Humble Beginnings: How I Started Working From Home

The following post tells my story of how I discovered how to make money online, and very soon after started a business. Knowing what I know now, I would have gone about things a different way and started making more money sooner.

Sometimes I can’t believe how little money I worked for years ago, but I have absolutely no regrets. It’s my story, my journey . . . And it’s what got me to where I am today. If I had given up at the very beginning thinking there was no way to make a good wage working from home, it’s likely I wouldn’t be making as much money as I am now. This year, I’m set to generate over ten times the amount I made working from home in 2009.

Most people don’t know this, but I dabbled in a few other things before I settled on transcription as my work-at-home money-making method. I started at an extremely low rate of pay doing various things. But I did TONS of research about working from home, figured out what I liked doing best, and eventually found that transcription fit me best and ran with it.

Here’s my story:

The very first thing I did was work with Amazon Mechanical Turk, which is a crowdsourcing platform where you do various tasks that may take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes to complete for a little bit of money.

This intrigued me, because I was desperately seeking to make more money in my spare time and I really liked how I could do it while watching TV and otherwise lounging around my apartment. I was probably making only $2 or $3 per hour, but it worked for me since I could do it from anywhere, at any time, whenever I wanted. I figured making $2 or $3 an hour sitting in front of my TV was better than $0 an hour doing the same thing.

It really only took a few weeks and I began looking for other avenues. I knew there had to be ways to make more than I was making. I found the Knowledge Generation Bureau in my search (KGB), which was a company that answered any question people would text to them. I received the questions and would do Internet searches to answer, and they would receive a text back. It still didn’t pay much, but the work was interesting.

I also found article submission sites and wrote articles where I would get paid a few pennies every time someone clicked on my article. There were three sites I did articles for. After I wrote them, I could see how much they earned every month. Some of my articles only made $0.01 a month, but others earned $60/month. But there came a time when the Google algorithms changed and I wasn’t able to generate much, and these sites eventually got bought by another company or the payments changed and I didn’t do it anymore.

I was also doing transcription at the same time I was doing all these other things. I had my hands in many pockets, but decided I liked transcription the best and went with that. It was only about three or four months into it that I decided to search for private clients and see how much I could actually make doing it. Within six months, the money I was bringing in from transcription was about equal to what I was making in my job, so I quit my job and put all my effort into my transcription business.

If you really want to make some money from home in your spare time as a stay-at-home, I suggest starting small, doing some research and going from there. There are a lot of things you can do from your living room that require no experience, but before you do anything, do some digging to find out what other people’s experience was in that field or with that company.

It’s extremely easy to start a home-based business with little to no money. That’s exactly how I started. Trust me, I was completely broke when I started. Around that time, I even pawned jewelry to pay rent. But step by step, little by little, more money will start to seep into your bank account every month . . . As long as you’re putting in time and effort. It can be very overwhelming, but eventually you learn how to make it work for you.

Every year I’m in business, my transcription company makes more money . . . And I didn’t do it by popping up a website, and then sitting and waiting for people to buy. I did the work and it paid off.

Five years ago, I didn’t know what Internet marketing was. I had never heard of Google Analytics and had no clue what a teleseminar or webinar was. If you asked me what a joint venture was, I would’ve shrugged my shoulders.  And if you don’t know what they are, it’s okay!

There’s a lot of money to be made from home, but it’s a process. Don’t let lack of knowledge hold you back. If you don’t know where to start, then let’s have a conversation.

What People Don’t Understand About Your WAHM Life

When I tell people I have a business I run from home, their immediate reaction is something along the lines of, “Oh, wow! It must be so awesome to be able to work when you want.”

Well, sometimes . . .  but not exactly.

As a WAHM, you may find yourself being asked to take on responsibilities for other people and/or expected or asked to do things because you have “so much free time on your hands”. What your friends and family need to understand is when you work at home, you actually do need to work.

Sure, you may have the luxury of being able to stop working and go pick your kids up from school in the afternoon or take them to the playground during the day . . . but it’s not always that easy.

