Mine is not a tale of the current economy eating up my job and leaving me unemployed. Six years ago, I became unemployable in my industry when I hit 40. No, I’m not a quarter back. Or a super model. I was a Creative Director at a big ad agency. I was at photo shoots with celebrities and schmoozing with the all-powerful heads of agencies worldwide in industry conferences in Tucson. I had it made. I loved my job. And I was darn good at it.
Little did I realize, as a 40-year-old single mother I had secretly made it on to my agency’s hit list. I was unwilling to party with my team after hours. My knowledge base, although extensive and valuable, was costing them a lot of money. And then, well, I’m a girl. And this is the patriarchal South. Standing up to one particular office bully on behalf of my coworkers finally got me, er, paid to leave. And in 6 seconds, I went from a $100,000 to nothin’.
What’s a girl to do when she has spent her whole life building a career that’s suddenly over at 40? Throw a temper tantrum and down a box of chocolates. Then, become a work-at-home mother.
I started doing freelance projects designing, naming products, writing promotions, and any other creative task I could get my hands on, for the large number of people that I had known in my industry. My former employees, now Creative Directors themselves, continued to hire me here and there to help them on projects. I'm so glad that certain Creative Directors are not holding it against me for asking them to dress as Power Rangers for Quinn's 3rd Birthday when they were my intern and copywriter, respectively.
I’d have to say it’s a lot more stressful to work this way, for me, because I’m a creature of habit. I like going to an office. I like office coffee. I like working on building a brand over a number of years. I like being a part of a bigger think tank. And personally, I hate Photoshop. And it hates me.
But I have learned a few things about working at home, while I’ve adjusted to my new “job”. These invaluable tidbits may help you as you venture forth on your own. Or, you can toss them in the potty as my son does with his current tennis ball collection.
1. Don’t let your children see you working on the computer, or they’ll think you like it better than them.It’s been a huge adjustment for me. I think I'm still adjusting. We don’t eat out as much. I don’t have any nice clothes or shoes, just Crocs (that I scored half price) and jeans, thank you very much. My sons go to public school. No trips to spas, or cavorting with celebs. My 15-yr-old car and 7-yr-old computer finally both broke down this year and had to be replaced. In the same month. So I'm at negative $28 in income for 2011. Wheee!
2. Send out invoices as soon as you finish a project, or you may forget to send them at all.
3. You don’t have to spend money on shoes or dry cleaning when you work at home, nobody cares if you’re building their ad in your pajamas.
4. Don’t answer emails immediately…you’ll get your clients used to getting things from you immediately. They’ll wait.
5. Get a good CPA who can do your now crazy non-1040EZ taxes.
6. You CAN live with only one Starbucks coffee a week.
7. Couponing is the best pastime ever invented. And more profitable than gambling in Las Vegas.
But I can get $200 worth of groceries for about $45 on a regular basis.
I still think I’ve got a ways to go adjusting to the new mindset of work-at-home mother. But I really don’t miss all that stuff anymore. Except maybe the Starbucks.
I am currently a creative freelancer and a nationally recognized blogger here at Mommy’s Wish List. I'm now married and have two boys ages 15 and 6. I can often been seen handing out coupons to other mommies in the school parking lot, talkin’ smack over coffee with the other Housewives of Oak Cliff, and cursing at both Photoshop and Illustrator in my glamorous dining room office.
Want to put a Mommy's Wish List Button on your own blog? I'd be honored. Go here to get the code for that! And, gee, thanks! Brands and PR peeps go here to find out more about hiring me as your brand ambassador, freelance writer, or spokesperson. Or, go here to contact me for other creative freelance projects like naming, promotion concepts, design, and copywriting. See a Pinterest Board Portfolio of my work here.