How to stay at home and still earn money!

Are you a spouse who needs the money and yet can't go out to earn it? Consider the flexible option of working from your own living room.

Karen Holford teams with her pastor husband in family ministry in south England.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a job that fits around your children's needs, your husband's schedule, and your own talents? A job that helps toward a camping trip, flute lessons, a decent outfit, presents for the family. A job that brings you into contact with other people. A job you enjoy.

For a pastor's wife, working from home could be an exciting option! You choose the hours. You are your own boss. You take on no more than what you can handle. You do what you enjoy the most, and what fits your skills. You may not earn a lot, but you do give that needed boost to your family in come and to your self-esteem as well. You are in step with the "virtuous woman" of Proverbs 31 who made and sold fine linen and girdles and also ran her own vineyard business. And what's more, church members would find it easy to accept the pastor's wife working from home, for she would be there if they needed her.

An Anglican curate's wife felt frustrated during her pregnancies because she couldn't have interesting clothes to wear. But her frustration gave birth to an idea: why not have a rental facility for maternity clothes? So she started a rental business from her home, providing her community attractive maternity clothes for a fee. The idea became so popular that the small home-based business is now a national franchise in England, with a London store selling designer maternity wear. The onetime frustrated person is now an accomplished executive who now travels abroad to find new designs, but runs most of the business from a small office that can be set up wherever she and her husband have to live.

But you need not get involved in that big a business--unless you want to! Start where you are. Think of what you are good at, what you have been trained for, what you enjoy, what your hobbies are. Think about areas in which you can meet a need, something new that you yourself would have found helpful.

My husband's family ran a small pet food business from their garage. The five children helped weigh and bag the different dry goods, and sell them on Sundays. Originally the business was set up to help pay school fees, but it saw Bernie through college, and is now a major small business, employing the parents, three brothers, and several others.

What skill do you have that you can market from home? Typing, writing, word processing, bookkeeping, dress making, or whatever? For every skill you have, there's someone needing the use of that skill. Match the skill and the need, and you've got something going. Here are some ideas to try.

Crafts

Offer a service to complete unfinished craft kits and projects. Set an hourly or stitch-based rate. A stitch rate has the advantage of computing the exact cost. Be prepared to do the "boring bits." Have a display of samples of your work so that the customer can see your high standards.

Parents love their children's striving at art. Set up a way to turn children's attempts into a permanent piece of art work. Use fabric paints and crayons to copy a picture, and then quilt the design to make a place mat for grandma; or lay a transparent grid over the design to help you transform it into a cross-stitch picture. Advertise the service in kindergartens and schools.

I make greeting cards and sell them at craft fairs and through craft stores. Making cards requires very little space in the home, lends to creative ideas, and has high turnover.

Kitchen skills

Are you a good cook? Can you bake? The increasing health consciousness of people makes home-cooked or baked products attractive. Your kitchen skills can be turned into a ministry for healthful, wholesome living. Stores and cafes welcome delicious, attractive, and nutritious homemade products.

Or you could provide a catering service for children's parties. It is not easy finding food that is healthy and at the same time appealing to children's taste buds. Advertise your service, offer a rate per child. Provide different samples for the client so she can select her menu. Offer to mark the occasion by a specially decorated cake with a personal touch. Turn up on the day with every thing needed for the meal, including drinks, and maybe even disposable tableware. If you cannot deliver, then the client can collect from you.

Rental services

Like the curate's wife, you can venture into rental services. Is there a possibility in special children's clothing for parties, portraits, and weddings? Do current fashion trends suggest a rental option? Are you gifted in dressmaking, and is it something you can turn into a collection of custom-made designs? Can you buy used clothing and turn it into elegant but inexpensive wear? What about baby equipment?

Green fingers

If you have green fingers, offer a plant-sitting service, either in your home or where the plants are. People who want to get away on vacation will appreciate your help. Of course, growing plants is a good source of income. Orchids, bonsai trees, and other specialized plants always have a market in local plant shops. Growing and arranging flowers is another excellent source of income. If you know how to dry flowers, you can make attractive basket arrangements by drying the flowers after a wedding or a banquet.

Interiors

Have you considered stenciling? All you need is some special brushes, stencil paints, old rags, a stepladder, a long ruler, and a pencil. If you have the interest and the skill, you can cut stencils to match designs of existing furnishings. Stencils enhance the appeal of drapes and pillows, and coordinate soft furnishings. So be sure you are skilled, or you could make an expensive mistake. Read all you can on the subject, get some help from the local art institute or community college, and practice in your home first.

Teaching

Are you a teacher? Perhaps you can conduct a tutorial for children in your home? Or how about a craft class? For women, a craft class is a great morale booster. A housewife would be happy to pay a fee for learning to make crafts. She gets a sense of achievement, and also gets to meet other women and make new friends. I have made many friends teaching craft in my home. During each session we learned a new skill and made some thing that could be taken home. Hand made crafts make excellent gifts, too.

Child care

Local regulations may restrict your ability to provide child care at home, but you could try a weekly preschool craft class. The children can learn to make simple but attractive items. The local library is full of books with craft ideas. Another way of providing care for children is to have a nature club for pre-schoolers. Take them for walks in the country and show them trees and flowers. Before you take them out, talk to them about the things they will see or do. Show them pictures of what they should hunt for. On rainy days, have some old-time indoor activities: baking bread, churning butter, making popcorn or taffy. Research and plan your sessions well to ensure variety, quality, and fun.

Ready-made options

If you are a person looking for pack age deals, you have other options, such as party-plan businesses and home selling, often advertised in local papers. Be wary of selling products that work on a tier system where you obtain your merchandise from one person in the tier. When you move away, you may find it difficult to maintain the business in a new area without the initial network, and someone else may reap the benefit of all your hard work.

Things to consider

Think carefully and pray earnestly before taking on any type of homeworking. Be especially cautious about investing much money in a project until you have tested it and are sure you will succeed. Home-working does not work for everyone.

Talk it over with your husband and family. Will they be able to help you? What do they think about your working from home? Is there room in the house? Do you need to invest some time and money in getting special training for your new venture? Training could save you much money in the long run, and qualifications do raise your professional authority with your customers.

Test your market. Study reactions from others. Keep track of all the costs involved: time, materials, advertising, competition, a reasonable profit, improvements, and research. Price your services and products realistically. Set regular hours of work so as to have time to be with your family. Your work should not take over the home. Take on only what you can handle without stress; if necessary, close the order books for a while, or recruit temporary help.

Working from home provides opportunities to make new friends every day, and you can use these occasions for personal and spiritual ministry. When ever possible, pray with your customers. Leave free magazines and literature around for them to take. Enjoy what you do and enjoy the people you meet. If you don't enjoy what you are doing, then stop doing it and find an alternative. Consider whether the money earned is worth your time and effort. Maybe there are more important things for you to do at this time in your life. Maybe your husband and family need all your best energies. Whatever you choose, remember you want it to be fulfilling for you; to enable you to be a better wife, a better mother, and a better witness to the happy, honest, and caring life God has given you. So make sure to keep God with you in all that you do. He will show you where He wants you to be. Wherever that is, it will be the happiest place for you.

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Karen Holford teams with her pastor husband in family ministry in south England.

December 1991

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