4woman Ladies

Turning the Skills You Already Have Into an At-Home Income

That beautiful baby is nearly three months old, and (at last!) sleeping through the night. You love this little person more than you ever dreamed possible, and you’re starting to really feel good about being a mother. Consequently, you’re having second thoughts about going back to work—just as your maternity leave is about to end.

Or perhaps you’ve already gone back to work, and you’re finding that you just can’t do it all. There’s no way you can put in 40-plus hours each week on the job, keep your house reasonably clean, keep up with your children’s activities and still get a decent night’s sleep. As for having any time to yourself—well, forget it.

Or maybe you’ve come back home. You love being with your children all day, but the loss of your income has severely constrained your family’s finances. Your husband is thinking about taking a second job. You don’t want him to do that, but you don’t want to go back to work, either.

Any of these situations could prompt you to think about how you might earn money from home. Working from home could be the perfect solution to your work-family conflict—if you can figure out what you might do.

The quickest way to transform your dream of an at-home income into reality is to capitalize on skills you already have. This Info Guide will show you the three steps you should take to do just that.

The three steps are to:

  1. Know yourself;
  2. Know your market; and
  3. Put that knowledge together.

Let’s see how each of these steps can help you put your special skills to work making money from home.

Step 1: Know Yourself

Before you can turn your skills into an at-home income, you need to know just what those skills are. You can develop that knowledge by taking a personal inventory. Ask yourself the following questions:

What do you like to do—and what are you good at doing?

As you answer this question, don’t limit your responses to what you enjoyed doing on your last paying job. Be sure to include activities you enjoy doing with your family, your friends and by yourself. The longer your list of activities is, the longer your list of skills will be.

For example, a mother who enjoys her work as a public relations writer certainly should include writing in her inventory. But she shouldn’t stop there. If she’s also an avid gardener, she should note that, too. By doing so, she not only identifies an obvious area of expertise—writing—upon which to base her enterprise. She’s also noted a subject matter area—gardening—that can help her identify a niche for her writing.

A real-life example is a mother who worked for pay as a secretary—and was good at her job—but also enjoys cooking. Her culinary interests proved to be a better basis for an at-home income than her secretarial skills were. Later on in this Info Guide, you’ll see why.

Is there anything you really hate doing?

The answers to this question are just as important as your responses to the previous question. If you try to make money from home doing something you hate doing, you won’t do that job well—even if you’re doing it from the comforts of home. By knowing what you don’t want to do, you can make sure income-generating efforts don’t require you to do so.

For example, suppose our public relations writer had to write daily reports for one of the accounts she serviced, even though she hated doing so. She should use that knowledge to make sure that, if her future business includes writing, she doesn’t accept assignments that involve daily deadlines.

Another example might be a nurse who’s looking for ways to generate home-based income. If she knows that she really doesn’t enjoy working with elderly people, she should avoid offering services to that group—even though such services are in high demand.

Can you build on the skills you already have?

The answers to this question will help you refine your income-generating ideas. Suppose, for example, our public relations writer has always wanted to learn how to use a graphic arts or page layout program. She could take a course on how to use one of those programs, or teach herself to use it. Eventually, she could offer desktop publishing services as part of a writing business.

The real-life former secretary mentioned earlier in this Info Guide decided to add cake baking to her list of cooking skills. She took a course on cake baking and decorating from a local kitchen store. Today that former secretary, now a mother of five, generates a tidy at-home income baking one-of-a-kind cakes for children’s birthday parties.

What’s going on in your life right now?

The answer to this question—which really is a series of related questions—will help you determine the conditions under which you’ll generate an at-home income.

How old are your children? How many hours per week do you want to devote to your business? How much money do you want or need to make? If your children are younger than 5 or 6 years of age, are you willing to utilize day care or baby-sitting arrangements to increase the amount of time you can work?

If our public relations writer has school-aged children, she probably can work without interruption from early morning until mid-afternoon. That would give her between 25 and 30 hours a week with which to generate income.

