Working at Home: Things I’ve Tried

31 Days

So I have this blog about working from home. And you may wonder: What does she do? Does she even know what she’s talking about? Well, in regards to working from home, I don’t really do much. I’m not even sure I know what I’m talking about.

I have tried a few work-at-home ventures. Some of them were successful, some seasonal, some not-so-successful. A few I’m still doing today. Each job has helped me learn things that helped me in my overall work-at-home lifestyle. Here are some things I’ve tried:

1. Telephone Solicitor

Since you gave a great shudder when you read that job title, I would like to think of another term. However, my first job from home began when I was 15, and that’s truthfully what I did. I wanted to make some extra money while still maintaining my school, extracurricular activities and homework schedule. So, while my friends got “cool” jobs at Domino’s and a candy store, my mom spoke to her boss about hiring me on to work from home.

Let me hasten to say that I did not work for a credit card company and I did not sell anything. I worked for a charity that asked people for donations of clothing and household items to sell in their thrift store.

I never met my boss in person. She would mail me a list of people to call, and I would receive a small commission from each successful pickup. If the donors were extra generous, I would get bonuses. I could ask for as many names as I wanted, but I had a certain quota to meet each week.

I continued this job through high school and even after I got married. I finally had to turn notice when I had a baby that didn’t like to contribute to a quiet atmosphere for talking on the phone in the evenings and mornings. Unfortunately, most people weren’t home at nap time to call.

Lessons Learned: Becoming comfortable talking with people over the phone, fielding difficult questions on the spot, soothing irate customers given to profanity.

Tools of the Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center Telephone Sales Blitz, July 26, 2010

2. Piano Teacher

I was in my junior year of high school when my piano teacher told me that I was ready to start teaching beginning students. She encouraged me to advertise and start teaching children piano lessons. About the same time, a friend from church asked me to teach her son and another friend from church told a relative.

Those first two students were incredibly easy to teach and quick learners, so I delved a little deeper and put up a business card at the music store. I never advertised more than that, and word of mouth has provided me with probably 50 students over the years.

By the time my baby was born and I had to quit my telephone job, I was teaching piano to 17 students three evenings a week after my husband came home to be with the baby.

This has been the one job I have stuck with over the years because I can scale back to fewer students during busier seasons (like now!). I broke my no advertising rule a year or so ago and put a quick ad up on Betterfly. I have received one student from that who is just a model student. My other students are all friends or friends of friends to this day.

Lessons Learned: Working with children, realizing that the love of learning is more important to instill than just skills.

2.27.12  Star Wars Piano Method

3. Home Party Sales Rep

At one of my mother-in-law’s home decorating parties while I was pregnant with my first child, I succumbed to the wonderful opportunity of having my “own business”. My family and friends were kind enough to host a few parties for me. I did this into the last month of my pregnancy, dragging display tables and order forms into homes with my protruding belly.

While many companies today make this worthwhile, the company I was with charged so many fees that I finally decided my profit margin was too small to continue. I decided to focus on other things that were more profitable, especially after the birth of my little one.

Lessons Learned: Owning a business is a different ballgame than working for others, sales is not my strong point.

4. Blogging

I hesitate to list this as a work-from-home job. Although many bloggers do make income from their blogs, I do not yet. Technically, I have received free review items and pennies in commission from some affiliate links I haphazardly put in my posts. A few of you have signed up under my Swagbucks links and contributed to a few free gift cards a year. However, as a regular source of income and on a tax form, blogging has cost me more than it has made me.

Though blogging may never be an income source for me, it has opened up some opportunities and helped me hone skills for other ventures. Writing is my one true love when it comes to working. It is the place where my passion and income opportunities meet. I suppose I’m just waiting on finding the right market.

Lessons Learned: The basics of writing online, helping others and receiving help to grow a business without competition, some basic HTML, the importance of discovering my passion.

blogging makes you a better marketer

5. Freelance Writing

Blogging taught me that I loved to write, and I will blog whether I receive income from it or not. However, I began to look for ways to make income with my writing. I found some online places where I can get work when I want it. I have not delved into writing as my own business yet. During this season, I don’t have time to develop it properly. However, using what some disparagingly call “content mills”, I have been able to make extra income. Although I am too busy to keep this up on a regular basis, I fall back on this when I need extra money quickly.

Lessons Learned: Honed my writing skills with honest critiques from editors, what clients want for SEO optimization and  to promote their businesses.

6. Magazine Advertising Sales

One of the opportunities blogging opened up to me was the opportunity to write for a Christian homeschooling magazine. Because of my connections with them, I was one of the first to know when they began to hire promotions consultants for the magazine. I worked for them about 8 months, finding and contacting companies that I thought would be a good fit for the magazine.

While I loved the people I worked for and with and did make some income from the sales commissions, I finally came to the same conclusion that I reached after my time in the home party business. The income was not equal to the work I put into it, and sales wasn’t really my thing anyway. I guess I should have remembered that!

Lessons Learned: What goes into a good magazine ad, how to offer what customers need without being pushy, the importance of relationship and loving the item I am selling.

What things have you tried in your work-at-home journey? What lessons have you learned?

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