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When I chose a career in journalism at the young age of 17, I had visions of someday writing at home with children at my feet. So I pursued a college education and embarked on the fun journey that many young people do.
Fast forward four years and I still loved writing but had no desire to use it for journalism. Instead, I found myself applying for marketing jobs because I loved the thrill of corporate life. For several years, I didn’t think about those days with babies at my feet. I climbed the corporate ladder and tried to learn everything I could to be successful.
And then it happened. I met my now-husband. I’d actually known him for a few years through church but he’d been too afraid to ask me out and I didn’t even know he liked me. As our relationship flourished, I quickly realized that this was where I wanted my life to go. I wanted to be a mom and stay at home with our future children.
The year we got married, I once again focused on that future of working with children at my feet. I landed a side gig doing marketing for a local running and triathlon company to build my skills as a freelancer. The work was fun and in an industry I was passionate about. And this is where my journey to becoming a work-at-home mom began.
Building my work-at-home mom resume
I worked with the triathlon company managing their content and marketing efforts alongside another company that I met on Thumbtack. These were the two companies I dabbled with while working full time. This gave me writing samples, a portfolio and proof that I could work remotely for a company.
This went on for a year while my husband and I just enjoyed being married. We traveled a fair amount that first year, bought a house, settled into life together and I built a business. After that first year is when I started to really focus on things.
I opened my company website amidst uncertainty at my day job. I was in a layoff situation unsure of what the future held. The time felt right. These are the important steps I took to make my freelance writing and marketing business more formal.
- Registered my business name with the state. This allows me to do business as my company name and open a business bank account.
- Started a company website using GoDaddy and WordPress.
- Had a triathlon buddy of mine who is an attorney draft me formal contracts and agreements to send to potential clients (this one is important and necessary for the next step)
- Got business insurance to protect my home and family from business liability. I don’t have large business assets other than my computer, but protection from liability is important in any business that you do, even if it isn’t physical goods.
- Opened a business bank account. This makes accounting so much easier and I can’t recommend it enough to work-at-home moms. Separate your business finances from your personal finances to make things run smoothly.
- Polished my professional portfolio website. I kept this separate from my business website so that I could use it for corporate applications as well.
- Spent some time on my LinkedIn profile making it optimized for keywords related to work I wanted. Reframe your thinking to highlight the right projects on your social profiles to showcase who you are in light of what you want to do.
Finding business opportunities to build my stay-at-home working mom life
Now I had a real infrastructure in place. It was time to focus on growing my business. Mind you, I still had a full-time job so it had to be slow and controlled growth to ensure I could keep up and didn’t lose that important salary that paid the bills. By far, this was the hardest time of my business.
I didn’t have a baby yet that was demanding my time and yet this was the hardest. I sacrificed outings with friends and other social activities to become what I knew I wanted to become. I remember vividly writing in the car on the way to Virginia for a family function.
I was 10 weeks pregnant at the time and not feeling my best. But there I sat in the passenger seat writing a 2,000-word article on Tax Reform, something I knew little about and struggled to make simple like the client asked. I had quoted it as four hours of work, but it probably took more like 10 because it was so important that I did it right. It was also important that I delivered it on time, so there I was in the car writing because life didn’t pause while I built my business.
Anyway, you get the idea. So, here’s how I built my business and found work opportunities for my stay-at-home working mom life.
Thumbtack: I set up a Thumbtack profile and quoted business that I really wanted. The challenge with Thumbtack is that you have to sift through a lot of job posts to find good ones. Many people list work opportunities there first when they’re just fishing for information. The details are slim, and it makes it hard to quote the business, and honestly, people aren’t ready to hire a freelancer from my experience.
The really detailed job posts are the ones you want because these are the people who know what they’re looking for, but you have to read tons of poorly written ones to get there. I only used this in the early days of my business when I was really working hard to scale. Once I was up to speed, I didn’t have time to do the kind of job sifting that it takes to find good work on Thumbtack.
Upwork: I have a love-hate relationship with Upwork. I share it with them regularly so they can improve, but I’ve seen little change. I’ll explain throughout.
Start by creating a profile targeted to the type of business you want. Now comes the “fun” part and one of the reasons for that love-hate relationship. Finding your first job is hard because there’s this thing called a “success score.” The only way to get a success score is to complete jobs satisfactorily. But, to get jobs, you have to have a success score (deep sigh!).
So getting established is hard, even when you have a robust background in the work that you do. There I was with seven years of experience and copywriting skills unlike most people on the platform and I struggled to land those first few jobs.