On the other hand, if her children are toddlers, she may be unable to work more than five or 10 hours a week unless she’s willing to utilize a babysitter or day care provider. That willingness, in turn, may depend on how much money she’s willing to pay a provider and how much money she thinks she can make. If she doesn’t want to utilize day care, she may need to settle for making less money until her children start school.

Of course, the public relations writer’s dilemma doesn’t apply to everyone. The cake-baking former secretary has no problem combining mothering and baking. In fact, she has a built-in staff of taste-testers—her children—who are happy to work for nothing!

Step 2: Know Your Market

Now that you’ve identified what you can offer and how you might do so, you need to consider who would need or want to buy your product or service. Those individuals or organizations represent your market. To determine who or what your market is, ask yourself the following questions:

Who might benefit from your knowledge, skills or talents?

Ask yourself how your skills could help individuals or organizations. For example, suppose our garden-loving public relations writer visits her local nursery and asks an employee a question. If the employee tells her, "You know, a lot of people ask us that," she knows that the nursery might benefit from having a written answer to that question available to provide to customers.

How could you offer that product or service in a way that would make those beneficiaries want to buy it?

Our writer needs to ask herself how to present the gardening information she could prepare in a way that would attract the nursery’s interest. For example, the nursery probably wouldn’t be interested in an offer to develop one-page answers to common gardening questions. Such a product would do little, if anything, to help the nursery meet its most important objective: increasing sales. However, a newsletter that offered not only gardening information, but also showcased the nursery’s products might elicit greater interest, because that kind of publication could generate more sales.

Another example might be a former music teacher who is looking for ways to teach from home and also wants to meet other mothers. She could develop "Mommy and Me" singing classes for mothers and their toddlers—as one enterprising Iowa mother already has done. These classes introduce music to the children, provide an activity for mothers to share with their children and open up great networking opportunities for the mothers.

Who else is providing this product or service?

The answer to this question can reveal two types of information, both of which can help you refine your ideas. First, you can determine who your competition might be and how formidable it is. Second, you may have identified someone who might share his knowledge of this market with you and refer work to you.

Maybe our public relations writer already receives a newsletter from the nursery. Her writing experience might tell her that this newsletter is poorly produced, with lots of typos and an unattractive design. Her gardening knowledge could help her realize that the newsletter contains inaccurate information. Either way, our writer has found a wonderful business opportunity. If she can show the nursery that she can produce a better newsletter, she may win her first assignment.

On the other hand, the nursery newsletter may be an outstanding product. In that case, our writer has a fine market research opportunity. She could talk with the person who produces the newsletter. She could ask how he obtains information, designs the newsletter and sends it to recipients. She also could ask how he got the job, what software he uses and the price he charges the nursery. That information will help the public relations writer develop a strategy for marketing similar newsletters to other nurseries.

Step 3: Put Your Knowledge Together

As you can see, by asking the right questions, our public relations writer has determined not only the skills she can offer, but also who might benefit from them. Her answers have helped her identify both a product and a market for that product. When our writer puts that knowledge together, the result is a clear business idea: developing marketing newsletters for nurseries and garden centers.

Our writer still has much to do before she can open for business. However, simply taking the three steps—knowing herself, knowing her market and putting that knowledge together—she stands a good chance of being able to use her current skills and interests to generate an at-home income.

The same is true of our other examples: the cake-baking former secretary; the music teacher who starts mother-and-child singing classes, the nurse who figures out what she’s good at—and what she’s not.

You can do the same. An at-home income is waiting for you—if you ask the right questions. Here is a chart that might help you develop some more ideas.

If you're skilled at.... You could earn money from home by...
  • Giving classes in health care
  • Offering care-giving services for infants, seniors or other special groups (check licensing requirements in your state or county)
  • Offering classes to young children
  • Offering classes to seniors
  • Tutoring
Word Processing
  • Typing term papers, resumes, other documents (with pick-up and delivery)
  • Managing mailing lists for clubs or associations
Computer Programming
  • Testing Software
  • Customizing Software
  • Family Day Care (check licensing requirements in your state or county)
Cooking and/or baking
  • Catering children's parties