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A coffee with Holly Hanna: She works at home telling others how to work at home

Staff Writer
Austin 360

There are no snow days for people who work at home.

Thus, when the ice-and-snow storm hit last month, work-at-homer Holly Hanna didn't bat an eye: She was ready to do on that day what she'd do any other day. Not so for her husband, Jeff, a mechanical engineer whose work cannot be done from home.

"My husband couldn't get out of the driveway," Hanna said as she sipped tea at Starbucks on a recent, much sunnier day. "So he was like, 'What do you want to do today?' and I said, 'I still have to work.' "

Boundary-setting — making sure you don't get sidetracked by people who think you're available just because you're at home — is one of the necessities of working at home, says Hanna, who works part-time doing marketing work and also runs the website theworkathomewoman.com, which advises other women on how to create a situation she sees as the best of all worlds.

"I'm helping people, it's not stressful, and I get to be at home with her, my number one priority," she said, glancing at her 4-year-old daughter, Hadley, who was quietly eating lemon pound cake and working on her coloring book.

Hanna, 38, is a University of Texas graduate with an anthropology degree she never put to work. Instead, she became a registered nurse, working as a children's hospital floor nurse, handling authorizations for Medicaid and working in pharmaceutical research. When her daughter was born, Hanna realized that she wanted to both stay home with her daughter and go back to work.

She combed all those "work at home" ads on the Internet and found most were multilevel marketing.

"They were all scams," she said. "So I decided: I'm going to make what I'm looking for." She started by asking her friends if they needed any work done that she could do at home. A friend with a publishing business jumped in with some marketing work. Then she signed on to do handle her friend's business Facebook and Twitter pages.

She started sharing her experiences on a blog, and eventually she was able to sell a few ads on the blog. She now considers herself a part-time worker and says she earns as much as she needs to.

"Once Hadley's in school, I hope to add consulting," she said. She's already giving people advice about how to be a home-based entrepreneur; she figures she could earn money doing it.

Blogging involves writing almost every day, and Hanna said she's always had a bit of that writing bug.

"I always, in the back of my head, thought that I'd write a novel," she said. "I never thought I'd be a blogger." Her readers, she said, are a mixed bag of stay-at-home moms, laid-off people looking for a way to make money and people who just happen upon her blog through a friend's Twitter or Facebook feed.

Because she's a self-starter, she says, combining motherhood with a home-based business has worked well, and she'll celebrate theworkathomewoman.com's second year Saturday with a prize sweepstakes on her website, giving away mom-friendly prizes such as jeweled flip-flops and photography packages.

"I loved the critical thinking of nursing, but as far as being my passion, it wasn't," Hanna said. "I've finally found my passion, and this is it."

handers@statesman.com; 912-2590