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

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.

Trent Hamm

Founder & Columnist

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.