I do a lot of my work from home, and every day you will find me dutifully sitting in my office dealing with a number of exciting projects for our business. Friends who work in the traditional nine-to-five routine sigh nostalgically when they think about my working arrangements “Ah … if only I had a better work/life balance! It must be fantastic working from home!”
Well, the answer is ‘Yes’ and ‘No!’ There are some fantastic benefits to the arrangements, but it would be foolish to think that everything in the garden is rosy.
For instance; on most days I will be at my computer at six o’clock in the morning, and it is not unusual to find me still working at about eight o’clock at night. How do you feel about those hours you nine-to-fivers!
I can just hear them now – “of course you can stop anytime you want to; you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck; you don’t have to face the traffic jams morning and night; you can choose what hours you work – so don’t give me that rubbish!”
And of course they are technically right – but there is a subtle pressure on the self- employed which is absent from the employed work force. I know, rationally, I don’t have to be at the computer or even working on the business for so long; but the little voice in my head tells me that if I don’t I won’t succeed.
Now, while I am writing this from my personal perspective, I do have the added bonus of having a business partner who also works from home – and I know that her concept of work/life balance is worse than mine!
The problem for those of us who work from home, is that it is not always easy to divorce the business responsibilities from the domestic. For instance the husband has only just looked around the door to complain that we really do have to go shopping some time today or we might starve!
The main problem with being self-employed and working from home is the difficulty in separating work space and time; from domestic space and time. When the work is just at the end of the hallway you can feel mightily guilty when you are slumped in an armchair with a cup of coffee and a book in the lounge room.
Sometimes my sense of guilt is so overwhelming that I take an improving work-related book for my ten minute break! That way I can fool myself into feeling that I am still technically working. You see, when your workplace is also your home, you do not have the luxury of leaving work to go home; your work is always going to be there, calling you with its siren voice.
When taking the plunge into self-employment, many do so with stars in their eyes. They talk about the flexibility of working hours; the convenience of working right where they live and the sense of achievement which comes from succeeding.
But there is also isolation; the inability to go and find someone who knows, and the lack of co-workers to share the frustrations and problems with.
It comes with the frightening reality that there is no support group backing you up now. There is no financial department to handle invoices, payments and taxation for you. There are no marketing people whose sole purpose is to make you look good – self-employment means that either you are the one; or you have to commit a large proportion of your budget to outsourcing.
And unfortunately there are many people who set up as self-employed who seriously under estimate the cost in time and money; and the need to undertake business activities they may not understand or even like.
One of the best quotes I ever heard about the problems of being self-employed is
“…the reality of being self employed is that, if you want to do what you love, you’re going to have to spend time doing something you probably hate.”
But with all the problems, would I do anything else? Probably not.
Working from home and being self-employed does give me control over what I choose to do and how I choose to do it. I just need to be able to juggle the business time and ‘me’ time better.
And now, I really have to finish that article; and there is a manuscript that need proofing; and we have a conference presentation coming up next month that I must look at soon – and: oh yes! I need to do some shopping.
How good a juggler are you?
Michele @ Trischel