I hate giving this advice, but the best thing you can do is quote super low on those early projects and build your success score. I basically did work for nearly free to get my success score. There are job postings on Upwork that even indicate that their budget is small but they’ll give you a good review so you can build your work on the platform.
I wrote 1,000 words for $5. Mind you, Upwork gets 20 percent so in reality, I wrote 1,000 words for $3. That’s an hour’s worth of work for me…for $3. It’s painful, not fair and a messed-up system. But it is what it is.
Now, I’m a top-rated pro for SEO copywriting on the platform and the business comes to me. I get requests several times per week and can pick and choose what projects I want. Enter the reason why I love Upwork. They still get tons of money off the top from what I make, but they are extremely effective in helping me build my work-at-home mom writing business.
Google Ads: When you set up a Google My Business profile, Google awards you with $150 in advertising money if you spend $50. I ran some very targeted ads for my business and was able to land a new client. With $50, I found someone who pays me a few hundred dollars a month. It was worth the investment. I haven’t ventured back out to Google Ads because I haven’t needed the business, but I have the campaign just sitting out there for the next time I need to prospect. Be very focused on what you want for your business and don’t just use any and all keywords that might get your business. Your goal is to target exactly who you want to be your client.
LinkedIn: Two very large opportunities came to me through LinkedIn. One because I had put an article I wrote out there and one because my keywords on my profile were highly targeted. I can’t say enough about focusing your profile on the type of business that you want. And make your profile robust.
Don’t just list your companies and job titles for your work experience. Use bullet points and describe the measurable outcomes of that work. That’s what employers really want to see is that you know and understand analytics to the point where you can articulate them on your LinkedIn profile.
Things that didn’t work
I just made it sound like I was crazy successful in finding new business to fuel my work-at-home mom life. But there were stumbling blocks and challenges along the way. Not everything worked and knowing when to give up on something is tough. In some areas, it’s worth it to retool what you’re doing and try again. Other areas you might need to cut bait and walk away. I can’t describe how to know which of the two to do other than to say it’s a gut check. Here’s what didn’t work for me.
Cold outreach: I chose a variety of businesses in my backyard and reached out to them cold. I reviewed their websites and was very targeted in my messages. But it didn’t work. Very few ever responded and those that did said “thanks, but no thanks.”
What I found was that companies don’t want to talk to a marketing person until they want to talk to a marketing person. You can’t convince them that they need you until they see it for themselves. So I needed to reach people when they were searching. I needed to find that moment when they were frustrated and decided they needed an expert. Forget the time-consuming research and cold outreach. I was going to do it differently.
Yelp ads: I added a business listing for my company on Yelp. They gave me $300 in free advertising credit, so I tried it. The leads I got from there were so awful, I turned it off before I spent all the money because it wasn’t worth my time to answer the phone. I kid you not, a man called me drunk telling me I needed to hire him as my salesman.
And now, Yelp won’t stop calling me to try and get me to keep advertising. No way! I think Yelp is very successful in the brick and mortar space, but I provide services, not products. I’m not a restaurant, nail salon or other storefront. Pass on Yelp ads but do list your business for SEO purposes.
Chamber of Commerce research: Instead of cold outreach, I tried learning more about businesses in my local Chamber of Commerce. My experience was much the same as that cold outreach though. It was mostly companies telling me they weren’t looking to grow at the time.
Indeed: The platform lists many remote positions for writing jobs. But sadly, these companies seem to have enough applicants that they can ask very low fees. The interview process was generally about 5-10 hours of work in writing tests and goofy activities for them to weed out hundreds of applications for them to then tell me they paid $20 an hour. Nope, not worth it. I enjoy my freedom to write when I want to write and when it is convenient for me. Many of these companies have regulations around being online at a certain time and that just isn’t conducive for a work-at-home mom.
Learn what works for you
Those are my success tips. That’s how I went from full-time work to full-time stay-at-home working motherhood. It isn’t always easy and freelance work tends to ebb and flow. You might find that it’s too stressful for you because your paycheck isn’t consistent and sometimes you’re prospecting and other times the work comes to you when you’re already swamped.
I have weeks where I watch a movie in the afternoon while responding to emails and I have weeks where I can’t seem to get enough done to feel like I’ll survive the week. It’s a crazy life, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Feel free to reach out if you have questions about how to build your stay-at-home working mom life. I founded this blog to help other moms because I’m so passionate about moms finding balance and not being forced to choose between the careers they love and the children they adore.
Visit the Jobs and Resources page for more help on starting your stay-at-home working mom life.