Imagine having an extra 10 hours a week to spend with your kids, get chores done, even squeeze in a few long walks - while you still make good money. It's a fantasy for many women. While only 24 percent of employed women work part-time, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, six out of 10 working women said part-time hours are ideal in a 2007 Pew Research Center study.
For most women, going part-time means accepting the obvious trade-offs. They often make less money, lose benefits, and risk putting their career off track.
But there are women who avoid the pitfalls and manage to have it all: These five women, all moms, work 30 or fewer hours a week on flexible schedules and still earn more than $32,500 (the median full-time salary for a woman in this country). Some of them make much, much more. Read on for their stories - and some valuable lessons you can learn from their success.
Sell Your Smarts
Debra Cohen, 40
Founder, Home Remedies referral service
Annual income: $125,000
Hours per week: About 30
Children's ages: 8, 12
After sprucing up her family's 70-year-old Tudor in Hewlett, NY, Cohen, a lifelong home-improvement buff, assembled a list of top contractors. "Whenever I discovered a good painter, plumber, or carpenter, I'd share the name," she says. After leaving her full-time job as an assistant at an aviation magazine to care for her first baby, she decided to build a business based on home-improvement referrals.
Cold-calling local real estate offices and hardware stores for names of competent contractors while her daughter was sleeping or watching a video, Cohen (who says, "I'm a networker by nature") built an extensive database. Contractors paid a commission for work secured; customers got referrals for free. She chose contractors who'd been in business 10 years or more, checked with the state and county to make sure they met licensing requirements, reviewed Better Business Bureau and Consumer Affairs records, and checked references.
The referral service caught on quickly after a two-pronged marketing plan: a direct mail campaign and spreading the word among home-improvement and real estate professionals. When inquiries came in from people wanting to set up referral services in other towns, Cohen wrote a manual on how to run a local branch of the referral service based on a franchise manual a consultant from the Wharton Small Business Development Center gave her, part of a package of services that included consultation with her. Her first newspaper advertisement drew 33 responses in one day. The branch businesses are operated mostly by other women, who recruit and screen their own contractors.
Smooth-transition tip: Whether you are starting a business from home or telecommuting, it is crucial to reserve blocks of work time, says Cohen. Turning down playdates or coffee during "office hours" may be uncomfortable - "I feel other moms don't realize I actually work," says Cohen. She avoids hurt feelings by mentioning that she's working and suggesting another time that fits her schedule. She lets personal calls go to voice mail during the day and returns them evenings and weekends. "It can be lonely sometimes, but working from home requires a lot of self-discipline," she says.
Get More Smart-Money Tips from Good Housekeeping
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.