical clients. I took interviews with the phone on mute so I could change my baby’s diaper and fix my toddler’s lunch. I fit more productivity into naptime than a lot of people accomplish in an eight-hour workday.
I was clear about my goal, which was to make as much money as possible and to make that money from writing anything. It sounds easy, but it’s deceptively difficult for many people to narrow down their business goals, especially when they’re just starting out.
FIND A SYSTEM THAT WORKS FOR YOU
If you ask other writers or business owners how they make money working from home with kids in the mix, you’ll hear all kinds of advice. For instance, a lot of writers told me to book regular child care or send my kids to day care. But that didn’t work for me. I was exclusively breastfeeding a baby who wouldn’t take a bottle, it felt like a kid was getting sick every other day, and setting up child care felt like more work than it was worth between transportation and scheduling.
So I did what was best for me: working whenever the heck I could, finding a wonderful young woman who could help me at odd times during the day, and blurring boundaries of work and home without letting myself feel guilty about it.
DON’T RELY ON ANYONE ELSE FOR VALIDATION
One of the most maddening things about working for yourself can be the invisibility factor. You’re responsible for running an entire company, from marketing to PR to content creation to social media management to financial analysis — you just happen to do it in the privacy of your own home. It can be isolating when no one really sees you for the business owner and capable professional that you are.
I took interviews with the phone on mute so I could change my baby’s diaper and fix my toddler’s lunch.
To help combat that, realize that it’s enough for you to know what you do — it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. It can also really help to connect with other moms or work-from-home parents, whether in-person or online, who get what your life is like. My online group of writing mom friends has become my biggest professional support.
KNOW WHAT TRADE-OFFS YOU’RE WILLING TO MAKE
For several years, I worked at an almost-feverish pace and, before I knew it, I was celebrating three years of pulling in an income I once dreamed of. I worked with a laser focus because I had a specific goal of paying down our debt and buying our dream home.
But even though I was successful, the pace was unsustainable. I was writing several articles a day, never saying “no” to an assignment, and working at every free moment, including morning, naptime, night and anytime I could convince my husband to drive so I could write in the passenger seat. The painful truth is, I can’t remember the last time our family had a movie night where my kids weren't cuddling with Dad because Mom had her ever-present computer on her lap.
I’ve learned that while you can make good money from home, it can come at a price.
Today, I’ve scaled back and am no longer making the money I once was. And truth be told, I have a mixture of pride and regret about running a successful business during my kids’ early years. I wonder if I traded enjoying their baby and toddlerhood for work.
At the same time, I feel grateful that I was able to make it work, and I want to encourage other moms that it’s completely possible.
More importantly, “succeeding” as a mom and a business owner isn’t limited to only making six figures. No one can define what success means to you, but one thing is for certain: Success, even with young kids, is achievable if you’re clear about what you want and you’re willing to work hard for it. Just put the laptop down on movie night.