So here’s my story, the story of how I got to be so “lucky” as to land a telecommuting job and create a better work/life balance.
My husband and I invested in our first computer in 1996, and decided it might be fun to sign up with AOL. I quickly fell in love with the Internet and having all that information at my fingertips, day or night. In 1997 I found out I was pregnant and began to see the Internet in a whole new light. I was working for the Postal Service (enjoying great pay and fantastic benefits) and it dawned on me that the vast majority of the actual work I was doing could be done from home – via the Internet.
So I started searching online, a lot. I spent most of my free time at the computer, looking at options for resolving my desire to be a financially contributing member of my household, a productive member of society, and a flexible future mom. In the beginning I found more scams and sales representative recruiters than actual opportunities or helpful ideas. It really seemed as though stuffing envelopes, or selling some product to family and friends via home parties, or getting involved with multi-level marketing schemes were the only methods of making money from home.
But I kept looking and evolving through several stages in my quest. I was still working full time but I was also listening to books on tape about drop shipping, learning some basic html coding, reading books about finding my creative side, and searching the Internet to learn more about anything I found interesting.
Then I had my daughter and I took maternity leave. I took the entire 12 weeks, during which I bonded with my newborn and continued my online quest with a new-found sense of urgency. I came close to putting my typing skills to work at home as a medical transcriptionist, but didn’t like the thought of having to go out and talk doctors’ offices into letting me transcribe all those little tapes of theirs into proper documentation. I also have no medical background, so learning all those complicated medical terms (and spellings) seemed a bit too daunting.
I got really discouraged along the way! It seemed as if I were trying to find the impossible, an employer who would hire me and allow me to perform the work at home. But I kept looking and learning. I started lurking in online forums and message boards, reading everything I could find about occupations that I thought might boom with the Internet like graphics, desktop publishing, and website design. I began sending emails and letters to any work-at-home-able job vacancies I ran across online and in local newspapers. I would list my skills and assets as they pertained to the job, and offer to work remotely (sometimes even pointing out the benefits of hiring a remote employee like me from a business standpoint).
Then one day in 1998, one of the hundreds of emails I’d sent paid off. I got a response from someone who’d posted a message on a telecommuting forum saying she was looking for new moms who’d left the traditional work place, but were interested in (and able to) work on a contractual basis. She was a forward-thinking entrepreneur who’d started an Internet Advertising Agency from her home. She realized that searching for moms who needed flexibility would dip into a virtually untapped resource in the workforce and keep her overhead low while she built her business. Smart thinking!
Her need – finding a part time work force that was flexible and available to help her grow her new business. My need – finding a business that could benefit from my knowledge, skills, and flexibility. It was a perfect fit.
The forward-thinking owner of the agency hired me, and 2 other new moms who’d already left the traditional working world to stay at home with their children, as a cost-effective means of building her business. She offered to teach me what she needed me to know about her business and I agreed to a trial run with no pay. I was thrilled and began learning everything I could from her about her specific online marketing agency and from every other resource I could find online about publishing and marketing websites. I returned to work after maternity leave, but kept working for the online advertising agency. Pretty soon I was being paid for my work in client product, which quickly turned into a contractual, hourly wage.
I was commuting 30 minutes each way to work, spending more and more time working for the online ad agency, and still looking for other telecommuting opportunities in case that opportunity didn’t work out. I continued to learn basic html coding, website usability, WYSIWYG web publishing programs, graphics programs, and everything else I could think of that might be a handy skill to have. As I earned money, I reinvested in hardware and software.
I didn’t leave the safety and security of my day job until 1999. Pregnant with my second child. More confident in my belief that telecommuting was actually possible, and certain that the benefits of working from home far outweighed the full-time, traditional job benefits, I took the plunge. It was scary leaving the benefits of my employee status behind, but I was really looking forward to a totally flexible work schedule.
Shortly after I left the traditional work force I devoted more time to web publishing and graphics on my own because (1) I found them fascinating and (2) those skills totally related to the work I was doing for the ad agency. In 2000 I had my 2nd child and started my own business. Before I knew it, both of my ventures were going well and I had to decide which to devote my full attention to. I opted for concentrating my efforts on increasing hours and responsibilities with the ad agency since it was growing by leaps and bounds, and maintained my web publishing business on the back-burner.
In 2008 I once again re-vamped. The ad agency had really grown and I was the only remote worker left amongst the in-house employees. I’d really taken to and excelled in a singular aspect of online marketing and was more interested in specializing than diversifying so when push came to shove, I opted to leave the agency as opposed to taking on a more traditional employee role. The idea of having benefits like paid vacation and sick leave was tempting, but I’d become so totally spoiled by the flexibility of working around my family’s schedule that the thought of being tied to my computer during traditional office hours, even from home, no longer sounded like a good exchange for the security and benefits of employee status.
So here I am, at the end of 2010, still working from home (though my home office has vastly improved) . . . still bringing my kids to school every morning and picking them up every afternoon (though my youngest will soon graduate from elementary school) . . . still in love with the Internet, and still learning, adapting, and venturing out into new and exciting endeavors at every turn.
Oh, and according to the USPS 2009 Sustainability Report, flexible work arrangements are all the rage:
Partnering with Information Technology, we have implemented flexible work arrangements for headquarters and related employees, which allow employees to work remotely, reducing commuting costs.
Approximately 2,500 employees now either telecommute or participate in the alternate work schedule program, saving an estimated 125,000 gallons of gas and 2.7 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.