Work at Home


I was asked to speak at my daughter’s middle school for their career day. When I got the call from the school, the teacher who called asked me if I wanted to come in and speak about being a dog groomer. I assumed that my daughter, who is 14, wanted me to come in. How else would they know I was a groomer?

When she came home from school, the conversation went like this:

“Hey, I got a call from Mrs. W today. She asked me if I would come in and speak to your team about being a dog groomer.”

My daughter looked at me like I said I was planning on coming in to shoot up the school.  “I HOPE you told them NO.”  That’s when I realized that the school looked up my occupation on the registration forms.

“Well, honey, I already said yes because I thought you wanted me to be there.”

“WHY would I want you to come in?” she replied with all the drama of a middle-schooler.

“Well I am coming in to speak and I can’t back out of it,” I told her. “Besides, everyone’s path is different. Being a dog groomer is a great job. I never have to dress up or wear makeup. I work out of the house so my commute is 2 seconds. How many other occupations can you train for in 14 weeks? It can be a full time career or a flexible part time one. Think of all the kids that are going to college and have a huge debt load? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to work at a job that paid more than minimum wage while you went to college? What about the kids that can’t afford to go to college or decide that college is not for them? Or what about those who graduate and find that there are no jobs available for them? Dog grooming schools place their students.”

None of my kids want to be a dog groomer. That is fine. I don’t expect them to. I had no idea I would be a groomer, either. I have a graphic arts degree. Life at 18 or 22 is a lot different than 42. Your needs change. Your expectations are different.  How many of you work in the industry that you studied in college?

There were 8 parents asked to speak – 3 women and 5 men. There were 2 speakers in each class and the kids rotated from room to room. The other woman that spoke in the classroom with me was Scribble Jane, a professional singer for the kid’s band, Scribble Monster. They sing songs for 3-8 year olds and have 4 CD’s. She played a song for the 8th graders called “Chocolate Milk”. My son would have loved it when he was 3 or 4!

Jane and I both told the kids that it is hard to know at 18 where your life will take you or what skills you will need. The leader of her band was a marketing guy. He always wanted to sing and write songs but he had a teacher in high school that told him he had no talent and had no business picking that career. He thought marketing was a “normal job” and that is where he headed. After he was laid off, he decided to pursue his dream. The band headed by the “untalented” man will play at Lollapalooza this summer in Chicago. Look how different his life is than the one he imagined in college.

Many of the 8th graders wanted to be rock stars. Jane told them that to be Katy Perry is nearly impossible. However, making a living in the music industry is attainable if that is what they really want to do. She told them to keep practicing and work really hard and a door will open. She told them that the leader of their band wanted to be in a “big boy band” but found too much competition. He has since found success taking another road in the same industry.

My own speech went well. Clearly I don’t have the kind of job where I speak in front of a crowd, but I knew my subject matter and told my story. The kids were all interested and many asked questions. The most popular question I was asked was “Have you ever been bit by a dog?”(The answer is yes.)  We were all asked to talk about the good and bad parts of our jobs, what education we needed, salary range and how our jobs are affected by the economy.  That is another good thing about my job – it is recession proof.

The careers of the 8 parents were:  singer, photographer, FBI agent, pharmacist, nuclear engineer, firefighter, phlebologist and a dog groomer. (For three of us, this was a 2nd career.)  It was a nice variety of careers for the kids to hear about. At this point, the 8th graders want to be teachers, nurses, doctors and engineers. Not one person said they wanted to be the Midwestern United States Sales Director for a global paper company. (Sorry, honey!)  I don’t think the kids in this primarily white-collar neighborhood are considering a trade as a career or a stepping stone. (However, when the plumber comes to the house and gives you a bill, the trades look like a pretty smart idea.)

I went to share my story with the kids to let them know there is more than one path to success. Lack of money or a low SAT score does not eliminate you from the race. A four-year degree does not guarantee you happiness or a six-figure income. It is never too late to take another path if the road you are taking is not what you hoped it would be. Trust in your dreams and let them lead you to your own road to success.

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About 6 weeks ago, I broke the hinge on my dog grooming clipper. No fear. I had a backup clipper. I decided I would order a new hinge later and use the backup clipper in the meantime. I put off ordering the part because they have a minimum order of $60.00. My plan was to go through my inventory and see what else I needed – tomorrow. Well, tomorrow turned into next week and so on. Flash forward a couple weeks. I was grooming a dog with my backup clippers when they just stopped working. I turned the switch on and off and nothing happened.

