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Should You Start Your Own Work at Home Business?


Work at Home: The Dream

Ah, the dream of working for yourself out of your own home! What could be better, right? Well it turns out there are major pros and cons to having your own work at home business. This article will provide the elements of working from home that you should consider before making the leap. I have been working from home as a freelance writer and blogger for 3 years now so I have personal insights that you will hopefully find valuable.

Work at Home: The Reality Pros and Cons

1. Work in your PJ’s.
Pro: This is the ultimate, right? Getting up and doing your work in your PJ’s and slippers. Sounds good and sometimes it is good. Being able to do work anytime in any clothing is convenient.

Con: The reality for many people is that your level of productivity is often influenced by how you are dressed. Yes, you can work in your pajamas, but once you’re doing this for a while, you’ll probably find that you get a little more motivation from getting out and exercising first, showering, and putting on clean clothes before starting work.

2. No Boss.
Pro: It’s true that your boss is not in your home looking over shoulder.

Con: However, we all have a “boss,” someone that we answer to:

  • Bloggers have their audience to please.
  • Freelancers and service providers have their clients to please.
  • Product sellers have their customers to please.
  • Writers have their editors, publishers, and readers to please.
  • Inventors have their end-user to please.
  • We all have ourselves, family, and financial needs that we must live up to.

3. Flexible Schedule.
Pro: This is a major benefit. You can decide when you work. You can take time off whenever you wish. Doctor appointments? No problem. Your child is sick? You’re already home to take care of them. But there is a catch.

Con: You need to make up the time somewhere. The work must get done. You can make it up on nights and weekends, but then balancing work and home can become quite challenging. If you have a family you might run into resentment of the extra time you spend doing work. If you’re single, this is less of a problem in terms of people putting demands on you, but you certainly run the risk of work edging out your personal time. So you need to think about how you will define the line between work and home life. And it’s not as easy as you might think.

4. No More Office Politics.
Pro: You won’t have to schmooze for that promotion. You will make your own promotions. You won’t have to watch Suzy-Q and Dapper-Dan get ahead because they are good at working office relationships. But….

Con: You may watch competitors get ahead for the same reasons. You may lose clients, contracts, readers, deals, etc because you are not working smart enough on the relationship building front. The bottom line is politics is not good or bad. It just is. By definition it exists as part of all human interactions. The only question is how you navigate and leverage it. Politics is human relations. It doesn’t mean you have to bend your morals. But it may mean that you need to work with someone you’re not crazy about in order to bring about a mutually beneficial outcome.

5. No Limits on Income.
Pro: No longer will you have to wait some silly prescribed timeframe in order to be eligible for a raise. The quality of your work will determine your income. By working hard and smart, you’ll have unlimited earnings potential. Really.

Con: It’s not easy. You will need to have a smart business plan. You will need to adjust your plan as you progress, especially when you hit roadblocks and plateaus, which will inevitably happen. You will need to be super organized, focused, and persistent. Income is especially hard in the beginning, so what you gain in upside potential you lose in security of income, retirement plans, health insurance and other benefits.

6. No More Interruptions.
Pro: You won’t have to worry about Chatty Cathy stopping by your cubicle every day, interrupting your productivity. You won’t have to worry about endless non-productive meetings anymore.

Con: But you’re not entirely off the hook. There’s still two potential challenges:

  • First, if you have family or roommates, inevitably there will be interruptions. When you’re using some of your flexibility to work nights or weekends, they’ll be there either getting miffed about you working again or they will be tempting you to slack off. If you have children, forget it, especially if they are young. It’s a real challenge. You need to establish boundaries and you will likely find times when you want to keep working, but you must stick with your promises in order to keep a happy family.
  • Second, if you live alone, then you will face the problem of isolation. With isolation you have no “local” colleague with whom to bounce ideas, ask advice, or consult. You will need to develop these types of relationships elsewhere. No man is an island. You will gain strength from having a virtual “team” of people you can go to for guidance. The other problem with isolation is you must provide your own motivation. Whether we like it or not, we all need to be pushed from time to time. Without interruptions or a boss you must create this for yourself. Yes, interruptions can serve as a motivator at times! And they force breaks on us too which is good for productivity. You’ll want to consider how you’ll ensure that you take breaks.

7. I’ll Work Less Hours. It Will Be Easier.
Pro: Perhaps eventually you will work less and it may be easier down the road. Maybe you’ll become like Tim Ferris and design your life so you only work 4 hours per week. Or it may be that you choose to live on a lower income. In that case you might work less sooner rather than later.

