Side Businesses for Stay-At-Home Parents

A few weeks ago, I put out a call on Twitter and on Facebook for detailed posts that people would like to see. I got enough great responses that I’m going to fill the entire month of July – one post per day – addressing these ideas.

Julia on Facebook asks about “Good ways to make money on the side or as a stay at home mom.”

There is essentially infinite ways to make money on the side. The only way to really narrow down that list is to start putting some restrictions on it, which Julia does very quickly with the second part of her question. So, for starters, let’s look at the requirements of a stay-at-home parent.

SAHM Requirements
Here are some of the requirements that tighten down the options for a typical stay-at-home parent to earn money on the side.

Flexible time This is the biggest reason why people choose to become stay-at-home parents: the time flexibility. They want to be there for their children during the day and engaged with them. However, there are naptimes and there are times after spouses come home from their jobs where they can engage in “me” time or in employment time.

Limited space Typically, stay-at-home parents have at least some tightness on the space available in their home environment and usually can’t afford storefront space or even significant storage space.

Limited startup budget Most stay-at-home parents face limited cash resources that they can invest in getting a side business going. After all, stay-at-home parenting inherently means a single-income family.

Income Options Meeting Those Requirements
Even with these restrictions, there are still a multitude of options for stay-at-home parents who wish to earn a side income. Here are some of the more popular options that I’ve actually seen stay-at-home parents have success with.

Blogging and/or freelance writing There’s a reason that you can easily find an army of “mommy blogs” out there. Blogging about parenting concerns is a perfect business for a stay-at-home parent which works particularly well because you can directly involve the children in the typical article creation process. To do this successfully requires a bit of a business approach, however, and will definitely take some startup time. Another approach that can scratch the same itch and provide more immediate (but less long-lasting) income is simply engaging in freelance writing. One good place to start is freelancewritinggigs.com.

Child care Multiple stay-at-home parents I know engage in some degree of child care. They take in the children of a neighbor or friend for some fee during the day. In other situations, a small group of stay-at-home parents will rotate their children among different households during the week, giving the stay-at-home parents a free day or two a week to have a limited part time job.

Home economizing I know several stay-at-home parents that focus their energies on home economizing, which minimizes every dime of income actually spent. They’ll maintain a garden, engage in projects like air-sealing their home, prepare and freeze meals in advance, carefully plan their grocery shopping trips, and search for great free activities for their families to enjoy. They’ll research all product purchases to find the best bang for the buck and put effort into making handmade gifts as well. These actions can shave a tremendous amount from the monthly spending for a family.

Social media representative Two different stay-at-home parents I know work as social media representatives for local businesses. They’ll set up Twitter and Facebook accounts for these businesses and maintain them for a small fee, making the customer interaction as easy as possible for the harried small business owner. In exchange, they’re often paid a small fee or sometimes paid in discounts or coupons for the business.

Freelancing Two other stay-at-home parents I know engage in part-time freelance work in their previous career path (one in graphic design and one in computer programming). Most of these gigs are standalone projects that they’ve found by developing their own online resume of their work and seeking out opportunities on their own using the contacts from their previous career and within their community.

A few things to avoid If you see a system advertised that will help you make great money from your kitchen table, avoid it. Often, it simply places you in the middle of a multi-level marketing scheme that’s difficult for a person without extensive networking skills to make a lot of money at. Alternatively, the plan requires a ton of time investment to earn significant money, time that is better invested elsewhere. If someone is going to set you up with a moneymaking opportunity, they’re the ones that are going to make the money here, not you.

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  1. Michelle says:

    If you’re crafty, etsy can be an option. You certainly can’t make tons of money from it, but I make a little extra spending money by selling some of my sewing projects there. The hardest part is advertising yourself, no one will come to your store unless they know about it.

    I’ve also done alterations and custom clothes (mostly modest prom dresses) from home. It does require people coming to my home, but that doesn’t bother me. I’m also blessed with a basement craft room where I can set up my sewing machine away from the children.

    I would say that SAHM’s should look at their talents and see what’s marketable. I have a friend who teaches piano and violin lessons in her home, after school. Another teaches voice lessons. Another friend teaches fitness classes at the local YMCA, they provide childcare for the hour or so she’s teaching, and she gets paid to exercise. Another cuts hair out of her house one day a week. Another teaches a coupon class. There are lots of opportunities, if you’re willing to seek them out.

  2. MattJ says:

    I’ve got an old friend who owns a business doing quality control of incoming customer calls for business. (If you call someone and a voice says “this call may be recorded for quality control purposes”, then his consulting business may be the ones listening to it – in addition to the company itself)

    For a while when his company was fairly new, he mostly employed SAHMs to listen to & rate the CSR’s performance on those phone calls (from their home PC) on a piecework basis. I believe his business has grown such that he now has a call center, but options like this also exist, if you can find them.