Thankfully, I could scissor cut the rest of the dog. I still had one more dog to groom that day, and luckily, I had an hour between dogs. I ran over to Petsmart to find a new clipper. Petsmart is not where groomers shop, so they only had the layman’s version of dog clippers. Yes, they are cheaper, but they are also slower. It got me through the rest of the day and the next couple weeks. Knowing I had no back up, I finally got my act together and bought the parts I needed.

I knew I broke the hinge on the one clipper, but I had no idea what was wrong with the one that stopped working. After spending some time online reading about dog clipper maintenance (great for insomniacs), I took a guess as to what was wrong with the other clipper. I ordered what I needed and waited for the parts to arrive. UPS delivered the package on Wednesday.

Normally, I would have asked my husband to fix the clippers for me. It’s not that I am incapable. In my former life working in printing, I would troubleshoot and fix both Mac and PC computers. I have replaced my own harddrives, fan motors and memory cards. I worked on several film and plate processors and changed out parts. It was often easier to fix it myself than to have to wait for a service call. Many parts come with directions. It is not that hard.

Then why ask my husband to do it? Over the years that we have been married and more so after we became parents, we have learned to divide and conquer. The jobs just fell to the person that did it the best. My husband is capable of washing his own laundry, but I do it for him. I am capable of getting my oil changed, but he takes my car in for me. Before we married, we did those things ourselves.

On Wednesday, my husband was traveling. I had a break between dogs, so I decided to try to fix the clippers myself. The broken hinge was the easy one. It did not come with directions, but it probably should have. There is a tiny (3/16”) spring under the hinge that I couldn’t see. When I cleaned out the hair over the garbage can, I heard it drop. It would have been helpful to know that spring was there. I dug the spring out of the garbage, replaced the hinge assembly and we were back in business.

The other clipper was a little more challenging because I didn’t know what was wrong with it. I guessed that it was the blade drive assembly lever based on what I read online. To get to that part, I had to take apart the whole clipper including the hinge and case. The on/off switch fell out when I took the case off – minor problem. While it was apart, I cleaned up the pieces of hair, replaced the parts and put it all back together. I walked over to the electrical outlet and plugged it in. AND IT WORKED!

I’m telling you. It really doesn’t take much to make me happy. I let out a yell and jumped up and down as if I just won the lottery! Bring on the busy grooming season. I have three working clippers!

A few of my stay-at-home mom friends, have told me that they are going back to work in the fall. Whether it is the economy or the fact that their kids are finally old enough to take care of themselves, there seems to be a lot of women returning to the workforce.

“What are you going to do?” I asked them. Most of them have no clue. They have been out of the workforce for many years. Their skills are rusty, their contacts have moved on or they were in an industry that is overwhelmed with unemployment.

The main problem for the working mom is how to have a job AND be there for your kids. If you still have little ones, day care is expensive. Even when the kids school-aged, the problem still remains. Not all kids take the bus and not every day is pleasant to walk to school in Chicagoland. In addition, how do you get your child to the softball field at 5:00 when you are still at work? What if your child is sick?

One of my friends has recently gone back to work after being home for 12 years. Her family situation has forced her to return to work and they rely on the money she brings in. However, with gas over $4.00 a gallon and the cost of her sitter after school (she doesn’t get off work until 7:00), she is not bringing home much.

So what is the solution? Start your own business! According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, in 2002 women-owned firms totaled 285,072, an increase of 19 percent from 1997, and generated $47.2 billion in revenues. Women represented 34.6 percent of the self-employed persons in Illinois (The 2007 results come out in a few days – I guess it takes government a long time to tally results!)

So there you have it. Women represent over 34% of the self employed in Illinois. I’m proud to be one of them. That statistic was nine years ago. I believe that number has gone up.

Whenever I have suggested that a friend start up her own business, their first reaction is, “I can’t do that.” Why not? I did. Their comeback is often the same – “But you are different.” The only difference is that I tried it and didn’t just wonder if it could happen.

