Welcome to the first in a series exploring how real-life moms work alternative jobs in order to work and mom the way they want or their family needs. For many, this means working at home. For some it means jobs with flexible schedules. For others it means more traditional business hours, but owning their own business. As we examine the different ways moms make it work, you’ll see a lot of creativity and hopefully be inspired to make your job, traditional or not, work best in your life.
Kelly Siebe owns a rental property and has three vacation rentals that she owns and manages, including this one, this one and this one. She also owns a freelance marketing, web and graphic design business, using those skills for her part time job as the Marketing Director of a massage school. She is married with one daughter. How does this lady make it work?
PM: What jobs have you had in the past?
KS: I have been working as a freelancer in some form or another since I was 15 when I learned how to build websites and use photoshop. I have always done some form of side work even when I have had full time jobs, which to be honest hasn’t been super frequently. I worked one summer doing full time work at a graphic design firm and hated it. I will pretty much do whatever it takes to avoid sitting down and doing the same thing all day, every day. Including changing careers 5 times before the age of 30! I have a Bachelor’s degree in Women Studies and have worked as the Program Manager for a non-profit, as a doula, a home birth midwifery assistant, a landlord, a property manager, a marketing director, and a web/graphic designer in various capacities – for a congressional campaign, design firms, non-profits, schools, and just doing design work for local businesses.
PM: How did you come to do what you currently do?
KS: I kind of fell into the role at the massage school. I had designed their website and marketing materials for years but when the school grew they needed more regular marketing work and I just kind of started filling a need and created a position for myself. I am lucky in that they have worked with me to have a really flexible schedule and work part time from home, which made it something I could do while also being a stay at home mom. That is also one of the big benefits of doing computer-based freelance work.
As for the other stuff – I bought my first property using money I was given from family for college as the down payment. I got a full scholarship and was able to use that money as an investment. All through college I lived there and rented out the other rooms. I saved up money and bought another property that was a duplex after I graduated. I rented one side out and used that to pay the mortgage while I lived in the other side. The entire upstairs of that house was unfinished and over several years I renovated it. I’ve always been interested in historic properties and learning about building. I did a month long internship at the Earthships in Taos and I’ve learned how to do a lot of things myself over the years – electric work, tiling, painting, sheetrock, whatever. But I enjoy the design side more than the actual building process. When we moved our family to a bigger house, I bought the casita next door and rented it as well. I have been renting properties in the traditional way for almost 10 years and have become a pretty savvy landlord, which is to say that I trust my intuition.
This year I started a new business renting my properties out as vacation rentals and so far
it has been good. I fixed up and decorated 3 properties and rent them out on a nightly basis through sites like Airbnb and VRBO. It is definitely a lot more work than a traditional rental and feels a lot more like a “job” since I am managing employees and schedules and there are a lot more things that are time sensitive and can go wrong and you are basically on call 24/7.
Ultimately though it is a flexible, creative, detail-oriented job that works really well for me. I think the best answer to “how did you come to do what you currently do?” is a lot of trial and error. I spent most of my 20’s trying different things and figuring out what worked best for me. I realized that my ideal work is something that has a flexible schedule, requires scheduling and detail work yet is also creative, is constantly changing to keep me interested and engaged, does not require a ton of face-to-face interaction yet still involves some level of working with people, and does not require that I be at the computer for long periods of time (because my body just does not want to do that anymore). It’s a pretty weird set of requirements and I feel lucky that I have been able to piece together a career and lifestyle that works so well for me.
PM: How long did it take to get to where you are now?
KS: 15 years of graphic design work, 10 years of property management experience, and a husband and family who are patient enough to support me in starting my own businesses and going after whatever new thing I say I’m doing this week…. whatever that adds up to 😉 I definitely had a lot of help and support from friends and family for all sorts of things along the way – from financial help, to teaching me how to do things and physically helping me do them, to legal or business advice. I can easily think of 20 people who helped me in a huge way over the past 10 years and I consider myself very lucky for that.
PM: What are the biggest challenges?
KS: Keeping life in balance when you have a lot of different projects (business and family) going on at once is probably my biggest challenge. I have a lot of plates spinning in the air at once, which works for me because I don’t get bored, but it’s a fine balance before I start to get overwhelmed and everything feels like it comes crashing down. I have to balance that with a lot of self care and alone time in order to sustain it, which is something that I am still learning how to do.
The financial stress of starting a new business or making a big investment can also be overwhelming at times. I have probably ended up where I am though because I haven’t thought about those decisions too hard. I trust my intuition and if something feels like a good investment then I usually jump into it and I make course corrections when necessary, but I don’t really second guess it too much. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad method but it has worked for me so far! I think that definitely speaks to having a strong support system though and feeling able to take those risks.
PM: What are the biggest advantages?
KS: I think for me having the flexibility to be a stay at home mom part of the time has been the biggest advantage. I am the kind of person who needs a lot of alone time so having the freedom to have access to that most days of the week is a huge advantage for me as well. Even if I have to work 7 days a week and be available 24/7, it’s a worthwhile trade off for me.
PM: What are your next goals?
KS: To work on keeping my life in balance as much as possible. I promised my husband that for at least the next few months I wouldn’t take on any new projects or businesses or big trips! I reached a lot of my professional goals this year, so right now I’m just focusing on getting what I have to run really well and doing the best job that I can do and enjoying what I have built in my life so far. I’ve been a wife and mom for 5 years this month so my plan for this year is to sit back and enjoy the fruition of working toward my 5 year plan for the past 5 years. Then I can start a new 5 year plan. 😉
Learn what you really enjoy doing and try to figure out how you might be able to do it, or some version of it, even if it is a job that isn’t really traditional or defined. Don’t be afraid to take a reasonable amount of risk if something seems like a good investment or business opportunity. Figure out what day to day work actually makes you happy – for me that was very different than the type of work I thought would make me happy when I was younger. And don’t get caught up in feeling guilty or selfish for working and spending time to create the kind of life that you want to have, whatever that means for you. It is important for our children to see us as examples of adults living healthy, balanced lives that prioritize our own goals, passions, and needs alongside our roles as parents.
KS: It is easiest for me to be most productive when I’m doing something I feel excited and energized by. For me I get bored doing the same thing so that is always changing, which is why it works for me to have several things going on that I sort of rotate. Some weeks I’m energized by cleaning the house and other weeks I’m more inspired to do design work, work on my properties, or focus on developing my parenting skills. I try to keep my schedule flexible enough that I can work on what I’m feeling most energized by most of the time. On the days when it doesn’t work out that way, I need a lot of alone time and exercise (i.e. self care) on a regular basis to feel grounded so as long as I fit that into my routine I can usually keep myself pretty balanced and able to stay focused and productive the rest of the time. And good coffee is also important.
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