My work-from-home journey actually began in India.
I moved there at the age of 16, along with a group of young people who wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
We spent the summer involved in a variety of social projects — workshops for prison inmates, ministries to support mentally-challenged individuals, and help for residents of impoverished communities.
But the world wasn’t exactly my oyster.
For a girl who had home-schooled all her life, suffered from social anxiety, and generally felt more comfortable in the company of books than people, my early weeks in India were sometimes overwhelming …
The humid heat of Mumbai in April, May, June, July …
The sheer number of people.
The fact that I had no way to blend in, being blonde and nearly six feet tall and more than a little awkward.
By the end of the summer, most of my friends returned to the United States. Part of me wanted to head back to California as well. But I stayed.
Some part of me was trying to find a sense of purpose …
And I had a feeling that, despite the heat and challenging living conditions, India was the place to find that purpose.
To answer some kind of call.
One day I hope to write more about my time there, but that’s not the focus of this story.
I ended up staying in India for nearly 12 years.
I got married to a terrific guy from Chennai. We had three beautiful children, all born in Bangalore.
Then, my husband and I began to consider moving back to my hometown in California’s San Joaquin Valley. I wanted our young children to be closer to my family.
We had been involved in a variety of projects and ministries — from working with the deaf to opening sponsored schools for children from slums — and life was fulfilling.
But it was time for us to move on.
The First Step — Online Writing and Editing Jobs
April of 2010 marked the beginning of my work-from-home career.
With three young kids at home and the ending of my work in India, I began to look for methods of earning money online.
So, I began to consider my options.
During my entire adult life, and most of my teen years as well, I had been involved in social work and related projects.
But a lot of my involvement gravitated towards writing, editing, email communication, and related tasks — planning, organizing, and administration.
So, I began to search online for ways I could use these skills to start supporting our family while we prepared to make the move to the United States.
I wrote about a few details of that search in this article: Four Ways to Make Money Online
After a few trials (and errors), I found an online website that worked for me — Upwork (then called Elance) — and created a profile with the hope of using my editing and writing skills to support my family.
I didn’t think much further than these basic criteria:
- Earning money online so I could stay home with my kids (at the time, three kids under the age of six).
- Gaining experience and building an online work profile.
I took on any and every writing or editing job that looked remotely feasible:
- SEO projects
- Writing 300-word paragraphs about the health benefits of strawberries
The writing and editing jobs began trickling in, and about six months later, our family made the move to California …
And I kept working online.
Within a year, my work profile on Upwork had grown to where I could focus mainly on working within a smaller niche rather than bidding on any and every job that popped up.
The Second Step — Starting to Write
In the process, my interest in writing continued to grow and I started a couple of blogs: a parenting blog as well as a blog that followed my writing journey.
I also began getting ideas for stories and novels.
One day I saw a Facebook update from a guy I’d friended after an Upwork project. He posted about his plan to attend a writer’s conference in Colorado.
I clicked on the link he shared and noticed that the conference was offering ten free scholarships.
Attend a conference for free? I’m going to try it! I told myself.
I remember the evening so clearly.
My husband was at work, and my kids seemed fuller of energy and noisier than usual while I struggled to think of the best way to express my experience, skills, and hope for attending the scholarship.
I knew there would be no way I could afford the attendance fee for the writer’s conference any other way.
It took me nearly an hour to fill out the application, but I did.
I was on edge for the next two weeks, waiting to hear back.
And waiting …
… and waiting.
The deadline came and went, and I didn’t hear back. Oh well, I tried to console myself, other people probably need to attend the conference more than I do.
Two days later, I received a letter from the woman heading the writer’s conference. It was very short, something to the effect of:
“I was impressed with the feeling that you need this scholarship. Congratulations. See you in Colorado.”
That writer’s conference, in May 2012, was an unforgettable experience. I met authors and aspiring authors, agents, and editors.
I was exposed to stories about how so many writers felt the undeniable urge to write. I learned that there were numerous communities of authors, agents, publishers, and editors (and that I have so much to learn from them).
After that conference, I had a new focus.
A new purpose …
I am a writer.
Around that same time, a bestselling author hired me on Upwork to help him with a few writing projects; he was going through a busy time in his life and needed some help to meet deadlines.