Con: For most of us, starting a business means hard work and long hours! Of course those hours are all for your business so that’s a beautiful thing. But it’s also your time and money at stake too. Work is work and it must get done. The other good thing is that if you are choosing the right business, i.e. something you love, then the work will feel like play. That’s a great thing. But at the end of the day, you will be tired, you will struggle at first and wonder “Did I make the right decision?” You’ll need to stick with it, adapt your plan when necessary, and smile even when you feel like you’re not making any progress.

8. More Creative License.
Pro: You will be in charge. You’ll make the decisions in your business. Your creativity can run free and wild. There are, however, conflicting forces at work that you’ll need to content with.

Con: You must please someone in addition to yourself in order to make money. So you will need to balance your income goals, your desire for creative authority, and the desires of your clients, readers, vendors, users, etc. It may be that your creativity is right in line with what your clients want or it may be that you’ll need to sacrifice your creative freedom a bit in order to meet your income goals. The bottom line is that for most, the client’s needs and desires will highly influence how our creativity manifests in our product, writing, services, inventions and so on. It’s a matter of prioritizing your income goals in balance with your desire for maximum creative license.

9. No Selling Things I Don’t Believe In.
Pro: There will be no more product/service of the month that you’ll be required to sell. Sometimes you like the company you work for, but occasionally you squirm at the thought of selling this quarter’s featured product. Ugh. No more of this! Hurray!

Con: No matter what your business is, you will still need to sell. And boy will this be important to your success or failure. Selling is not hard if you believe in what you are selling. Presumably this will be the case with your own business. If not, then maybe you don’t have the best business idea yet. True “selling” means helping people meet their needs. Focus on meeting clients’ needs and you will sell a lot. But of course there is a lot more to it than that. Stay tuned by subscribing for an upcoming article on How to Be a Great Salesperson.

10. No More Nightmare Clients.
Pro: If a client is beligerant, unreasonable, or otherwise unattractive to deal with, you will have the decision power to say, “Bye, bye!”

Con: At the same time, you will never be free of difficult client circumstances. And in each of these circumstances you will be required to decide how to handle them. Some examples:

  • Freelancers: Your biggest client turns difficult with the addition of a new general manager. What do you do?
  • Writers: Your editor seems to have turned sour on your writing, finding fault all the time. How do you handle this?
  • Bloggers: How will you handle mean comments, blog hecklers, and the like? How will you handle a negative campaign against you?
  • Selling products: There can be shipping problems, returns, complaints, lawsuits and more. You’ll need to deal with all of these.
  • Inventors: If you produce your product, you’ll need to manage relationships with manufacturers, distributors, and marketing companies where you will face issues of trust, control, and quality. If you sell your idea, you will likely face tough negotiations if you want to get the most value for your invention.

How to Meet these Challenges

Two words: Business Planning. (Subscribe for an upcoming Business Planning article) The best way to meet these challenges is to have a business plan. It doesn’t have to be formal if you’re not sharing it with financiers, but you’ll do yourself a favor by having as much detail as is necessary to be ready to take the plunge. See the resources below for links to business planning help, most of which is free!

The Bottom Line

This article is not meant to discourage you from pursuing your dream of starting your own work at home business, but rather to prepare you for the realities, both good and bad, so that you can decide whether you’ll be comfortable with this decision. If you do make the decision you’ll be able to plan how you will handle these challenges. Having a home based business can be wonderful, but it’s not for everyone. The other thing to consider is that if things don’t work out you can always go back to working for someone else.

Further Resources

Here are some helpful business planning resources if you decide to move forward with plans to start your own work at home business.

  • SBA – The Small Business Association has many online resources, services, and tools to help you with your new business.
  • SCORE – check out this resource in your local area. They usually have free business planning seminars. Retired business people provide free guidance and consultation to aspiring entrepreneurs. Don’t pass up this free resource!
  • Free Business Plan Templates
  • Fast4Cast – a free online business planning tool.
  • Govt of Canada Interactive Business Planner – a free online tool that will help you create a 3 year business plan.
  • Links to several Business Planning Freeware
  • Business Plan Pro Business Plan Pro (highly rated by PC Magazine and Inc. Magazine.) There is a cost with this program. I have used it and it is excellent. It makes the process very easy. And it is handy to have it right on your own computer.

Please Share!

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