Working from home can be a fantastic experience. It can give you more flexibility in terms of what you do with your time. It can also create several problems that most people never think about. Before you give up and begin to believe that working from home isn’t for you or that doing so is a pipe dream that no one can achieve, read over these 5 problems everyone has with working from home (that they rarely discuss while they’re busying trying to sell you their books, courses, and coaching) and what you can do to solve them on your own.
The “Do It Later” Mentality
Working from home provides a lot of freedom. You can, for the most part, set your own hours. You can work certain hours on certain days. You can take off a day during the week. If something comes up, you can often adjust your schedule.
Yet, that freedom can also cause you to enter into an awful, awful trap that could very well destroy your entire business. The “Do It Later” mentality. I’m not talking about doing it later because something came up. There are some life circumstances that truly are beyond our illusion of control. We can’t always control if we get raging sick. Or if the children get raging sick. I am strictly talking about personal decision making.
It’s common for people to think that either you really don’t work when you work from home or that you can do it later. You can watch their kids, run their errands, etc. Or you decide that you can take off the time you usually work to go do X, Y, and oh look…Z! The idea being, of course, you’ll work when you get home. You’ll do it later. Of course, you don’t really think about the other things you may need to do in addition to that. Or that the project in front of you will take substantially more time. For instance, I allot around three hours to edit and write a textbook chapter for an online academic course offered by a college. The last two days I’ve sat down to work on this, each chapter took me closer to five hours because the material was more complex and I needed to ensure that I broke it down so that it was easier for students to understand.
You get home from X, Y, and Z…and you’re exhausted. Relaxing, grocery shopping (and yes, I know it is a necessity), going to the spa, or whatever you chose to do is tiring work. So, you put it off until the next day.
And now you’re behind. You get overwhelmed. You’ll think about it and “do it later.” You don’t do it. You’re more overwhelmed. The deadline or check-in date is sneaking up on you. You know the project won’t be complete. “Do it later” never happened.
Solving the problem: Both options I give you to solve this work from home catastrophe are simple and difficult. Easy solutions, but people struggle to do it…because they have zero self-discipline. Solution #1 – Don’t give in to the “do it later” mentality. Set office hours and stick to them. Solution #2 – Do the work. Don’t come home and take a nap. Don’t talk about getting caught up tomorrow (procrastination is a serious issue and it can decimate a small business). Sit down and do the work.
Spending More Time with Family
One of the most common things people say (moms, mostly) when they know I work from home is, “You’re so lucky. You get to spend so much more time with your family.” Well, I guess in theory that’s true. First, my sons are 20, 18, and 9. The 20 year old works full time. The 18 year old is finishing his senior year and is also in the Army National Guard. The 9 year old goes to school during the day…even for part of the summer so he doesn’t regress (where my special needs moms at?).
I’ve worked from home since the 9 year old was 4. A large factor of making this choice was so that the little man didn’t need daycare. I have very strong opinions about daycare. And no, I don’t care if most people don’t like my opinions. But this post isn’t about my opinion on daycare outside of there’s no way in hell you could have convinced me that putting a nonverbal child in a daycare situation was a good plan. He has no way to say anything if something scary or bad happened.
Here’s the deal. Sure, you can spend more time with your children. However, you must change your schedule around to make sure that you can still take care of your clients. So, think about early mornings, late at night, or even overnight. Working will make you feel guilty even if your kid is sitting right next to you content as my dog Athena who just murdered a field mouse. Not working will worry you because how the hell will you grow your business, be profitable, pay the bills, and (insert your reason here). This isn’t traditional work. If you don’t get work, you don’t get paid.