Any stay-at-home-mom will tell you their days are really hectic between kids, chores, errands, dinner, etc. It’s a full-time job being a mom. Doing all that on top of work becomes challenging.

Friends and family may assume that because your work schedule is so flexible, you have the time to help them out with a task or fit anything you choose to fit in throughout your day. Sometimes people assume this about me, too, and a lot of times I feel guilty saying no. Look, I’m more than happy to help someone if they need me too if I’m available, but some days it’s just not in the cards.

I’m fortunate to have a family who understands my crazy schedule. They know that some weeks, I only really have to work 10-20 hours a week and can fit other things in my days. However, they also know that some weeks I’m literally working 70 hours and just can’t fit it in. When I say no to something, they don’t take offense.

Here are a few common things people who don’t work at home have a hard time understanding:

  1. You are unable to do a task for someone immediately

They know you work from home and could, theoretically, leave your house and take care of their problem, since your work schedule allows for flexibility and theirs doesn’t.

If I’m not particularly busy, I’m more than happy to help you out. However, just like you work and have a busy life, so do I. Sometimes doing extra unplanned tasks isn’t feasible. Taking time out of my busy day to help you out may mean that I’m awake until 2:00 AM working to catch up with my own work, or potentially miss a deadline. I understand you have to work late today and may need someone to pick up your kid from soccer practice or help make cupcakes for their bake sale, but I also have work to do. Please understand if I’m not able to help you out today.

  1. You said you were busy, but they see you commenting on posts on Facebook

People who don’t work from home sometimes have a hard time wrapping their head around it. You said you were too busy to fit them into your day, but they see you active on Facebook.

I do give myself small breaks throughout the day. If I am working a 10-12 hour day, I do allow myself 5-10 minute breaks every now and again to do something that’s not work related. I may click over to Facebook to see what’s going on for a few minutes.

For me, I transcribe audio for a living. If I am sitting typing for hours, it will hurt my wrists. If I don’t rest them periodically, I’ll injure myself. I take small breaks throughout the day. Just because I comment on your Facebook post doesn’t mean I lied about being busy to avoid you. It just means I stopped for a few minutes. I’m sure you take small breaks at work as well.

  1. They see you out for dinner when you said you were busy

Just like you may work long days, so do I. I’m sure if you’re working a 12-hour shift at work, you stop to eat. Since my work is my home, if I’m busy, I don’t really get a chance to leave. Sometimes if I’m really busy and haven’t been outside my house for a few days, I just need to get out. I will take a break for an hour and go get something to eat, just like if you work a 12-hour shift, you may take a break and get a bite as well.

While a lot of times I eat at the computer, sometimes I’ll take an hour and treat myself to a nice dinner with my family. Sometimes I need that hour to get out of the house and recharge.

  1. People randomly stop by your house because they know you’re probably home

Look, I like you. I really do. But I’m a super-busy work-at-home-mommy and my to-do list is long, and I barely have any time to do things for myself, let alone entertain you unexpectedly. Some days, even a shower isn’t possible for me. In fact, most days, I consider my 5-10 minute showers mini vacations.

So if you want to stop by, please text or call first . . .  and don’t take offense if I say it’s not a good time. Unless you’re stopping by to vacuum the floors, do the dishes, and scrub the toilet. Then you’re more than welcome to stop by anytime J

  1. You can’t talk right now and/or don’t return phone calls

When I’m busy, a lot of times I’ll let my phone ring if I know who it is. If it’s a number I don’t recognize, I’ll pick it up in case it’s a client or a potential client. However, if I know who it is, a lot of times I’ll just let it ring. I’m sure if it’s important, they’ll call again, text immediately after or call my hubby.

If I’m in the middle of something, I’ll make a mental note to call the person back. But as all us WAHMs know, our days are often very hectic and by the time we get a chance to catch a breath, it may be too late in the evening to call you back . . . or I may have forgotten (sorry!).

Bottom line: when I’m busy, I don’t usually pick up the phone unless it’s potentially going to make my business money.