The following year, he attended that same conference, and this time, my husband and I drove the 1,500 miles to Colorado from California with our kids.
It was a memorable experience, in more ways than one.
The Third Step — Flash Fiction Magazine Editor
At that second conference, I attended a workshop on writing flash fiction — a short story of a thousand words or less.
At the time, I had written a few short stories, and wanted to learn if there were any possibilities for getting them published. I spoke with the teacher of that workshop, the creator of a new flash fiction magazine, Splickety.
We connected on Facebook and a few months later, I saw that he was starting a new flash fiction magazine imprint.
I applied to be the editor of the new imprint, and — after a lengthy selection process — I got the position.
Working as editor of the flash fiction magazine, in addition to my continuing freelance editing work, I learned about editing not only for grammar and punctuation but for content and flow and pacing.
I also gained experience and information regarding the publishing world.
In September of 2013, I completed my 100th writing/editing project while working from home.
Over half of the projects consisted of editing.
In the three-and-a-half-year period between April of 2010 to September of 2013, I had edited approximately 3,317,644 words.
The Fourth Step — Teaching Writing and Editing
In January of 2014, I was reading a book about writing and marketing, and one suggestion in the book jumped out at me.
And I hated it.
Try teaching classes at a local adult school.
The way I saw the suggestion?
Stand up in front of a group of people and make a total fool of yourself.
But the idea refused to let go of me, so I began to consider it, asking myself, “What do I have to offer? What could I teach?”
I came up with several topics:
- Working from Home
- Creative Writing
Hey, maybe I can do this!
I hesitantly mentioned it to my husband, hoping he would talk me out of the crazy idea.
My high school days rushed into my head.
Speech class. Trembling, blushing, stumbling over words even when I had my papers right in front of me.
But my husband completely supported the idea.
So, before I lost my nerve, I researched a local adult school, wrote up a proposal for the above classes, and emailed it to the director of community education.
Less than 24 hours later, I got a reply.
She wanted to meet the very next day to discuss the classes.
What had I gotten myself into?
On the evening of the first class, I arrived half an hour early … just in case.
For the record, it was a good idea. The projector had been left on and overheated, so I had to get another projector brought into the room and connected to my laptop.
Course attendees began to arrive. I managed to smile and greeted the first few, and we exchanged a few words.
Maybe I can do this.
Then more people filed in. Suddenly, more than half a dozen people were in the room.
I began to shuffle through my papers. I needed something to hold on to.
Something to center me.
Then ten people … watching, waiting.
You can do this, I told myself.
And I did.
I might have fumbled over my presentation on blogging. I might have said “Uh” more than a couple of times.
And I did rush through that PowerPoint a lot more quickly than I had planned to.
But I did it!
I taught a class. And after that, I taught more.
- Living with Purpose
- Working from Home
Many people who attended one course returned to the next one, and the next.
Teaching has been a learning experience for me every bit as much as for those I’ve been teaching.
It is a small step for many people, I know, but was a huge one for me, and I’m so glad I took it.
Through it, I realized I actually enjoy teaching, especially on topics I’m passionate about.
What about You? What Steps Do You Need to Take?
In that first evening class that I taught, over seven years ago now, as I listened to the attendees’ ideas and vision for creating their blogs, I realized that I had an awesome opportunity.
I got to walk someone through the process of creating something for their very own …
Show them how to get the most out of it …
And enable them to fulfill the dream they have.
Whether it’s starting a blog or a work-from-home career, who knows how far something can go?
With my series of posts about working from home, my hope is to play a small part in informing, guiding, and showing you the options that are out there.
I encourage you to pursue every opportunity that comes your way.
If an idea arises in your mind that you can’t shake, or you feel a strong impetus to follow a lead and see where it does lead — don’t ignore it.
You never know what might happen.
And you might be pleasantly surprised.
Along the way, I hope that you will find a work-from-home position that will give you the opportunity to grow your work, your vision, and yourself.
There’s nothing like making a difference for the better in the lives of others — whether it’s through coaching, training, teaching, editing, caregiving, providing goods, or any number of opportunities out there.
- Follow your dreams of working from home.
- Hone your skills.
- Pursue the opportunities that arise.
You never know what might happen when you knock on a door, much less when you walk through that door.
I hope your work-from-home journey takes you further than you ever imagined and enables you to live the life you only dream of.