My favorite futurist, Faith Popcorn, predicts that most workers in the future will have multiple income streams. They may contract with one or more companies as well as have one or more home-based businesses. This system not only protects people from losing it all if they lose a job, it also allows you to pursue several areas that interest you as opposed to choosing only one. In this scenario almost everyone will be involved in some form of a home-based business. To many this sounds like a fantastic set-up but as a current home-based entrepreneur I predict that this scenario will be rosier for some than others.
For the past sixteen years I have been working from home in some capacity. My latest gigs are teaching online classes for the past eight years and now self publishing too and I admit that most days I love working from home. However, I know others who have moved their offices home then changed their minds once the reality set in. Setting up a desk in a corner of the dining room or the extra bedroom is only the first step to making it work.
I always like to get the negative out of the way first so let me start with–isolation. This is the big one that is often under estimated and can be so bad that people choose to go back to drive-time traffic and cubicles. It’s extremely easy to become a home-based hermit. It starts with not changing out of your PJ’s, all day. Which leads to not going to the gym or out to meet someone for lunch because, why change for one hour? Weeks can go by with the only human contact you have being the FedEx driver and your immediate family–if you let it happen. This is why so many flock to coffee shops and other places with relative quiet, tables and free wifi. While this helps a little, it doesn’t solve the problem of actually needing to interact with others who understand your business. It is crucial that you make plans to get dressed and leave the house to meet with people with whom you can share ideas and frustrations (introverts especially take note of this one).
Time flexibility can be both a blessing and a curse. On days that I need to be there for my kids it’s a fantastic bonus but on days when I’m having trouble getting organized and focused it’s definitely not. An office provides structure: a start time, lunch break, meetings, etc. Some home jobs have a built in structure, but many can be worked on anytime of the day (or night). To make this aspect work for you, you need to let go of classic ideas about work versus home time. Figuring out your personal best schedule is key. Are you the most focused early in the morning? Are there jobs that are route and dull and can be done while on a speaker phone? Is there a class you want to take that is offered during the day? (that will be a great reason to change out of your PJ’s?) Personally, I never go shopping on the weekends unless I absolutely have to. Costco on a Tuesday morning is a breeze compared to Saturday afternoon. It isn’t efficient to focus on work during the day and family or personal tasks on nights and weekends.
Time flexibility also allows you to create your own schedule; deciding exactly what you want to accomplish, when and how–your goals are now your own too. This freedom sounds great and can be once you do a little soul searching. You might have specific goals set by your company, but even then you now get to (have to) incorporate those in with your other non-work goals in a new way. Unplanned time will disappear into the same place half your socks go and it’s easy to lose balance. If you are running your own business it’s tempting to keep working and not stop for things like food, water, friends. Setting my own goals has been the most challenging part of working from home. They change as I change and my family and business change. Without a boss to establish them for me and with more time (no commute, shorter lunches, etc.) than most, figuring out exactly what I need or want to be doing and when has been an ongoing challenge. The key to success is setting time aside to establish goals, make action plans and also note your accomplishments. If you don’t, no one else will do it for you.
If Faith Popcorn is right (and she often is) working from home is in your future. Maybe you are part of the growing number who are already there, living the dream of owning their time, but working with the challenges too.
I’d love to hear from other home entrepreneurs. What surprised you most about working from home? How do you make it work for you? Comment and share below.