  3. valleycat1 says:

    I know a few people who make pretty good money buying items at yard sales and auctioning them on ebay. It helps to create an identity by concentrating on one category of items (costume jewelry, children’s clothes, tools, or whatever – & it helps to have some working knowledge of the category). Camping & sports gear in good condition seems to sell at a premium on ebay, especially at the beginning of a season.

    Another possibility is paper routes if the run time fits your schedule.

  4. Carrie says:

    One option is to have a slightly bigger garden, and sell the extra produce. This can be done through farmer’s markets, or even by word of mouth. In my rural area, people have some success by even having a self-pay option for buying produce. You set up a stand, and have a locked box where the customers simply put in the money for the goods they buy.

    I second the crafting/etsy idea – I know several stay at home moms who sell things on the side.

  5. valleycat1 says:

    If you’re going to be running a business out of your home, particularly if customers will be coming to your house or you’re setting up a stand in the yard, be sure to check on local zoning restrictions & business license requirements. Selling prepared food (jams/jellies) often requires kitchen inspections; produce sold by weight can require getting a certified scale, etc.

  6. Gretchen says:

    I’m not a stay at home mom, but I started a Mary Kay business in April and I’ve been loving it so far. It does take some money to get started, but you can make a lot of money, especially when you’re taking orders through a website.

  7. Michelle says:

    Haha! I guess we’re all working the black market then, because I don’t think any of us pay taxes (except the YMCA instructor) either! Us SAHM’s are a subversive lot!

  8. Daria says:

    I wouldn’t jump to conclusions that all SAHM’s are not paying their taxes. I have been working as an independent contractor since 1984 doing in store demos and cleaning houses and I report my income and pay SS, medicare and income taxes. I don’t like paying taxes, but, I saw how my uncle worked for cash under the table and under-reported his taxes. Then he died from cancer in his 50’s and left my aunt with less income when she turned 65 because he thought he was “being smart”. She is 81 yrs old with a pacemaker, chronic luekemia and working in a school cafeteria 4 hours a day in order to make ends meet. Every year she prays that she can do it for another year. Not reporting your income can leave you in a lurch if your marriage goes sour,or your spouse becomes disabled or dies because it leaves you in a position to not get all the benefits you would be entitled to if you had reported the income.

  9. Megan says:

    What do you know about SAHP working from home as customer service representatives for call centers? I’ve heard that some airlines(?) do this?

    My sister is a SAHM and I want to give her advice on what she might be able to do boost her family’s income, but I just don’t know enough about what’s out there to give her any useful information.

  10. Michelle says:

    OK, I was talking about myself and my friends, not anyone else. I’m sure most of them are completely law abiding. And honestly, we’re talking about $100-$200 a month. Probably not even enough to actually owe taxes. No one I know is supporting their family with side businesses, they are just trying to earn a little extra money, maybe pay a bill or two, or just have some extra pocket money.

  11. Kathleen says:

    There ARE… ways.

    ARE!

  12. em says:

    @Michelle, I hope the government catches up with you someday and makes you pay the taxes you should be(even if you don’t owe any you should still be filing them every year.) As a SAHM who runs a small business and who files taxes every year it upsets to hear you brag that you don’t.

  13. Daria says:

    Michelle,

    If you are a SAHM, then your income should be added on top of your spouse’s income, so even $100-200 per month may mean you have a tax bill but that is a conversation with a tax preparer. However, that $100-200 could be important if you should become disabled and you find that you don’t qualify for SS disability because you don’t have enough work credits because you didn’t report your income.

  14. Rockledge says:

    My neighbor has three small boys and she makes extra money as a photographer. She was one before she had kids so she had a good portfolio and equipment. Now she has a website and specializes in wedding, pregnancy, and family pictures. Most of her shoots are on the weekend so her husband can watch the kids.

    Many SAHMs in my neighborhood make money from providing child care; selling Avon, crafts, or produce; giving music lessons; pet sitting; and tutoring. A few manage their husbands’ businesses. One’s a nurse who only works on weekends.

    We also have stay-at-home dads. One makes money writing, another trains dogs on the weekend and evenings, and another buys run-down houses and fixes them up when the kids are in school.

    For years, my mom made side money selling homemade candles and when we were old enough, she made a full-time successful business of it. A friend of mine teaches yoga lessons.