Solving the problem: A lot of how you choose to solve the problem will depend on some factors. (And there’s no shaming here – I am just pointing out considerations. It’s your life. I encourage you to live your best life…always…but never at the expense of your child or children.) The age of the child(dren) involved, whether they’re in school, their capabilities, and your natural energy level. Also, remember that kids always want your attention even if you’ve seen them all day for the last 1294580 days. The minute you sit down, you’re going to likely hear, “LOOK MOM!” a million times. For babies, your solution may be to work when they’re sleeping or playing next to you on a play mat. You know, so you can still keep an eye on them. For toddlers, you’ll have to change your strategy a little. They are 1000% energy. You may need to work when they’re in bed. If you have yourself a good sleeper, maybe you can also work in early mornings. If you have school age kids, work during school hours. And it’s okay to change your schedule to figure out what works best for you. I know that at 3 pm, I’m toast until probably around 5 pm. Some days, that’s not true and I can just bust it all out regardless of how long it takes. Lately, I’m a 5 am person. Up at 5 am, working by 6 am. Today, I got up before 7 am. The 9 year old was already awake. So, here it is almost 9 am and I am just now sitting down to get started. Shit happens. Go with the flow, but remember to actually go. Don’t just allow setbacks to stop you.
Sick Leave and Vacation Time
If you take nothing else away from this incredibly long article, remember this. There is no such thing as sick leave or paid vacation. If you or your kid (or your spouse) get sick and you can’t work, you’re not getting paid if you’re working an hourly gig. It will take longer for you to get paid for flat rate gigs (unless you asked for part of the money up front…and if you did, great…but make sure you meet your deadline). Also, kiss your paid vacation time goodbye. There’s no such thing when you work from home unless you’re hired as a traditional employee instead of an independent contractor.
Solving the problem: If you’re the one who is sick, consider how sick you are. Is there anything you can do to help you stay on top of your work? Also, remember to turn on your out of office responder for email and let people know you’re not replying and when they can expect a response. Do what you can. If you can’t do anything, that’s fine…and if you’re really sick and you’re going to be out for days or a week, contact your clients and tell them you have the flu / bronchitis / bubonic plague. Most clients are quite understanding. If your kid or spouse (and I use this term loosely – call them what you want. I’m married. I have a spouse.) is sick, do what you can. If you get lucky, they’ll sleep a lot. Also, remember that while it may seem like a serious interruption, this is why you work from home.
I’m not talking about business financing (although there’s an important discussion there that could stand alone as its own article). I’m talking about financing a car, home, or whatever. Even if you don’t incorporate, you’ll still a business. When you want to finance a car or a home (or anything else), you’re going to need to prove income. And not every business is super excited to loan a big ass sum of money to someone who is self-employed.
Solving the problem: As soon as you can, start a separate checking account / bank account for your business. Now, some banks are pickier than others. I thought my credit union would love to have my business account since I’d been with them (in good standing) for like….five years. I had the world’s rudest banker who tried to make me feel like I was a nobody. Despite the fact I had more than a year’s worth of records showing a profit and had the opening balance they wanted. So, I went bank shopping for the business account. I’m going to decline to give the name of the bank I chose. They took my documents via email (scanned), happily accepted my opening deposit, and I can direct deposit checks through their app (I don’t get paid often via check). It may seem I’m digressing, but I’m not.
Co-mingling your personal funds and your business funds is just bad practice. In some industries, it’s illegal. Separating out your finances and paying your business expenses and yourself from your business account is far easier especially when it comes to taxes and financing. When you go to get a car loan or a mortgage, they’re going to look at your credit (most likely) and they want to make sure you can make your payment. It isn’t their job to separate out your personal finances from those of the business. A business account can make it easier for you to prove income for financing.
This is a bit hard for me to write about because it doesn’t affect me often. I know that it affects a lot of people who work from home. If you’re a stay at home parent, think about how you feel now. Do you ever feel like you’re trapped? Or bored? Or lonely? Working from home won’t necessarily fix that. Most of my contact with clients is via email. This can be a problem for both extroverts and introverts. And it causes a lot of people to shut down their business and find a new solution.
Solving the problem: Get out of the house. Go to the park. Go out in the yard. Go to a cafe. Take a walk. Pick one or two nights or days a week / every other week where you will get out of the house and be around people for a bit. Take a class. Go to the gym. Volunteer. Choose something that works for you.
This is just a small portion of the issues that people face when working from home. You are your biggest solution to any problem that pops up.