Working from home must be wonderful. Honestly, I think the only people who have ever enthusiastically uttered that statement are people who have never worked from home. Let me rephrase that. They most likely are people who never worked from home while also managing their home, homeschooling their children, and supporting their self-employed spouses.
Working from home should not be confused with being self-employed. At some point in their lives, both of my parents were self-employed, my father owned a used furniture store and then an auction and my mother owned an alterations and tailoring shop. Two of my brothers are self-employed, one runs an auction house and the other a painting company. My husband is self-employed in construction. And then you have my two self-employed nieces, one owns a tutoring company and the other is a photographer. Trust me; I understand what it means to be self-employed.
Being self-employed means making all the decisions in a business as well as taking on all the responsibilities. It means the company profits are all yours and so are all the losses. It means navigating government regulations and tax laws on your own and probably without a current, let alone accurate map. But there’s something special about calling your own shots and applying your own personal business ethics to your job. Even though it can be a difficult feast or famine life, it’s definitely a lot more satisfying than being a faceless drone following senseless company policies created by six-figure desk jockeys who probably haven’t done an honest day’s labor since maybe high school. While working at home shares a lot of characteristics with self-employment, it does have its differences.
A big difference between being self-employed and working from home is the location. With the exception of my photographer niece and seamstress mother, each of my self-employed relatives left the house and “went to work,” usually with some kind of regularity. Their companies have set hours of operation, and even though my mother’s sewing shop was located in our home, she still maintained regular hours that she worked in her shop.
Since April 2010, I’ve been working as an internet content writer. Technically, I’m a freelance writer without the stress of creating my own titles and then selling them. I simply pick titles to write about and write. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It wasn’t, but it is getting better. Talk about a long learning curve!
The research and writing weren’t a problem. I love researching just about everything and anything and writing about it. The work itself was fun for me. The carving out and sticking to a schedule has been a real struggle.
We tried creating an office for me in our home. Our house has a couple of unusual little nooks here and there and we turned on into a wonderful work space with a nice big desk and a couple of cabinets to hide behind. And it helped a lot…for awhile. So, what was the problem? I was still at home.
My family is very close. Ten years of homeschooling has really put us in each others back pockets. As much as I love that we are so close and open with each other, that closeness has one drawback: if I’m in the house, I’m accessible. That means I can be talked to, asked questions of, and disturbed at will. Honestly, it wouldn’t be bad if I wasn’t a writer. I could be writing away and on a roll and one unexpected “Hey Mom, can I….?” and my choo-choo seriously jumps the track never to return again. Translation: I easily lose my train of thought and can’t get it back.
Along with the interruptions instigated by others were the interruptions I heaped on myself. In the name of getting the blood pumping after sitting hunched over the computer for an hour, I’d run downstairs to push a load of laundry. Thirty minutes and a load of laundry, a sink full of dishes, a math question or six, and a little clutter clean-up later I’d finally return to my desk completely distracted and taking too long to figure out where I left off. Even after setting regular work hours, I would try to squeeze household chores in every where I could. Four hours of designated work time would turn into maybe an hour and half of productive writing, if I was lucky. My writing had to pay for the kids’ extracurricular activities like dance and piano, and because of my lack of discipline, I was struggling just to meet those simple goals. What about my goal to finish writing my novel? How could I ever accomplish that? Something had to change.
In December, I left home. I moved my base of operations two blocks from my house and parked myself and my laptop at desk in the back corner of my neighborhood library. What a difference this move has made already! The library has reliable internet, the desks are these comfortable cushy seats with a movable tray table and a plug attached to every chair. Throw in a foot stool and a cup of coffee, also available at the library, and I was in business again. I’m able to work undisturbed, surrounded by all the research I could ever need, and my family has to really need me before they can disturb me. I don’t have a cell phone. They have to decide whether it’s worth the trek to the library to talk to me.
So you see, working form home is an even bigger challenge than being self-employed with a business that actually takes you out of the house. You need self-discipline and the ability to set guidelines and boundaries you’re willing to enforce. I don’t have that ability. I couldn’t get mad at my family’s endless interruptions. I’ve always been completely accessible to them, and we all just like being together. And everyone in the house likes to talk. Talking and writing do not go hand-in-hand for this writer. So far, my leaving the house for a few hours each day is working out very well. Maybe next week I can finish chapter three of that novel.
Thanks for stopping by and listening to my rambling! If you’re working at home, maybe as a photographer, a graphic designer, or a web designer, and you’re struggling to focus on your work, try and find some time to get away from your home responsibilities for a little while each day. Granted, my children are old enough to leave alone for a couple of hours. If you have little ones, talk to your friends. You might be surprised to find a friend in the same predicament and the two of you can trade baby sitting services. You may be pleasantly surprised how much you can accomplish when you’re not interrupted by a dirty diaper.
Grace and peace be yours in abundance,