  1. You make plans and then cancel

This rarely ever happens to me, because at this point, I do have a strong team. But in the early days, this used to happen every now and again. I’d make plans a week in advance, only to have a big project come in that I couldn’t refuse and have to break plans.

I’m sure this happens a lot to people who don’t work from home, or any business owner really, but I think people sometimes have a hard time understanding why you can’t just “do it later” when you have such a “flexible” work-at-home schedule.

Look, if I made plans with you, I want to be with you. I’d much rather be sipping margaritas across a table with you chit-chatting and laughing than sitting in front of my computer all night. Please don’t take it personally if I happen to have to cancel plans.

 

 

 

How to Save Money at the Grocery Store Without Extreme Couponing

I used to do a lot of couponing. It saved me hundreds of dollars every month. Even though I still use coupons, I’m less extreme about it. It was easier without a child. But now to take the time to clip, sort, organize and the extra time at the grocery store to do sale-coupon matchups, it’s really just not worth the time.

With me and hubby both searching, clipping, printing and shopping, it took about four hours of each of our time for a total of eight hours. We would save about $100 per trip, but would end up with a lot of things we didn’t need or want that we just bought because it was cheap (or free). Plus, we ended up with a lot of junk food that I wouldn’t normally buy, and if I have junk in the house, I’m going to eat the junk. Don’t need it. Don’t want it.

However, I still find ways to save money at the grocery store for things I would normally buy full price WITHOUT extreme couponing. Here are a few things you can do that won’t eat up your time.

  • Only clip coupons you will actually use

I do go through the paper, but instead of clipping every coupon, I skip the junk food and only clip the coupons for things I know I’m going to buy without them.

  • Get on your grocery store’s mailing list

My favorite grocery store tracks what I buy using my store card and sends me relevant coupons. I’ll even get general coupons such as $5 off a $100 purchase, $2 off a $10 purchase in the produce department, or $2 off the meat department. I am going to buy those things anyway, so I clip the coupon.

  • Digital coupons

Most stores have digital coupons you can load onto your card by going to their website. I quickly browse every week or so to see if there’s anything I can use. My favorite store also has a “Free Friday Download’ where I can get an item completely free. Most of the time, it’s worth a click.

  • Gas points

Most grocery stores will give gas rewards for shopping at their store. I think most people don’t really pay much attention to this. We save a lot on gas using the points. My store will give $0.10 gas points for every $100 spent. That means I get $0.10 off each gallon when I fill up, which on a 15-gallon fill-up will equal $1.50 saved.

Every week they’ll have different items that you can earn extra points from, and I’ll buy those items if I’ll use them. If you really think about it, if they’re offering $0.05 gas points for buying a $3 product, if your tank holds 15 gallons, it’s $0.75 saved. However, I only buy the item if it’s worth it.

Points do add up. A lot of times we’re able to save $0.50 or more per gallon every time we fill up. Since I work from home, I don’t have to drive to work, so I fill up less often than the average person and can save those gas points, so that when I do fill up, it’s a lot less expensive.

My store also has a promotion a few times a year where they give you 4x fuel points for buying gift cards. I’ll buy a few $100 gift cards for things I’ll use anyway, usually a gift card for the store itself. That translates to $0.40 off per gallon, saving $6 per fill-up on a 15-gallon tank.

  • Stock up when items are cheap

We invested in a freezer, because we knew it would be worth it. Every now and again, something like chicken breast will go on super-sale. I’ll literally buy $50 or $100 worth and put it in the freezer. Then I’ll stock up again when it goes on sale again, making it so I never pay full price for meat. If you have room for a freezer, it’s definitely worth the investment. Eventually, it will pay for itself.

  • Costco is my friend

I save a ton of money at Costco. Sure, when I go, my bill is higher than at the grocery store, but buying in bulk saves. Plus, the fruits and vegetables they have are much fresher and last longer. I could (and probably will) write an entire post about why I love Costco.

