How Not to Work 9 to 5
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How to make a living as a Solo Mom while making a life
When I found myself an unexpected Solo Mom right after the recession hit, finding a job was more than challenging. I applied to all of my staple coffee girl–type positions to complement going to school, but I couldn’t find anyone willing to give me a chance. I was not only in my late 20s (and therefore “older”) but also had a kid without a partner, which, in their eyes, was like I’d painted “Unreliable” on my forehead.
I started working as a house cleaner (since I always worked during day-care hours anyway). After a while, I branched out from working for a company at $9 an hour to cleaning houses on my own for anywhere from $15 to $25 an hour. I also did landscaping, which was really just pulling weeds and mowing lawns, but even that was an easy $20 an hour.
These jobs, though not glamorous, helped me to not have to work more than 30 hours a week to make ends meet while I went to school. Instead, I could juggle a few days per week of cleaning and not have my daughter, Mia, in day care 12 hours a day like she’d been when I worked full time for the cleaning company.
Since graduating from college, I’ve made a point to no longer clean houses, and I made my way into a decently successful freelancing career. It took a good six months to learn a few tricks of the trade, but I’m now earning more monthly than I was during those first six months, and I’m able to work from home and be with my toddler. (Though, it is currently midnight as I write this, with said toddler in my lap.)
In addition to house cleaning, landscaping, and freelancing, here are some other jobs you can easily pick up if you have the right skill set and desire:
A friend of mine watches four to five kids, in addition to her one-year-old son, four days a week. She charges about $40 a day per child, and she makes enough to pay her mortgage and live pretty comfortably. She has also gone to school, raised a teenager, and obtained her doctorate as a Solo Mom. So, it can be done!
In addition to selling articles online, there are loads of opportunities for writing website content. It’s all about learning to pitch, getting some contacts, telling people you’re interested, and going from there. I started with setting up a WordPress.com site as an online business card. I had a page of publications, a blog, a page of written references, and a bio, but it was also something that served as a writing sample. Many businesses struggle with writing about themselves (who doesn’t?), and they hire people to fill in the blank space. Just be sure to always get agreements in writing before submitting work. Never work “on spec” (where you write samples for them to see if they like you) or for free!
I got my bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing, and I have been dreaming of being a paid writer for two decades. I still pinch myself daily to remind myself that I do this for a living. What surprised me most about freelancing is that once you learn who the contacts are and how to pitch to them, it’s pretty simple. An acquaintance of mine created this list to give people an idea of the market and going rates for essays and articles. Most editors’ email addresses can be found by googling the publication name and “editor.” Look for the managing editor, not the senior editor. And often these editors will have Twitter accounts with their email address listed. There are many, many sites out there looking for all kinds of articles to fill their daily content quota. Find your niche, and go for it!
I’ve gone back to a blog by Alexa Mason called Single Moms Income many times for guidance; Mason reportedly makes $1,000 per month just from advertisements on her blog, which is full of tips. You can also check out Beyond Your Blog for tips such as how to get published in the Huffington Post or the New York Times’ Motherlode blog.
In addition to the above, there’s editing, graphic design, academic and résumé writing, ghost writing, digital/virtual assistants, social media managers, and event listing and organizing. Almost everything you click on is the result of someone working to get it in front of you. Freelancing is all about promoting yourself and your abilities. See where it takes you. Check out Brian Scott’s Morning Coffee newsletter online, and subscribe to receive a list of job notices in your email account every morning. Sometimes all it takes is a few regular gigs.
Raising young kids on your own is incredibly hard and can sometimes feel impossible. It takes a lot of resources to make ends meet. For me, I wanted to be able to spend as much time with my kids as possible without going the traditional route of working 9 to 5, five days a week, in order to barely pay the bills. Not to say I haven’t done it before, it just wasn’t something I wanted to do long term. Working from home, setting your own schedule, and all that comes with that has its own type of insanity as well. If I’ve learned anything, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and you can google just about any question and find a website dedicated to the answer. So start asking those questions!
Sister Chat is an opportunity to ask questions of other Solo Moms. Why not find out how other Solo Moms balance work and family?
Stephanie Land, has a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from the University of Montana. She and her two daughters live in Missoula, Montana. Read more of her story at stepville.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @stepville.
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