A lot of people, especially women, and especially at-home moms, are looking for ways to contribute to the family finances without having to take a “job-job” that pulls them out of the home. Something that can be done from home, on their schedule, without taking up a million hours and a billion dollars is the goal.
Unfortunately, many of these moms (including you, maybe?) look at ways to make money from home that require some significant start-up costs. Direct sales is a big one contender in this department. It seems like half the people we know are sellers at this point, so it makes sense that these companies get a lot of attention from wanna-be-mompreneurs who don’t have many other business ideas.
Freelancing (any kind of freelancing, not just writing) is a pretty different business model when compared to direct sales. Yes, you’re an entrepreneur and you need to take your business seriously in both cases. Yes, you have to learn marketing. Yes, your network comes into play. And yes, the longer you’re in, the more your income can grow.
All businesses have to be run like businesses if they’re going to succeed. All businesses have to market themselves. All businesses have the opportunity to scale when done right.
As a veteran of both money-making ventures, I thought it’d be interesting to write a post comparing the two, and then share my opinion on what works best for me and for people like me. (Hint: You can preview my conclusion right in the title of this post!)
Direct sales opportunities are everywhere, and with good reason. They’re presented as an “exciting opportunity” that “practically sells itself” and that you can “do from your smartphone.” And while most of that’s true, it’s nowhere near the entire picture.
So… I know a lot of people who struggle with making anything more than a bit of pocket money with their direct sales business. It requires a very specific set of skills, and a lot of ladies don’t realize this and think that they’re failing and will never succeed. The truth is that you can learn the skills and have a much better shot of success… but is that really how you want to spend your time, slowly building something over time while you make mistakes all over your network?
I don’t mean to be completely down on direct sales. There are definitely some benefits. I know some very real moms with very real direct sales businesses that they’ve been working on for anywhere between 2 and 5 years — and they’re making way more money than I am. (Granted, they’ve probably also put in way more time than I have, since I maintain very-part-time hours.)
Anyway. These are some of the great benefits that I’ve experienced first-hand, even as someone who’s somewhere between ground-level and first-rung on the direct sales ladder:
All of that to say, when you find the right fit and you get the right training, you can do really well for yourself. If you want to grow FAST, you’ll have to be willing to put in a lot of time and effort from the beginning.
A lot of DS organizations have fast-track promotion programs that give you anywhere from 3 to 6 months to promote a couple of levels within the organization for massive rewards. If you’re all about it and can figure it out quickly, this is a fantastic way to get off with a bang.
Now. I’ve been a freelancer since 2010. I love this way of working from home. Love love love it.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that freelancing isn’t for everyone. No matter how much I want to be a freelancing evangelist and be your #1 cheerleader… there are some people who just aren’t going to get it off the ground because it’s not the right fit.
These are some of the common hang-ups and obstacles to going from wanna-be to bona fide freelancer:
In short, building a freelance business takes guts and effort. But doesn’t anything that’s worth doing take guts and effort?
Just like with all great opportunities, there are some major perks to freelance writing. I love being a writer, and these are some of the reasons why I want to tell the whole world about it:
I love freelancing because it allows me to be my own boss and make all my own decisions. I’m in full control of my time, and I don’t have a bunch of people reporting to me or needing things from me. I can leave work at my desk and attend to my family whenever it’s necessary, and as long as I’m meeting my deadlines, things move along smoothly.
There’s a high income ceiling for freelance writers (a friend of mine is a well-known freelance writer who brings in multiple-six-figures just from her writing!), which means that with some skill and a bit of planning (and zero dependency on — or micro-managing of — others), my income can go up and up and up without requiring additional time from me. I am all about that.
Both are legitimate. Let me just say that up front.
But it should be no surprise that I think freelancing — especially freelance writing — is one of the absolute best options out there for mamas who want to work from home. The barrier to entry is low, there’s no need for special education, you can learn as you go, and your income can go up significantly higher, significantly faster than with most direct sales setups.
But the reality is, being a freelance writer isn’t for everyone. It works well for a lot of people — and a lot of people dismiss it when it’s actually a viable opportunity for them. But it’s not for everyone.
Direct sales is a great fit for some people. If you have the right temperament, you’re truly committed to learning how to do it right, and you really love what you’re selling, the right direct sales team can carry you to some pretty fantastic income levels for less-than-full-time hours. But based on what I’ve seen, there are a lot more people struggling with their direct sales businesses than there are success stories.
If you want something that lets you be independent (read: you don’t need a “team” to succeed), freelancing is absolutely a great path to explore. If you love learning, sharing, and interacting, direct sales might be a good option.
In my mind, though, the best thing I can do for my family when I’m working from home is to find work that demands as little as possible from me.
For me, direct sales is fun but it’s also draining. There are sales targets and minimum requirements and incentives that will disappear after a certain amount of time, all of which add a layer of stress and emotional noise. There are monthly changes in customer specials and whatnot. There are all kinds of moving parts that I have to maintain. I have to follow up with my team regularly. I’m fielding questions daily. I never update my customers enough, and that’s a mental drag.
But not so with freelance writing.
Sure, pitching can be a little stressful, and there’s the occasional (but mostly rare) gig that really gets under my skin for one reason or another. But for the most part, my clients are extremely easy to work with. There’s no drama. It doesn’t draw on my emotional reserves at all.
The less I’m emotionally drained by my job, the more I have available to give to my family. I got into freelancing specifically to have as much of me available to my family as possible, and I imagine the same would be true for you.
And that’s precisely why I think freelance writing is a much better option than direct sales for the at-home mom who wants to make some real money.
Now it’s your turn. Tell me what you think sounds more enjoyable and would be right for you!
Since 2010, businesses and entrepreneurs have turned to me for stronger copy, deeper customer relationships, and great blog content.
Want to be a freelance writer for hire and build your own writing business around your kids? You can learn how to do that here, too.
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I can’t wait to meet you!
Come hang out with us in my Facebook group, The Ink Well Guild! Get your questions answered and find supportive feedback from other freelance writers.