The New-Mom’s Guide to Finding Part-Time Work
Long-time reader who would love to hear more about how you built your career.
Welcomed my daughter last year (she just turned 1). Definitely had some struggles but maternity leave for the most part was great. Then I went back to work. Hardest thing I have ever had to do was dropping her off the first day. Ugh. Long story short, we’ve gotten in a pretty good routine nowadays but honestly I’m really missing being with her and long for more time at home. The hubs is on board with me working part-time but I’m not sure how to make that happen. I know a meaningful part-time job is the elusive holy grail but I feel like they do exist out there. I’m willing to put in the work to find or create this job but I’m not even sure where to begin or look. Would love to hear your experiences on what has worked for you, what to avoid, how to get started, etc.
Excellent question, and one that I get asked quite a bit, especially from new moms in your exact situation. Not ready to leave the workforce all together (SMART), but looking for something part-time in hopes of finding a little more of that ol’ work-life balance (HAHAHA). Obviously the specifics of “where to look for a job” vary quite a bit based on your job type, industry, level of experience and geographic area, but I’ll try to keep my answer as general as possible.
(For a bit of personal background for non-long-timers: I worked in the financial publishing industry as an editor before launching a career as a freelance writer in 2006. That career has since taken many twists and turns through blogging and blogging for other blogs and now is about 50/50 between writing that stems from my blog/internet “Amalah” persona, and corporate contract gigs for copywriting, technical writing, editing, marketing, whatever people wanna pay me to do, etc.)
In my experience, the best place to look for part-time work is within your existing professional network. Are you on LinkedIn? Get on LinkedIn. Connect with everyone you know in a professional capacity — don’t treat it like Facebook and load it up with just any rando who adds you. Coworkers, former coworkers, clients, bosses, contacts from professional conferences, etc. Get some testimonials and a detailed professional history up there BEFORE you start actively looking for a job or contract work. Ten years later, I STILL get work via connections (and connections of connections) from my former corporate job, and try to reach out to at least three LinkedIn contacts a week. Network, network, network.
(So I guess I should add some side advice here: Don’t burn any bridges on the journey to part-time. Resign, serve whatever your job requires, help with the transition in any you can, etc. You might want to return someday, or you might depend on your contacts there for future work and connections.)
Drilling down even deeper into the “look within your existing network” idea is to look within your existing job. Is there a aspect of your current job that would make sense to spin-off into a separate, part-time position? Do any of the departments hire or rely on freelancers/consultants? If your boss likes and depends on you, he or she might be happy to keep you on in a part-time capacity rather than lose you and your expertise all together, so don’t be afraid to pitch something at your job now. (Though know that once you do, and it gets rejected, you’ve pretty much signaled that you’ve got one foot out the door.) I was a managing editor of three monthly publications at my former job. When I quit there was absolutely no one else available to take on my full workload. So I offered to continue handling one of the publications (the easiest, most well-oiled machine one that could be worked on completely from home) on a part-time basis until a full-time hire could be made and trained. In the end, they would’ve let me continue with the arrangement indefinitely, but at the time I was making better money elsewhere, doing things I enjoyed more.
Which leads me to the next nugget of advice: Remember there’s a difference between a job and a career. Given the way your letter is written, I’m assuming you understand the value of the latter. I worked lots of crappy part-time jobs in high school and college. As much as I wanted to stay home with my baby, I sure as HELL didn’t want to torpedo my entire professional career and resume, or even just put it on ice for a few years and then re-enter the workforce in exactly the same level (or lower) as when I left. There are bills and schedules to consider, but you’ll be happier in the long run if whatever part-time job you find still has the opportunity to advance you in some way, or moves you closer to some other life goal. Your first part-time gig right out of the gate might be a lateral move or even a small step down, but hopefully has potential to grow into something more meaningful for you. Your child will be in school before you know it, so consider the long-term.
Beware of Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) “jobs.” If you spend any time online specifically searching for part-time work, you’ll notice a lot of job sites are just lousy with the “be your own boss work from home make $$$” ads that are skimpy on details but big on hype. And a lot of them directly target the SAHM demographic with big promises of staying home with your kids but making a ton of money through product parties, recruiting and selling crap to your friends, and jusssst a fewwwww smalllll upfront “investments” in your “company.” If you’re considering ANY job that uses the MLM model, do your homework first. Google the HELL out of it, and know that many are SEO ninja masters who bury any and all criticism deep within the search results. Some of them ARE good companies and sell great products (and thus already have a glut of distributors), but the majority over promise on your actual earnings and the level of work involved, and many are just outright scams.
(Also this one probably goes without saying but also don’t take job offers from Facebook spambots’ neighbor’s cousin makes $2,023 a day from Google.)
Stay diversified and ready for anything. If you decide to go the freelancer route, my NUMBER ONE ALL-TIME ADVICE is to DIVERSIFY. Take two 10-hour-a-week gigs instead of the one that wants 20 hours. Negotiate on your hourly rate in exchange for a longer-term contract, but charge full price for the gig that might only last six weeks. Don’t ever like a client bully you into prioritizing them to the point where you’re turning down other work. If you don’t have any other work to turn down, well, that’s a freelancer danger zone…and a good indicator that you’re not doing enough networking. Hustle on LinkedIn like your life depends on it, and try to make sure you have a few good leads you can nurture at all times. (Hey can you forward my resume to your marketing department? Who’s writing your website copy right now? Heads up there’s some typos in that whitepaper you just posted, need an editor?) Contracts end, layoffs happen (and us part-timer/contractor types often get axed first), a gig you thought was a sure thing falls through at the last minute, or a client turns out to be an honest-to-god nightmare and the money they pay you just isn’t worth the daily toll on your sanity. I’ve had all of these things (and more!) happen in my career and it’ll all probably happen again, so I’m constantly trying to make sure my work is flowing from multiple clients/industries keep any one job loss from being a catastrophic blow.
Another freelancer-specific bit of advice is to incorporate as an LLC and set up separate bank, credit, PayPal, etc. accounts for all your income. It costs a couple hundred bucks but will save you UNTOLD amounts of money in case of a legal dispute or lawsuit. Plus it makes your financial and tax planning so much easier. Also: Estimated Tax Payments. MAKE THEM. (Or be prepared to get absolutely crucified come April 15th.)
All that said, sometimes it’s good to take a risk. Lots of people have, for lots of different reasons, just looked around at their current 9-5 job and been like, “Nope, I’m out.” Your reason is your baby. My reasons were my baby, and the fact that I had a small shot at a writing career. At the time I didn’t have a lot of confidence that either of those reasons were SMART reasons, as the writing career part could’ve easily have gone very very badly and ended very very quickly. (Fun Fact: I was in my office pumping breastmilk when I got an email from Isabel asking me if I’d like to write an advice column for AlphaMom. So that’s ONE writing gig that MORE than worked out.) But I took the risk, and basically fell ass-over-teakettle into a career that I really, really love…and one that STILL works beautifully for my family. I sincerely hope the same thing happens for you! Except maybe without the pratfall metaphor.
(And now I have to go write a case study about a successful cloud-based enterprise data migration project blah blah zzzzzzz yay monies!)Published February 5, 2016. Last updated March 12, 2018.