I enjoy telling people that I “work at home.” I can see that wistful look in their eyes, and I can hear it in their voices when they say, “That must be nice.” And then for about five minutes, they do a little daydreaming about what it would be like to “work at home.” I never explain to them about the measure of self-discipline it takes, and how great are the temptations to take a “break” and reorganize my sock drawer when I find myself faced with working on a project that is less than interesting (or worse yet, “not as profitable” as other projects). Why burst their bubble? Let them daydream awhile….
Working at home can be all the wonderful things that those people daydream about. Setting my own hours, working at my own pace (project deadlines permitting), running to the market at 1 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon when there’s nobody there—these are just a few of the plusses of working at home. For parents (whether it is the mom or dad, or both working at home), being able to adjust their working schedule to school schedules, being able to take the kids to the orthodontist or to soccer practice, working at home is a definite plus. For people who don’t work at home and who want to work at home, it is probably hard to think of even one minus. But the fact of the matter is, the minuses do exist—in abundance.
It is not my purpose here to ruin all your hopes or plans to establish yourself as a work-at-homer. In fact, I do encourage you to follow that dream and be your own boss. However, I want you to take just a few minutes to take stock of your situation and once and for all decide if working at home really is in your best interest.
First, and obviously, you have to have a job skill that is amenable to the at-home environment. If you trim poodles on the weekend and think you can turn it into a full-time at-home business, then look around. Do you live in a two-bedroom apartment on the second floor and just do your neighbor’s poodle once a month (but you do it really well)? Or do you live a four-bedroom ranch house with a three-car garage that can be made over into “Donna’s Clip Joint” and happen to live in an urban neighborhood where everyone has pets? And even if you do, what about all the permits that you will need? Will you be able to pursue this type of work at home, and do so legally?
The most applicable work-at-home job skills involve the use of a computer, the Internet, phone, fax, and other small business/office machines. You can hardly drive from home to the grocery store without seeing those signs nailed to telephone poles: “Got a Computer? Earn up to $2000 at home!” Of course, you can, but can you?
For the sake of argument, let’s presume then that you have a computer and an assortment of small business machines, and that you do indeed have some skill that you believe can be marketed. Let’s focus on you for a minute: Are you self-disciplined? Are you organized? Do you have the proper workspace where you can work undisturbed? Are you able to face a workday where you have no supervision or guidance? Can you work at home, day after day, without having the people contact that you would typically find “on the job”? When you have overlapping projects, will you be able to cope with the necessary prioritizing so that you get the time-critical job done on time without jeopardizing the next job in line?
The list of questions goes on. And this doesn’t begin to address the “what ifs” that go hand-in-hand with working at home. What if you don’t have any work this week? What if work doesn’t come in the week after that? What if you get sick and can’t finish a project on time? What if your client doesn’t pay you on time? What if your client doesn’t pay you at all?
Financial gurus recommend that we all should have three months’ wages tucked away in a “bail out” savings account so that in case of illness or work stoppage, we can “bail out” our sinking checking accounts and pay the bills, pay the rent, buy groceries. Let’s face it, how many of us really have three months’ salary bankrolled? Most of us are lucky if we have one months’ salary in a demand savings account that’s hooked to our checking account that gets dipped into on a more regular basis than we’d like to admit. If that is the case, then are you really in a position where you can handle the uncertainties of establishing and maintaining a work-at-home business?
This isn’t to say that even if all these things are true, that you shouldn’t make the move to be your own boss and work at home. I’m a perfect example. I did have the fortunate circumstance that I had a husband working full-time and earning “decent” money (not a fortune, not more than enough, but “enough”). He believed in me and gave me great support while I established my business. It took me more than five years to get to the point where I can count on having work just about every day (based on a five-day, 50-week “normal” annual work schedule). During that time, I had periods when I didn’t work for five weeks or more (and even still, my primary client goes through a month-long “dry spell” while their organization holds its annual meetings). It took me over three years just to finally break the “one client” barrier (I now have five “regular” clients). The point here is that I did it; I built my own at-home business, and I now think of myself as “successful.” I don’t earn a fortune, but I “make a living at it.”
I don’t think that anyone could ever honestly tell you that there is one no-fail method of how to become your own boss and establish a “successful” at-home business. The variables are endless and there is no way to provide you with a formula for how you go about setting yourself up as an entrepreneur. In the end, becoming successful and realizing your dream of working at home depends on you, and you alone. You must have a marketable skill; you need adequate workspace and supporting equipment; you must have the personal demeanor that lends itself to this type of work environment; and you must have confidence in yourself.
With these things, you can be a success. You’ll be able to tell people, “I work at home”…then stand back and watch them daydream.