A couple of weeks ago, I asked WAHS readers to complete a survey to help me improve their experience at Work-At-Home Success. At the very end, I allowed readers to share comments that might have been covered in the survey questions. One reader said she’d like to know my story.
Bits of my story are posted on the About Page, but I thought I’d give a little more information so you can see what a winding road I took to work-at-home success.
I first thought about working at home in 1991. I was just married and already thinking ahead to having children and wanting to be at home with them. I read a few books and magazines about home business and entrepreneurship, and ultimately decided to start a home-based scholarship search service because that seemed to fit best with my background in school social work. I invested $500 into a scholarship service biz op, paid $200 for a phone service, rented a room at the junior college to conduct a seminar, and printed and handed out fliers. I’m still not sure where I got the money, but needless to say, only 2 people came to my workshop and the biz op service that would be providing the scholarship information went out of business the next month. Not a very good start to my work-at-home journey.
At my workshop, a man approached me and wanted to know if I wanted to leverage my time and money. “Who doesn’t,” I thought. Several business meetings later, I was involved in an MLM and trying to “pick up” prospects at the grocery store and anywhere else I happened to go. I hated it. At that same time, my husband and I decided that we couldn’t afford to live in California on a teacher and social worker’s salary, so we packed up and moved to central Virginia.
One day, the UPS guy was delivering my monthly order of MLM products, when he asked me about them. Turns out he was involved in the same company. It took a lot of work, but we switched to work with this guy since he was closer. Now that I understand MLM better, I feel bad for quitting my sponsor in California. But in the end, I didn’t do any of them any good. I didn’t like doing what needed to be done to build the business and so I didn’t.
I continued to work outside the home as a school social worker/guidance counselor, but longed to be home with my son and so I continued to search for ways to make that happen. Here is a running list of the things I did:
- Business to business sales (hated it)
- Real Estate (stressful)
- Home typing business (had only one client)
- Direct sales in toys (still didn’t want to do what needed to be done)
- Envelop Stuffing…yep I succumb to that one. I sent money, but I knew when I got the info that it was bad, so fortunately, I never perpetuated the scam.
In the midst of all this, my step-father had bought me a new computer and I was trying out MS Publisher. I’d been comfortable with computers for some time. I used one in college (Apple IIe), and bought my first PC for $100 (going out of business sale). I later spent $2000 on a Tandy that had a whopping 20 mb hard drive. Anyway, by the time I got this new computer, and saw that Publisher had a website building feature, I wasn’t nervous about giving it a try.
In January 1998, I launched Work-At-Home Success (here’s a snapshot of Work-At-Home Success in January 1999). I spent $35 a year for the domain and $22 a month for hosting…what a rip off, eh? Today you can get a domain for $10 a year and hosting for $8 a month. I worked in a coat closet in my living room, where I could watch my kids. Eventually, I took a part of the dining room. Once we moved to our new home, I took the living room.
Blogs didn’t exist in 1998, but if they did, WAHS would have been one. I shared information I was learning about working at home, stories from successful home-based workers and even posted 1 telecommuting job a month. (Today I post 70 jobs a week!) As opportunities to make money on the Internet grew, I began to take advantage of them. I started promoting books through Amazon’s Associate Program and joining other affiliate programs. You might be interested to know that it took me awhile to get on board with affiliate marketing because I was worried that it was a conflict of interest. But I decided that if I was honest and vetted the resources that appeared on the site, it would be okay.
Another interesting factoid is that Work-At-Home Success wasn’t and still isn’t my main source of income. I think that’s one reason why people find me credible. I’ve done a lot and continue to do a lot of different activities to work at home. In 1999, I created a home-made booklet about telecommuting. People had to print out the form from my site and send me their payment, and then I’d send them the booklet. That meant I needed a merchant account (this is before PayPal) and I had to manually enter people’s credit card numbers to the processor. Another hassle with online business was dealing with email (this was before Aweber or Get Response). Eventually, online payments, ebooks and email services evolved.
In 2002, I started working at home as an adoption social worker, something I still do on a contract basis. In 2003 or so, I wanted to write a book on telecommuting because there was no current information about it even though it was (and still is) the most common reason people visit Work-At-Home Success. I wrote a boring proposal and of course didn’t get a book deal. So I self-published it in print and ebook. In 2007, I rewrote that proposal so that it wasn’t boring and was able to get an agent who sold the book to Adams Media. That book was the Work-At-Home Success Bible.
In 2005, I joined yet another MLM. This time it was different because I could work online and use the phone. No in-person prospecting or home parties. I did okay, but eventually burned out (I was on the phone nearly every night of the week). Still, sometimes I think I should get back to it. I haven’t worked on the business part since about 2007 (I’m still a customer), and yet I still get a check each month. It’s not a big check, but there aren’t many opportunities that continue to pay after you stop working.
Along the way, blogging entered the picture and over the years I’ve started a variety of blogs, many of which are still around, a few of which are dormant. But some are doing pretty well. I’ve also developed information products, such as the email courses through Work-At-Home Success University. In 2009, I started freelance writing for online markets, which I still do. Around that time, I started offering seminars and speaking at live events, which I really enjoy.
Today, my income comes from a variety of blogs, information products, books, freelance writing and speaking. I’ve also ventured into fiction writing, which I do under a pen name. I’m loving what I do now, but I’ve been around long enough to know that things will change. New opportunities will come that interest me. Having this crazy route to work-at-home success has helped me see that I can change my mind. I can stop doing something I don’t like and replace it with something I enjoy.
Lessons Learned: Here are some lessons you can learn from my story
1. Learn about working at home first. At the beginning of my journey, there wasn’t very much available that covered working at home, home business, etc. But now there are tons of books and websites (such as this one) that have the information you need to make an informed decision about what’s best for you.
2. Don’t just follow the money or what seems easy. This is the real reason MLM gets a bad rap. Too many people join to make a quick, easy buck, and quit when they learn it’s not as easy as they thought. MLM is a viable way to make money, but you need to make sure it’s a good company and you like the products. The same is true of any work-at-home opportunity you look at whether it’s eBay, blogging, etc.
3. Inventory your interests, experiences, talents, skills and passions to find a work-at-home opportunity that you’ll enjoy. In my own experience, and after interviewing hundreds of people for the WAHS podcast, I can tell you that the happiest, most successful home-based workers are doing something they love.
4. Be sure you’re willing to do what needs to be done in whatever work-at-home venture you choose. MLM didn’t fail me, I failed it. I didn’t want to talk to everyone standing 3-feet from me or call people for a party, which were the two most common ways to build an MLM business at the time. If you don’t like math, don’t be a bookeeper. If you don’t like mailing stuff, don’t do eBay.
5. Commit to the long haul. Even with the ease and speed of the Internet, no one is an overnight success. To build an income that can support you and lasts, you need to research, plan, work, pick yourself up from frustration, defeat and failure, and work some more.
6. It’s difficult to work-at-home with children. Hire help, put them in pre-school or learn to live without sleep.
7. It’s easy to not work enough or to work too much. Schedules, routine and to-do lists are crucial.
Leslie Truex is an ideaphoric writer, speaker, entrepreneur, social worker and mom trying to do it all from the comfort of her home. Since 1998, she's been helping others create careers they love by providing work-at-home information and resources through Work-At-Home Success.
Note: Work-At-Home Success contains advertising as well as screened work-at-home jobs and resources. Some posts may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive compensation if you register or buy using the link. Occasionally, WAHS publishes "Supporting Contributor" posts or paid reviews for which compensation is paid. These posts are marked as such. All opinions are my own. Click here for full details and disclosures.