Starting a New Career Without Leaving Home

As any stay-at-home mom can tell you, quitting work and staying home to raise a baby is a far cry from retirement. If you’re planning on it — or have already done it — you’ll find that this 24/7 on-call position provides many intangible benefits, but, unfortunately, no income.

However, if and when “mom” decides to go back to work, it doesn’t have to be for an all-or-nothing, full-time career. And if you want to work part time, you have more options than being a supermarket cashier or hosting house-wares parties.

When I left my position as a marketing-communications professional to raise a family, I still wanted and needed to work in some capacity. That’s when I decided a free-lance marketing career was the best route for me.

Feast or Famine

I believed small and midsize companies were my best prospects, so I targeted them. I usually was hired on a per project basis — writing, designing and producing brochures, newsletters and other print materials. It seemed that it was always feast or famine, and after five years and two more kids, I decided to pull up stakes on marketing and focus on writing.

Although I had a wealth of copywriting experience, I had little to show in the way of feature stories or news articles. But most aspiring free-lance writers are always asked to show clippings as proof of their abilities. So how do you get clippings if you need clippings to get a writing assignment? Tricky situation.

I thought that my local weekly newspaper would be desperate to hire anyone who was even marginal at writing. Lucky for me, I was right (about the hiring part, not about being a marginal writer). It paid $25 per article, which wasn’t nearly enough to justify the time involved, but I was being rewarded with my clips, so I accepted.

After writing several articles — one even garnered me a “writer of the month” award — I had enough clippings to show other editors that I had talent. Soon after, I contacted a local parenting magazine and quickly became its feature writer for a much more palatable fee. My editor there, whom I absolutely worshipped, left to edit a children’s health Web site. Fortunately she asked me to write for her again — this time, at an even better rate. Now, I write for both the magazine and the Web site.

Testing the Waters

I may not be a typical jobhunter because I’m not seeking full-time work, but I’m not that unusual either. I know lots of primarily stay-at-home moms who want to get back to work — whether for personal satisfaction or to build college-saving accounts. If you’re among them and have time to spare, you may want to test the waters as I did. Volunteering or working for low pay can sometimes open the door to better opportunities.

If you are interested in a specific field, but lack recent experience, as I did, offer to work more for the exposure than for the money. Getting hired in areas that use what you know is the easiest route. You’ll be most marketable by capitalizing on your prior roles. And you may even be able to dig up some old contacts who can help you get started. But if you’re passionate about pursuing something different, finding work will be more difficult.

Either way, a resource worth checking our job site. This Web site offers advice on balancing work and family plus a list of part-time, telecommuting and small-business ideas that may fit your lifestyle.

Don’t be shy. Being quiet about what you want to do will get you nowhere. Ask friends and former colleagues for referrals; contact business organizations for networking assistance; or call temporary placement agencies and inquire about professional temping and other temp positions besides hourly clerical work. They may be portals to something bigger and better.

Will I return to a corporate, full-time job? Not if I don’t have to. I enjoy the flexibility and being home when the kids walk in the door after school. But as I gain more free time and college-tuition costs loom closer and higher, working is becoming a combination of need and want. For that reason and because I love what I do, I write on.

By Christine Ippolito