Work at Home Profile: Jenna McCarthy, freelance writer and author


Name and type of Business: Jenna McCarthy, freelance writer and author.

How long have you been in this business: I have been writing professionally for eighteen years, the last eleven of which have been from home as a freelance writer/author.

What is the biggest challenge about having your business and family under the same roof?
It is a daily challenge to try to separate the two. When you never “leave” your office, it’s hard to shut down your computer and turn off your Blackberry and just be present with your family.

How have you managed child care: When my kids were younger and not in school, I had help with the kids at home. At first I tried to schedule their hours selectively, but not much actual work was transpiring that way. I finally graduated to 35 hours a week of help—8 to 3, Monday through Friday, and carefully selected babysitters who were eager and willing to help with anything that needed to be done. If I had a light work day, I might play with the girls and the sitter would run errands—go to the grocery store, stand in line at the post office, whatever was necessary. It worked out great, and now that my girls are in school I actually miss having someone to help with those things!

What is your favorite part about being in business for yourself? Least favorite? I have absolutely no tolerance for long, laborious meetings and other office BS. I feel so blessed to be able to travel when I want, and not to have to worry about taking a “personal day” if one of my kids is sick or there’s a great sale at Nordstrom. I love not having to commute or frankly, even get dressed! (I work in my bathrobe most days. I am sure the neighbors think I’m some lush when they see me padding out to get the mail at noon in my robe!) The only thing I don’t like about working for myself is having to track payments. It can get uncomfortable when you develop this wonderful relationship with an editor, and then you have to call her and go, “So, any idea when I might get paid?”

What is your favorite part of working from home? Least favorite? I’m a total insomniac, so it’s nice to be able to get some work done during an otherwise frustrating midnight stint. Conversely, I’m also a bit of a neat-freak, so I can’t really sit down to work until the house is spotless. It’s a blessing and a curse.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve made as a work at home business owner/employee? Trying to do it without help. I mean, I work, and what I do is a job. You wouldn’t be expected to tote your kids to an office everyday and try to get anything done, would you?

What is the best decision you’ve made as a work at home business owner/employee? It may sound ridiculous, but I finally switched from a laptop to a desktop computer, and it was the best thing I ever did. Now my computer lives in my office (what a concept!), and I can actually shut the door and walk away. It’s so liberating not having that laptop staring at me from the kitchen table or the corner of the living room!

What advice do you have for anyone considering starting a work at home business or job? Get help. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Make sure friends and family understand that while you may be doing it from home, you are still working. When I first started writing from home, I would get daily calls to go play tennis or have lunch or drive someone to the airport. I kept having to say, “Sorry, gotta work!” People eventually got it, but it took some time.

Jenna McCarthy is the internationally published author of The Parent Trip: From High Heels and Parties to Highchairs and Potties and Cheers to the New Mom/Dad! Her work has appeared in more than fifty national and international magazines, on dozens of web sites and several anthologies including the popular Chicken Soup series. She writes from her home in Santa Barbara, CA, where she enjoys sculpting Play-Doh and scrubbing crayon from her walls. In her spare time, she wonders what she used to do with all of her spare time. Visit her online at

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