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This week’s Work-At-Home Success story comes from Susan Finch of Mothers Who Launch.
Susan Finch is a freelance writer and social media consultant living in Atlanta with her husband and two small children. Her career kicked off in New York City where she freelanced as a video editor on commercial campaigns for Marriott, Twix, Nike and beyond. Her husband is also self-employed and they enjoy taking working vacations with their kids. Susan founded MothersWhoLaunch.com, where she writes about growing sustainable side businesses to do more of what you love – like travel!
1) How did you get started working from home?
While living in New York, I freelanced as a video editor on commercial campaigns for clients like Marriott and Nike. I loved the work, but it just wasn’t sustainable. I frequently worked 12-hour days, and sometimes slept at the office. I knew one day I either wanted to have a family or travel more often; neither of which were achievable with my grueling hours. So I slowly worked my way into a family travel website as a writer and editor. I still work with that company today. It really swung open the doors to go on press trips, meet industry contacts and leverage my clips to break into major freelance writing markets.
I later worked full-time as the Multimedia Director at a Broadway marketing firm, but quit and went freelance again while pregnant with my first child. We ended up moving to my hometown of Atlanta, and I decided to solely focus on building up my freelance businesses and stay home with my kids. Now I have two children and haven’t worked in an office in over five years. It’s tough to juggle it all, but I love it!
2) How did you choose the work-at-home career you do?
I knew I wanted a creative outlet that I could work on from my laptop. I also wanted work that would always be in demand, and I saw that content was everywhere. Figuring out your niche as a freelance writer isn’t easy, but totally doable. It just takes a lot of focus, trial and error. I ended up piecing together writing work from markets that paid pretty well along with writing projects on topics I love. For now, my main writing focus is small business and travel related.
3) What initial steps to get started did you take?
I’ve always been a little impatient with my career, and am constantly jumping into things before I’m ready. In the beginning, this tactic worked to my disadvantage. People didn’t really take me seriously, or give me the time of day. But as I kept at it, caught a few breaks, and learned from trial and error; being impatient really made my career soar. I ended up getting published in The LA Times and landed travel guidebook work from just a couple of small feature articles on a website I wrote for.
4) How did you get your first client or customer or job?
Believe it or not, I got my first major breaks on Craigslist. While New York City’s Craigslist is saturated with opportunities, the competition is also fierce. It felt like everyone in New York was award-winning writers, so I had to act fast and figure out how to stand-out. I was diligent about responding to listings as quickly as possible. Often times that meant dropping whatever I was doing and applying immediately. I also worked hard on my responses and added in writing samples. It also helped to research the company a little to see what type of work they did and vibe they had. Over time, I also found that keeping a conversational tone and making myself seem like a normal, reliable person who loved to write actually worked.
Once I got the ball rolling, I continuously looked for new opportunities, cold emailed publications, and pitched myself. Working for yourself takes a lot of self-marketing and knowing how to position your unique skills and selling points.
5) How do you market your business?
I’ve been freelancing long enough that I either tap my contacts and let them know I’m looking for new projects, or cold email people I want to work with. I’ve mastered the art of a good cold email and usually have a really positive response rate. In my personal experience, using LinkedIN or Facebook ads hasn’t helped me. I’m sure there are ways to use those tools effectively, but I’m doing great with the system I’ve created for myself.
6) What does your usual day look like?
I’m lucky my 14-month-old and 4 ½ year old both get up around 7:30am. My husband also works from home, so we tag team to get them fed and dressed. My husband starts work around 9am, so I take my daughter to preschool down the street. Afterwards, I try to spend some one-on-one time playing with my son and straightening up a bit. If he’s occupied, I’ll try to answer an email or look over bills or other pressing matters. He usually takes a nap around 10:30am, and that’s when I head off to the coffee shop on the corner to work. My husband is in the home office and holds down the fort.
On a good day, I get about two hours of work done before my daughter gets home from preschool. The rest of the day is consumed with play, art projects, playing at a friends or swim class. I try to throw something together for dinner that’s reasonably healthy, and then it’s a marathon to get the kids through the evening routine before bedtime. Both kids go down by 8:00pm and I try to decompress and hang-out with my husband for an hour before working again.
Even though we’re both at home, most days I feel like I barely talk to my husband with everything going on. We don’t always have a lot of time in the evening for a date night, but we often have lunch or sit on the porch when our daughter is at school and son is napping. We’re also lucky to get to take long “working vacations” as a family. I’m writing this from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico – where we’re spending the month with our kids.
7) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
That I was good enough long before I took the plunge. I wish I didn’t worry so much about “paying dues”, making the right connections or doing it the “right” way. All of those things are just distractions to protect yourself from fear of failure.
8) What advice would you give someone who wants to work from home?
Narrow your focus to a few jobs that align with your career and lifestyle goals. Then go for it. Don’t wait until you’re “ready”. Instead, create a list of daily steps you can take to reach those goals starting today. For example, if you want to be a freelance writer, brainstorm the things you’re knowledgeable about. Then write down the markets that you could sell those ideas to. A lot of building up your own business and working from home is trial and error. So if you stumble and fail once, all it means is that avenue was a dead end. Try something else! Just keep going. Persistence and focus will get you a surprisingly long way.
To connect with Susan, visit her here:
Website URL: MothersWhoLaunch.com
Twitter Handle: @BySusanFinch