  • Plan meals around what’s on sale

Since I stock up when items are on sale, I usually have things like pasta, rice, and other staples handy all the time. If you go to a site such as MyFridgeFood.com where you can enter in ingredients you have and will give you recipes, it’s pretty simple to find something to make for dinner without having to spend money on that one ingredient you need that’s not on sale that week.  Also, the fruits and vegetables we eat are what’s in season and on sale that week.

We spend roughly $150 per week on groceries, not including formula and diapers. It still may seem like a lot for just two adults, but keep in mind, a lot of the food that we buy is healthy and/or organic and we always have stockpile. I could literally not go to the grocery store for two weeks and feed us without going out to dinner.

Call For Backup

For the last ten days or so, I’ve been extremely busy working 12-18 hour days every day. This happens to me once every four months. One of my clients has a HUGE meeting every four months and sends roughly 80 hours of audio from it. Luckily, I know when it’s coming, so I can prepare in advance.

The work started coming in Wednesday night. My awesome mother-in-law was on standby, so I called her and she made plans to be here Friday afternoon. Hubby took the baby to my parents’ house Thursday morning. I worked all day into the night and the baby stayed with my parents overnight until my mother-in-law could get here Friday. She stayed an entire week!

It was so awesome! She helped take care of the baby, cooked and did some projects around the house, making my workweek less crazy. I worked 12-18 hour days, but still got to play with my little one in between.

Don’t be afraid to call for backup when you need it. Not only are you managing your business, but you’re managing your family and whole life, and sometimes we need to delegate things on our to-do list that aren’t actually for work.

And if you don’t have family members around or anyone close who can help when you get inundated, then get creative. Is there a high school or college student you can pay to be a “mother’s helper” and take care of things while you’re working? Can your older kids help out more? What about your husband or partner?

How about making a deal with a neighbor or close-by friend whereby you pay for their groceries for a week, but they have to buy enough to include your family’s dinner as well?

Or if you know you’re going to be busy for a week, maybe you could spend a few hours the day before making meals to put in your freezer and take out during the week so you don’t have to cook.

If you find yourself having to do this often, then it’s time to delegate tasks for your business, raise your rates…or both!

Time Blocking for the Work-at-Home Mom

One of the hardest things for me to get a handle on when I became a mom was my work-life balance. It’s difficult when you work at home to actually separate your work from your home. You’re constantly at work. While being a work-at-home mom definitely has its benefits, when I have a real crazy day, sometimes I think it would be a lot easier to work a 9:00 to 5:00 job and leave the work actually at work. However, it’s TOTALLY possible to keep the overwhelm at minimum, get what you need actually done and stay sane in the process.

Look, I know that whether you’re a work-at-home mom or a stay-at-home-mom, sticking to a schedule is completely unrealistic. Trust me, I’ve tried. Your days are insanely unpredictable. Besides, who really wants to stick to a schedule anyway? Isn’t that one of the reasons why we work at home to begin with? But the way I “schedule” my days can actually be kind of fun.

I’m going to show you the best way to schedule your days as a work-at-home-mom in just a second, but it’s important to note that I don’t actually do this every day. On the light work days when I only really have three hours of less to work, I just make sure I get it done, do some light cleaning and spend the bulk of the day with my family.

I don’t go right to work in the morning. I get up, feed the baby and change her, and have a cup of coffee. When I sit down at the computer, the first thing I do is check my e-mail and chat with my assistant about things that are going on. After that, I make my “schedule” for the day. By this time, it’s usually around 9:00 or 10:00.

I put the most important things first. As I’m “scheduling” my day, I allot myself THREE TIMES the amount of time I think it would take me to do the task if I were uninterrupted. For times later in the day when the baby is sleeping, I allot myself two times the amount of time I think I would need.

The game I play is I challenge myself to get it all done before my end time. Usually, my scheduled end time is midnight. Of course it really depends on how much work I have to do. On rare occasions, it’s 2:00 AM, and sometimes it’s more like 6:00 PM. Either way, the goal is to get it all done BEFORE that time. Then it’s my choice with what I want to do with my time: work, family, chores, or personal.

If I don’t have a lot of work to do, sometimes I’ll schedule myself off from 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM, so I can spend time with my family. Then I’ll start up at 7:00 again with work and finish before I go to bed around 1:00 AM.