For those of you that don’t know, I am a dog groomer. I work out of my house from 9-3 and occasionally after school. I have only been grooming for four years. In order to be a groomer, I had to find a path to get there. I needed to go back to school (500 hour program) and still bring in money. I worked as a graphic artist and a printing production coordinator before that. My family counted on my income. My kids were 8, 6 and 4 at the time. How could I find a job that worked around my kids’ schedules, didn’t require daycare and did not take up my evenings so I could go to school?

Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy. I took a long time to decide on grooming in the first place. I wanted to find something that I enjoyed, that I could make work around the kids, and that wasn’t going to cost an arm and a leg to start up. My poor husband had to listen to every crazy idea I had before I settled on this path. Once I made the decision on the career, I had to figure out how to get there. Where would the money come from for the classes if I was taking a paycut from graphics job? Like most moms, if I had extra money, it went to the kids. Who would watch my kids while I went to school and my husband was working?

My solution was this: I started a dog walking business for dog owners who worked. I worked most days from 10-2 and brought my 4 year old with me after preschool. I also did pet sitting on the weekends and for vacations. Again, the kids could go with me. I also started doing before and after school care in my home. I had to be here anyway for my kids, so why not? That was my contribution to the family income. It wasn’t too much less than I was making as a graphic artist.

I found a local grooming school that had flexible hours. During the day, I had my sitter watch my son and my husband got home in time to pick the girls up from school. I went to school one evening a week when my husband was home. When I was in school, my dog walking was covered by my husband and friends of mine (that I paid). I still found time to volunteer, keep up the house and socialize. It was a crazy time but it all worked out.

My point of this very long story is that you can find a path for yourself. You can be a small business owner and be a mom. Start by making a list of what you like to do and what skills you have. Next, research careers in those fields both online and at the library. There are TONS of books on the subject of home based businesses.

I believe you can do it. What are you waiting for?

In this economy, and especially at this time of year, everyone is trying to stretch their dollar as much as possible. People cut back on eating out, entertainment, and even their own haircuts. However, one thing they don’t cut back on as the holidays approach is their dog grooming.

This is the busiest time of year for dog groomers. With the arrival of the holidays and out-of-town guests, everyone wants their dogs to look and smell great. I often have people tell me, “I spend more money on the dog’s haircuts than my own”. That is probably true.

While looking through Groomer to Groomer magazine, I came across a t-shirt ad from Barkleigh Products. It listed the Top Ten Reasons Why It Costs More To Get Your Pet Groomed Than Your Own Haircut. Here they are:

10. Your hairdresser doesn’t wash and clean your rear end.
9. You don’t go eight weeks without washing or brushing your hair.
8. Your hairdresser doesn’t give you a sanitary trim.
7. Your hairdresser doesn’t clean your ears.
6. Your hairdresser doesn’t remove the boogies from your eyes.
5. You sit still for your hairdresser.
4. Your haircut doesn’t include a manicure and pedicure.
3. Your hairdresser only washes and cuts the hair on your head.
2. You don’t bite or scratch your hairdresser.
1. The likelihood of you pooping on the hairdresser is pretty slim.

Happy Friday!

I know a lot of women who are college-educated and had very nice careers before they chose to stay home with their children. Now those children are in school full time, leaving them 6 1/2 hours a day to do errands, cleaning, shopping and socializing. Many of these women also volunteer during the day. At the end of the school day, their mom-job starts up again and they spend a good part of the late afternoon and evening driving kids to their activities. It seems they are busier now then when they had the kids home all day. They couldn’t go back to work now.

Something is still missing from their life, however. While the job of being a mom is the most important one in the world, there is no paycheck at the end of the week and often times, no praise for a job well done. There are times when these moms want to go back to work. The problem is, there are very few jobs available that are interesting, that pay well and that work around the school year schedule.

Why not start your own business? It can be done. If you have been out of work for 10 or more years, you will probably not be able to step right back into your former career. This is your opportunity to find something that you really enjoy and make money doing it. All you really need is desire to make it work, a supportive family and a little education.

Start by making a list of all the things you enjoy doing. Then research career opportunities online with those keywords. You will be surprised to see how much information comes up.

