Elance Blog

5 Keys to Work-at-Home Nirvana

Wendy Piersall is the owner of Sparkplugging.com, formerly known as eMoms at Home. Wendy has years of experience freelancing, working from home and juggling the roles of business owner and mom.

Wendy Piersall - Guest Contributor

Through years of trial and error, Wendy discovered a few simple ways to find a balance that works for her. For a special Mother's Day post, Wendy shares some tips with us:

8 years ago I launched a freelance graphic design career and since then have been through the ups and downs of working from home, owning a business and being a mom. I founded Sparkplugging.com to help others learn from my mistakes. If I had to give you only five pieces of advice on balancing life while working at home, this is what they would be.

1. Schedule Strict Down Time
Today I am religious about taking weekends off, eating dinner as a family every night, and getting time for my love of photography. Of course, special projects sometimes override my schedule - so when that happens I pay the time back by taking more time off of work when the project is complete.

2. Outsource Grunt Work
Nothing burns me out more than doing work I HATE to do. Today I'm willing to earn less in order to make sure I don't have to deal with the stuff that drains my passion for work. You need that passion to be successful. Don't waste it on stuff that other people can do faster, cheaper, and sometimes better than you.

3. Diversify Income Sources
I kick myself in the pants every now and then for not putting together products I could have sold when I was a designer. I could have created brilliant Photoshop brushes, written an e-book, or sold illustration prints. A backup income plan when the design work dried up would have been far better for my health than doubling my hours!

4. Get Out of the House
While working from home is seemingly idyllic, the reality of the way we work is that working at home can be extremely isolating. While it's easy to socialize online, in the end that means more time in front of the computer, and less time for l.i.f.e. You have the flexibility to walk the kids to school or to go work at Starbucks. Take it - adult conversation is way cheaper than therapy.

5. Leverage Technology
Entrepreneurship and self-employment is at an all time high for one reason - the technology allows us to do so. There are productivity tools everywhere, some right under your nose. Work off of your iPhone for a few hours by the pool. Take a few hours to set up a sophisticated email filtering management system. Or check out these 25 other mostly-free tech tools geared towards making family life easier.


These are all great things to remember. I fully admit that I struggle with #1 and #4 on the list. If left to my own devices I can stay at home, online, working for days straight with just a few stops to eat and sleep. It's a great way to burn out. I've started scheduling in a walk outside every day and, when I do need to work later into the night, I'll sometimes go to a coffee shop with internet access so that I can at least be around other people. Thanks for the reminder to make sure that work doesn't become your life.

Amanda Moore
Virtual Assistant

I also had problems with #1 and #4 but I finally put my foot down. I quit my factory job and became a freelance writer to spend more time with my family, not less. I stop every night to help my son with his homework, eat dinner, and watch at least one television program. I also leave the house every day, even if it is just to take a walk. So make sure that you take the time to enjoy life and remember the important things.

I found your link at the end of a stressful day, i'm a graphic designer, fine art painter, and full time mom. I was tring to get a show put toget together and stressed out and found my self acting out a scene of mommy dearest! Until i looked at my son and had a reality check, what is the most important thing your love for your family and the love for your craft. There can be a happy middle and when you find it it a beautiful place!!:) Keep up the good work girls and guys!!! laura