Personally, I can’t stand to sit at the computer and work all day, so I split it up between work and house chores. If you prefer, you can do all your work tasks first. That’s one of the many benefit of being able to work from home. Even though it gets crazy busy sometimes, there are a lot of days where I have the freedom to just do the work later on in the night and have a free day to spend with my family.

Here’s an example list of tasks I would schedule in a typical day and how long I think it would take me to do it if I were uninterrupted throughout the day and didn’t have a baby to take care of:

Work tasks:
1. Edit a 57-minute transcript (60 minutes)
2. Edit a 62-minute transcript (60 minutes)
3. Transcribe 60 minutes (3-3.5 hours)
4. Transcribe 50 minutes (2.5-3 hours)

The above tasks would take me roughly eight or nine hours to do. If I get lucky, seven. If I do other administrative work tasks in between like check e-mail, my workday could stretch to ten hours. Being in business coupled with working from home, with or without kids, it’s difficult to guess how long I may be working.

You can see in my schedule below that I gave myself double or triple the time it would normally take to complete the work tasks:

10:00-12:00: Edit a 57-minute transcript
12:00-1:00: Laundry + lunch
1:00-3:00: Edit a 62-minute audio
3:00-4:00: Laundry, clean bathrooms, bathe baby
4:30-6:00: Transcribe 30 minutes
6:00-7:00 Dinner
7:00-9:00: Transcribe 30 minutes
9:00-10:00: Watch a recorded show
10:00-1:00: Transcribe 50 minutes

It seems like a really full day, but I’m not actually doing what I have scheduled for myself that entire time. I’m reading e-mails, checking Facebook, and caring for my child in between. It takes about 45-60 minutes to edit a 57-minute audio, but I scheduled two hours for it. If I finish early, I have time to spend with my daughter or start the next task.

Inevitably, I do always get interrupted. The baby gets fussy or the phone rings or a series of important e-mails may come through. But by leaving myself enough time to account for these things, it all gets done. And most of the time, it gets done early. Should I finish editing that 57-minute audio by 11:00 AM, I can use the hour to spend time with my daughter. If at 10:30 Maya gets fussy and needs me, I can tend to her and still have enough time to finish editing by noon. If I do fall behind, I can move things around to the end of the day or the next day. I can skip watching my recorded show to catch up on work or leave cleaning the bathrooms for tomorrow.

Even though looking at my schedule it looks as though I’m not tending to my child, keep in mind the reason I schedule 2-3 times the amount of time I need to complete my work is actually so I can do just that. She gets a lot of love and attention throughout the day. If I didn’t have kids, everything on that list would be completed in a typical 8-hour workday. One of the reasons she’s not on that list is because I don’t want to schedule time in with my daughter. If she needs me, I stop what I’m doing and be a mommy. If I look over and see her being adorable, I’ll get up and play with her. I work more aggressively while she’s taking a nap and get things done a lot quicker.

I get to spend a lot more time with her than a mom who works full time would, and I’m very grateful for that.

Plus, not all my days are that full. Sometimes I only need four or six hours throughout the day to complete my work tasks. If that’s the case, I don’t lay out a schedule. I just make sure I get it done. I usually only make a schedule if I know it’s going to be an 8-hour day. If I only have four hours of work to do on a given day, I’ll do whatever I want all day and put in my four hours after the baby goes to bed and work from 8:00 until midnight.

And of course, I may have a stretch of days where I don’t work on anything and I just monitor my e-mails all day. Those are the days I’ll do errands, spend extra time with my family, and do the bigger more time-consuming chores around the house like re-organizing my closet or pantry.

Now, if I have a really busy stretch of days, I’ll bring Maya to my parents’ house for the day (or even overnight, so I can work late) and work like a crazy madwoman. I still do schedule those days, but it’s a more aggressive schedule leaving less time for each task.

This is the best way I’ve found to make it work. It’s impossible to work an 8-hour stretch without tending to your kids, so we have to work in “doses” throughout the day.