In May 2014 I ended a twelve year relationship that I’d been in since I left school, and suddenly had to face the prospect of caring for two children and working full time outside of the home, doing all the household chores, shopping for groceries, etc etc. All the usual “mum” stuff but all on my own. It was scary, and hard, and eventually something had to give. I had to return to working for myself from home to give me the flexibility I needed as a single parent to juggle all of my responsibilities as well as allowing me to reduce my reliance on childcare and wraparound school care in order to reduce my monthly outgoings.
I am lucky in that I have a skill that is easily transferable to home working. In fact, I can work from virtually anywhere: well, anywhere with power, wifi and a supply of coffee. But if you’ve been out in the workplace in a non skilled profession or have been a stay at home parent for years, you may not have access to such a marketable skill. So where do you begin if you have limited experience or no prior work at home experience?
5 Low-Skill Flexible Work at Home Jobs for Single Parents
- Customer support assistants – working for a third party via a virtual call center or online management, respond to customer support requests via email, phone, helpdesk software etc
- Sales reps – working for a third party selling physical or digital products (sometimes relies on cold calling and sales bonuses, only recommend if you have proben sales experience)
- Website/App testing – get paid to test websites and phone apps with existing tech equipment most people have at home
- Data entry – ideal for those who are fast and accurate at typing
- Audio transcription – listen to audio files and type what you hear (fast/accurate typing also required)
Alternatively, if you’re actually the next Stephen King, have a creative streak, or have managed staff and offices, you might be suited to more skilled roles:
8 Skilled Flexible Work at Home Jobs for Single Parents
- Crafting/creating – create products at home and sell on marketplace websites like etsy, Supermum’s Craft Fair, etc
- Copywriting – write copy (text) for others (avoid ‘content mills’ who pay poorly for badly written, churned out text)
- Editor/Proofreader – proofread other people’s copy quickly, spotting mistakes that others might miss
- Tutoring – turn your experience into online lessons, webinars, or 1-to-1 tutoring for other people’s benefit
- Social Media Management – use knowledge of social media to represent the identities of 3rd party companies
- Virtual Assistants – use office/PA skills to manage and assist other people
- Translation – if you’re skilled with multiplate languages, translate documents
- Personal Training – offer diet and fitness tips online through webinars, limited access paid facebook groups, private blogs
Of course, finding a job that you can do from home is just step one. Breaking into a new industry, or starting again from scratch, can be intimidating. It’s even harder if you have to do this while keeping odd hours around school days, children’s nap times and the like.
Getting started working at home as a single parent
So, first things first… you need to figure out if you’re going to work for yourself as a self employed sole trader, or find a company that allows remote home working in the position/career area you’re interested in. If you are going to work for yourself, be sure to read our guide on how to register as self employed. It’s easier than it sounds, can be done online, and is absolutely crucial to ensure your work and income is legal. The last thing any single parent needs is a visit from the tax man! Alternatively, if you plan on remote working for a third party, check out our guide on the ins and outs of remote working.
Once you’ve decided on how you’re going to work, you need to find someone to work for. Workingmums.co.uk has a directory of home working jobs, and The Guardian has a small list too. Be wary of jobs that sound too good to be true: for example, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to turn over thousands of pounds a month in a sales position unless you’re putting in 16 hour days, which is nigh on impossible when caring for children.
If you plan on working for yourself, you need to figure out how you’re going to market your services. We recommend that you start with a business plan with clearly identified goals and a brief run down on how you plan on achieving them. Once the business plan is ready to go, our tips on using twitter for business are a good start for publicity.
When you know how you are going to work, who for, and what your plan of attack for your business is, you can start thinking about how you’re going to fit this into your day. As a seasoned work at home parent my key times for productivity are:
Pre-6am: if I can manage to make it across the landing and down the stairs without waking my early-rising 7 year old, the early hours of the morning are perfect for tackling small jobs that need your utmost concentration. Don’t even think about opening your email or social media though: nobody expects (or deserves) a response at 5am, and this is key quiet time for maximum efficiency.
Daytime naps: unfortunately both of mine are too old to be convinced to nap now, but when I was working at home with a young baby, naptime was a great time to get boring (quiet) tasks finished up… and sometimes I’d manage a hot coffee too. If your baby is one of those awkward fussy ones (is there any other type?) use a sling to keep baby close allowing you to get things done with the comfort of your warmth and smell right there.
Post-bedtime: if you’re not absolutely knackered (and you probably will be for the next few years) and your children have a good bedtime routine which guarantees some alone time past a certain hour, you can plot in a couple of hours work post-bedtime to check off the low-concentration jobs, last emails, social media scheduling: the bits that don’t need 100% attention, because nobody has that to give after a full day of juggling children, chores and work.
Fitting it all in as a single parent
There are two key points to fitting everything in as a single parent. The first is to have something you can “sacrifice” if something else eats too much of your time: in my house, children and work are my priority (in that order) and so the first thing I sacrificed if something went wrong was chores/housework. Yes, sometimes my house looks like I’ve been invaded by an army, but no, I don’t care.
The second key point to fitting everything in is to try and stick to a rough schedule. I know schedules and routines are boring, but if you know what you need to do at 10am on a Monday morning because it’s the same thing you do as every other Monday morning at 10am, that’s one less thing you need to actually mentally process.
With that said, it’s really hugely important to remember that it is just impossible to “have it all”, and attempting to have the perfect everything 100% of the time is going to leave you burned out, stressed and disappointed. I’ve written before on the having it all myth (few mild swear words!)
Networking when you have children
After your home working plan is in place and you know when you need to be doing what, the next step is to ensure that you’re constantly seeking out new contacts. This is just as important for home workers in remote working situations as it is the self employed with their own business (because you don’t want to miss out on a potentially better role just because you’re stuck at home with the kids now!)
There’s a huge network of mum-and-children networking meetings across the UK through services such as Bizmums who offer child friendly networking, so you can go out and meet new people without needing a babysitter or childcare fallback, which can be difficult to source as a single parent.
With your home work setup running, you and the kids in a loose routine to keep you all sane and (hopefully) the work rolling in, what now?
- Regularly review your progress, compare it to your business plan and goals
- Never stop seeking opportunities to grow
- Share your experiences with others: supporting other work at home parents, especially single parents, is incredibly rewarding