By Megan Driscoll
Study.com: How long have you worked from home, and what sort of work do you do?
Bethany Mooradian: I have been an independent contractor since 1999, working from my home as well as out in the field. My work varies with my clients' needs. Sometimes I'm a virtual assistant, putting together presentations, assisting with office work, etc. Other times I'm a web designer, or an Internet marketer. I'm also an author and presenter, teaching others how to find legitimate work-at-home jobs and avoid scams.
Study.com: What's your favorite thing about working from home? Least favorite thing?
BM: My favorite thing is the flexibility in scheduling. I can sleep in if I want, or work late hours. I have time to go to networking events, or just spend time with friends and family. I never have to ask permission to take time off - instead I inform my clients of when I'm not available.
My least favorite thing is the seclusion. I am very much a type-A personality, and there are always a ton of things on my 'to-do' list. Because of this, I can work 14 hours straight and think nothing of it. I constantly have to remind myself to get outdoors, visit with people, get exercise and remember that there is more to life than working.
Study.com: Can you tell us about your educational background in puppetry, and how you got from that to working from home?
BM: I have always loved performance, and especially puppetry. There is a special joy I get out of creating something from nothing, and I can't find anything that compares to creating creatures and stories that come to life and touch others. I studied puppetry at The Evergreen State College, where I received my B.A. I was on tour for a year in New York, where I learned that even I can get bored with something that I love, if I do it full-time.
Since puppeteers (and actors) don't make a lot of money, I had to become 'Queen of the Random Job' to make ends meet while I went on auditions and got various gigs. I discovered Mystery Shopping in 1999 (where people are hired to pretend to be customers to evaluate customer service of establishments) and never looked back. I have yet to hold a 9-5 job for longer than 9 months. I just don't fit into a traditional work environment.
After I had been mystery shopping for a few years, I decided I wanted to write an ebook and sell it online, so I had to teach myself how to design websites and do Internet marketing. From there I started picking up clients who needed my services, and I learned even more about scams and how to find legitimate work from home. I now have two books out, the first one on mystery shopping (with a two-hour video) and a second one that covers work-at-home scams, jobs and entrepreneurial advice, listing over 300 legitimate companies and resources to jumpstart a work-at-home career.
It was a natural progression for me. Living a 'random job' lifestyle suits me because I'm always doing something different. I have found that I get burned out quickly if I do anything over a long period of time that does not allow for growth or developing my skills.
And yes, I still do puppetry. Now it's more of a hobby than a profession (I have a lot of other things going on!), but I can appreciate it more since I'm not doing it all the time.
Study.com: What's the one thing you wish someone had told you when you were first getting started?
BM: SLOW DOWN! Entrepreneurs are idea fountains and always want their new adventures to start NOW. At one point, I had six different businesses going. It was ridiculous. I needed focus and guidance, most of which I found through reading business books, listening to tapes, and attending conferences.
Study.com: Many of our readers are interested in freelance or telecommuting jobs. Can you offer them any tips on finding work and starting their work-from-home careers?
BM: Research, research, research. There are a LOT of scams out there, and you need to know how to protect yourself. Research the heck out of any company before you agree to work for them, don't work for anyone overseas and take every job listing on Monster, HotJobs, Craigslist and CareerBuilder with a grain of salt.
Study.com: Do you primarily freelance or work steadily for one or more companies? If you freelance, how difficult do you find it to get new business?
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BM: I do a little of both. I have a few clients that are consistent, I have a few that show up every few months with random needs and I have my own business (selling my books, classes, etc.) that brings in income. Once you establish yourself as an expert, it's not difficult to find business - it usually finds you! Most of my clients are referrals of the, 'Hey, you do this too, right?' variety. I know a little about a lot of different topics, so people come to me with their questions.
Study.com: Can you offer our freelancing readers any tips on finding new contracts or gigs?
BM: Make use of your loose connections. Join groups through LinkedIn.com or Biznik.com or Meetup.com. People will do business with people they like, so become a professional who is easy to work with, gives value for their services and always delivers more than is promised.
Study.com: A lot of people who work from home struggle to keep their personal lives separate from their work lives. Can you describe how you to manage this balance?
BM: Ha! I haven't mastered it yet either. I'm a workaholic, but I love what I do, so it never feels like work to me. One thing that I'm really working on is finding help and outsourcing all the little stuff that needs to get done, but I simply don't have time to do or learn how to do. It could be as simple as enlisting your spouse or kids to help with the home, enlisting neighbors or friends to help with kids (maybe as an exchange) and prioritizing. I try to do my 'feared things first', that is, get all the icky stuff off of my plate first thing in the day so that I feel like I have accomplished a lot and allow myself to take breaks when I need to.
Study.com: Do you have any favorite places (such as coffee shops) you like to go when you feel like working outside of the home?
BM: I don't because I tend to get distracted when trying to work outside of the home. There's a lot of noise and music at coffee shops. But I have frequented libraries (many have conference rooms) and community centers for meetings with clients, partners or potential clients.
Study.com: If you've worked outside of the home in the past, what was your previous career? Did it prepare you for the work you're doing now?
BM: I have never held a traditional job outside of the home. All of the random things I've done helped to broaden my knowledge base and give me the confidence to know that no matter what, there is always a way to make money.
Study.com: Finally, I'd like to give you the opportunity to share anything you'd like about your career and working from home with our readers.
BM: I'm not going to lie: it's tough. Especially if you're coming from a '9-5, two-weeks paid vacation with benefits' type of job. You'll have a fundamental shift in your values and your working habits, and you will doubt yourself, questioning if it's worth it. I promise you, if you stick to it, hone your skills and connect with other entrepreneurs, it will be the most rewarding thing you've ever done.
Considering starting your own homegrown career? Check back next week with the Study.com blog for more work-at-home advice from a resume building and career consultant.