The abridged version of my story is this: I was unhappy with my job in graphic arts and was looking for something else. I didn’t want to go back to school full time – I had a 4, 6 and 8 year old at the time. At the same time, we got a puppy. I thought, “I like being with dogs. I wonder if there are any jobs like that?” I started pet sitting and dog walking during the day. I looked further into it and find dog grooming. I found a local school with a 500 hour program that worked around my family’s schedule. My husband helped out with the kids and my dog walking. I started grooming out of my house during school hours. I have been doing it for four years now.

Like I said, it can be done. If you are persistent enough to potty train a child (or two) than you are persistent enough to start a business doing something you love. Success in both of those areas will make you a much happier person!

While doing research for an article about legitimate work from home jobs, I came across Swagbucks. Have you ever heard of Swagbucks? I read about it in a few couponing blogs and I decided it try it out.

Swagbucks is a search engine that pays you points for using it. With these free points, you can buy things, such as gift certificates to places like Amazon.com. You can also earn points by shopping at online stores through Swagbucks. They have many online stores available – Target, Apple, Macy’s, etc. You earn 2 Swagbucks for every dollar you spend. If you buy a lot online, this can add up quickly. Referrals can also earn you points. You can also follow the Swag Guy to find codes to get you points, which I haven’t done.

Now let me clarify. You do not get points every time you search. It is like gambling. There isn’t a rhyme or reason to it, at least that I can see. I got 5 points yesterday for copying a sentence from this post and searching for it. I didn’t get any points for “softball cheers” or “bp oil spill” which were actual researches.

Is this really worth doing or is it a waste of time? I signed up a few months ago. I have 436 Swagbucks. With 450, I can buy a $5.00 Amazon gift card. With 700 points I can get $5.00 in Paypal cash. Now I don’t use it nearly as much as I could. If I sat at a computer all day, I could check random words and phases to get about 30 point per day. Yesterday I had more time on my hands than usual and I earned 44 points. I just happened to be on and off the computer checking my email, Facebook, Amazon, WordPress and a couple of other blogs I follow. Each time I went on yesterday, I checked out my Swagbucks because I planned to write about it in my blog. There is a toolbar you can download to make searching easier. (Sometimes you get one Swagbuck just for having the toolbar.)

Honestly, I like Goggle better as a search engine. Swagbucks (Proedge) is a meta search engine. What that means is that it doesn’t create its own index like Google does. It uses many different indexes from Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. and displays the results according to their source giving you the “best of the best”. It operates on the premise that using more than one index gives you a more complete search. However, I don’t find that to be true. I guess it is a matter of personal preference.

If you like this sort of thing, there are other search and win sites. I haven’t tried them out but you might want to – iRazoo and Blingo are just a few names. Blingo is owned by Publishers Clearing House – what does that tell you?

Will I keep doing this? Maybe. Some people play the lottery every week and get nothing back. This takes less time (only a few seconds) and I don’t pay anyone for a chance a win. Eventually, I will win a prize. You don’t have that guarantee in the lottery.

National Professional Petsitter’s Week is March 7-13th. (I would have told everyone earlier, but National Procrastination Week was last week and well, you know.) A petsitter is a contracted service provider who takes care of a pet in its own home, as defined by Wikipedia. As many of you know, I am a petsitter, in addition to being a dog groomer and wannabe writer. Petsitting is a great business for women with children. I started my petsitting business in 2006. Here are the benefits and disadvantages of the job:

Benefits: 1) You never have to dress up; hair in a pony and no make up is fine with the dogs. PJs are also acceptable. 2)You get lots of exercise and fresh air by walking the dogs and if the houses are close enough, you can ride your bike. 3)You can bring the kids along. Most of the dogs have kids in their house so they are always happy to see another “puppy”. 4) The hours include 4 visits a day, leaving you time in between to do what you want.

Disadvantages: 1)Walking in the rain, freezing temps or blasting heat SUCKS! 2) You are busy while others are on vacation.  3) Some stretches of time you don’t have a day off for weeks. 4) Picking up dog poop – what more do I need to say.

Overall, I think it is a great job. I love animals, especially dogs, so it gives me the opportunity to have a lot of dog friends. BTW, I forgot add in the benefits that your clients don’t talk back or play games. If they don’t like you, they bite you and you know where you stand with them. (However, biting can be viewed as a disadvantage!)

Don’t forget to wish your petsitter a Happy National Professional Petsitter’s Week!

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