Well, as promised, here are the highlights (and some lowlights) of my journey towards living and working from home as a charity fundraising consultant...
I worked for five or six years for a charity close to my heart, and learnt my fundraising skills there, working my way up the ranks and trying my hand at most areas of fundraising. I think one of the most important things about that job was that from the beginning I worked part time. In fact I haven't had a full time job as such since March 2000. This was invaluable later on for two reasons: I had time to dabble in self-employment without risk, and I was not locked into the 8-hours-a-day-five-days-a-week mentality.
When the boy was born, I took a year's maternity leave with the intention of going back part time, but in the meantime found a similar job much closer to home. It was full time but I negotiated it down to part time. (Well, as all part time workers know, most of us do a full time job in part time hours anyway!) It was hard and the boy was not happy at nursery. After a year, I broke down in tears on the husband one lunchtime, and he said the immortal words, "go back in, and quit." He wasn't giving me permission or an order - it was up to me, after all - but his words allowed me to give myself permission to leave, with no job to go to.
I didn't quit that afternoon - it seemed too over-emotional - but I did do it the next day. And I did what in retrospect was a very clever thing. You see, in the course of that monumental conversation, the husband had also asked me what I would like to do in an ideal world. My reply: "One day a week working on [a particular area of fundraising] from home." So when I handed in my notice, I offered to continue in that particular area for a day a week. My boss, of course was politely non-committal - but when my successor announced that she only wanted to work 4 days a week, he picked up the phone to me."
In the meantime I'd been speaking to former colleagues at my original charity, asking if there were any part time or short term opportunities. No word of a lie, the week after I handed in my notice, two of those former colleagues rang me independently, offering me part time, short term contracts.
Within a very short space of time, all due to telling others that I was available, I had a client base. Small, admittedly, but a start. I continued working for one charity for a year, and another for most of three years. Slowly, over those three years, I branched out to new charities and now, after about 5 years, I feel I've found my niche, all thanks to good relationships with former colleagues and (accidentally) articulating to myself what work I wanted to be doing. And jumping in with both feet.