    As a stay-at-home mom, myself, however, I mainly try to economize. For instance, I make my own sauces and salad dressings, hang my clothes out to dry, cook 6 nights a week, shop carefully, pack lunches, do my own cleaning, etc. It’s amazing how much you can save if you can invest time. I also save by not buying work clothes, paying for child care, or having transportation costs.

    This works for me because I’ve had a successful career and my husband has a steady job. Health considerations have caused me to slow down so I think of my life now as an early, busy, semi-retirement.

    I earn some side money doing nature programs and teacher workshops at schools, nature centers, and libraries. Most of these are scheduled through former work contacts.

    Hope these ideas help, Julia, and good luck. (One note of caution; do not invest too much money in setting up a side income until you are sure it will pay off.)

  15. Leszek Cyfer says:

    SAHMs do a tremendous job everyday, which should be recognized as a job and treated so (tax returns). They add to the society tremendously – maintaining order by not letting kids live on the streets and teaching them good social skills.

  16. deRuiter says:

    The stay at home parent can also get a part time job two or three nights a week when the spouse is at home. Waitressing comes to mind, or working the evening shirt at a sporting goods store, if you like sports. The contact with the outside world of adults is healthy, and it gives the working away from home parent an idea of what the stay at home parent does as well as close contact with the children. Cruising yard sales is a great way to find preowned (very cheap) items for the family like clothing and housewares, while also buying items to sell on ebay or Craigslist. Pay your income taxes folks, so you’re elligible for your benefits, and so the IRS doesn’t become interested in how you support your lifestyle on one spouse’s income. Ebay is going to be issuing statements to the IRS starting this year, I think they are called 1099’s (don’t quote me on the number) stating how much you sold, and sending info to IRS. So all those “It’s just a hobby business.” people will now have to report the income they’ve been hiding with their ebay sales.

  17. littlepitcher says:

    @Carrie–Our local retiree gardener hangs a sign on her gate that (cukes, melons, etc) are for sale.
    She grows items which are little trouble to plant and pick, doesn’t make huge money off it, but every little bit helps. If you have a produce warehouse within maybe 20 miles, a spot to set up a table, and no store nearby, you can run a fruit stand on pretty days. Throw in some home-grown herbs to differentiate you from the run-of-the-mill.
    In this area, you can babysit up to five children without regulation. Factories here run third shifts, and setting up a spare bedroom or a rollaway or two will get you easy money. Do get a fidelity bond, for your own safety.
    Yes, they’re called 1099 Misc. for miscellaneous income. They do have to be reported on a specific line of the 1040.

  18. Dee says:

    Even if you don’t generate enough income (sales minus legitimate expenses)for income taxes, you may owe state taxes. In the three years I’ve been selling I haven’t generated income but I have to pay state taxes.

  19. Mark Gavagan says:

    I have a good opportunity with lots of financial upside. It would be a great fit for anyone with contacts in either (1) marketing for a large insurance or investment company, or (2) HR benefits/ employee communications for organizations with lots of valued employees.

    Use your relationships (absolute integrity is required).

    Note: This doesn’t have to be an ongoing gig with a commitment – even one isolated medium-sized deal is welcome and lucrative for the person who instigates a deal.

    Contact me via the site if you’re interested: organizemyaffairs.com/asabenefit.html

  20. Ellen K. says:

    I’m a SAHM of twin toddlers, and I also work as a freelance editor and proofreader. A lot of people praise the flexibility of freelance work, but you’ll need to consider whether you’ll have the following:

    1. Consistent, reliable workflow
    2. Consistent, reliable childcare assistance
    3. Partner/spouse with a consistent, reliable schedule
    4. Child(ren) with somewhat consistent, somewhat reliable sleep patterns

    You need to be able to meet at least two of those conditions if you are to stay on deadline and still get enough sleep to be able to keep up with your kids during the daytime.

  21. There are tons of work-from-home scams, but there are also a lot of real opportunities.

    Consulting is a great business to start–either as a side business or with the intent of building it into your full-time endeavor–because a consulting business has:
    –>low start-up costs,
    –>flexible hours,
    –>a high hourly pay rate, and
    –>you likely already have the expertise to get started.

    Those are all qualities that make it an ideal home business.

    That’s exactly how I started my business 4 years ago while working full-time and with 2 kids. Since then, I’ve quadrupled my salary, work less, and have a lot more flexibility.

    My blog (StartMyConsultingBusiness.com) gives specific tips, tricks, techniques, and tools for starting and running a successful consulting business.

    I emphasize:
    ==>stumbling blocks that prevent people from starting their consulting business,
    ==>specific, concrete tasks for starting & running a consulting business on the cheap, and
    ==>specific tools and tricks for mobility and automation.

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