Five Years of Working at Home
NaBloPoMo – Day 5
Five Years of Working at Home
I haven’t been talking all that much on my blog lately about my work. Mostly because it’s actually been going pretty smoothly! It has been a lot easier with the little one getting older – having him at school two days a week doesn’t hurt either! While I’d probably stop working if I won a lottery or something, most days I count myself awfully lucky to own my business and to be able to provide assistance to some really great clients.
This fall was my five year business anniversary. I meant to blog about that, but I only managed a post on my actual business blog, not the personal one here I intended to share. Well, it’s a couple of months late now, but it seems like a great time to share the ups and downs of having a work-at-home paralegal business.
Year one of being a virtual paralegal was HARD. Yep, super hard. I had a little boy in grade one, a 4.5 year old and a 1 year old. I had a husband who worked crazy hours and was not around much and I had a lot to figure out in the self-employment arena. I had next to no clients at first though, so while I had no income at least I also had time to figure everything out. And I was very lucky as my husband was (and IS) incredibly supportive and knew that it would take time for me to make any real income from my new business.
By year two I was starting to have clients, but maybe not the right kind of clients. They were great people and the work was interesting, but despite all the advice I had heard about defining my client, I kept accepting clients who did work out of my area of expertise and preference. I did some freelance writing, I helped with blog maintenance, I spent a pile of time on Twitter and other social media. I had maybe two lawyer clients on my roster! I was growing and I was gaining some skills that helped though – so I wouldn’t say it’s completely wrong to take on those projects out of your comfort zone. Just be careful you don’t stray too far from what you really want to be doing.
By the third year in business I was really starting to get into the groove. I gained several lawyer clients in this time frame, many of them referrals from my first couple of lawyers. If you do good work referrals can really be the lifeblood of your growth. I upgraded some of my equipment and sent a second child off to school. I lost a couple early clients, either because we agreed that they needed someone in their field or because they stopped working themselves (or at least they stopped working FOR themselves, at least one left solo practice to go big law).
Year four – wow, honestly that was when it all started to blend together a little bit. My days consisted of trying to fit work around naps and school bell schedules and after-school activities. I think I worked a fair number of nights that year as the daytime hours were hopelessly scattered and hard to work with. I started counting down to the “baby” going to kindergarten, but delayed it by a year because he just wasn’t ready, no matter how much I wanted him to be. Preschool is not the help to a wahm that you might hope it would be, there are too many helper days and field trips and school “holidays” to count on any kind of consistency in your work schedule.
Year five, this was definitely the best year my business has had so far, although I like to think year six will top it! I made more money, I really worked on updating some of my skills by attending some training and seminars. I actually met several of my clients in person! And the end of year five hit just as the baby finally really did go to kindergarten. I’m at the place I was working towards when I first decided to try this wahm thing. Having time for my kids, knowing I can pick them up from school if they are sick, and being able to go on an occasional field trip, but still showing them the example of life with a mom with a career she cares about.
Reflecting on the past five years really makes me think about where the next five years are going to lead me. I’m not sure if I want to grow my business (maybe take on contractors although I have flirted with that idea and it was NOT successful. At.all.) or if I want to just enjoy it as it is. I do know that I have no desire to go back to working in-house for a lawyer/law firm. I love the flexibility and the variety that this way of working offers me. I know there will be changes – that is just part of life, isn’t it? But I sure am going to enjoy the ride in the meantime 🙂
Featured image © Elena Schweitzer – Fotolia.com