People often look at those who are self employed, their own boss, working on their own, doing what they love and making money from it as some kind of employment holy grail. They think we have tons of time to do what we want, get to work in our pyjamas for a couple of hours then play with the kids or go out shopping. We don't have to worry about holiday leave requests or anyone getting on our case if we're sick, we just stay in bed and at the worst cancel a few appointments.
We don't have to worry about child care or dog walkers or who is going to feed the cat, we can set aside time to have a nice long breakfast, lunch and then spend an hour or two preparing the evening meal and giving the house a quick tidy so that the family come home to everything ship shape a healthy home cooked dinner and a perfectly turned out Stepford wife and mum.
The reality of course is nothing like that. So if you're thinking of making the transition here are a couple of observations which you may need to absorb. Perhaps for some who do a little bit of something to keep them busy and to earn a bit of spending money but for those of us who run our own businesses as our sole income, to support our families, as the main bread winner or to whom it is a part of our career plan and pathway or who are trying to build something amazing as a business life is not as described above at all. In fact, it pains me to use cliches but it really is an absolute juggling act.
We often spend many many hours working. Far longer than anyone imagines or notices. When your office or work place is in your home or totally portable, there is no escape from it and that often means that self employed people will be working late into the night or early in the morning even if that's just on catching up with the paperwork, taking care of the organisation of their business or addressing social media comments and queries or writing blog posts or filming videos. For a lot of self employed homeworkers night time is the time when they can get on with some solid uninterrupted work. So while 9-5 workers are relaxing in the arms of Mr or Mrs or Miss perfect watching reruns of whatever on Netflix with a glass of wine, the self employed homeworker is often sitting in a darkened room lit only by the glow of the screen as they work away until the early hours propped up by copious amounts of coffee.
Time off isn't a thing. Yes they don't have to ring in sick but that's because they just can't be sick! Being unwell doesn't stop work as there are precious orders to fulfil, social media to address and all of the things that there is nobody else to do. Nobody is going to take up the slack, nothing can wait until they are back on their feet. For most the only option is to sit in their dressing gown with
a desk strewn with snotty tissues and a Vicks inhaler rammed up their nostril or a sick bucket by their side. If work backs up there is no time to address it nobody else to sort it out so backing up is not an option because we know that will lead to chaos. Let's not mention holidays or maternity leave or those friends and family who drop in to see you because 'you're at home doing nothing anyway' or the family responsibilities which automatically get deferred to you because 'you're the one who doesn't have work to think about.
Don't get me wrong, it is not all doom and gloom. Working for yourself can be hugely rewarding and it can be flexible. It can be refreshing to know that you make the decisions and call the shots and choose the direction of your business and more often than not people who abandon the rat race to start something of their own are doing something they enjoy and/or are good at. So that has to be a plus point. For some of us working at night is more suitable to our other commitments and lifestyle than working 9-5 and it's really useful to be able to flip our office hours in a way that working for someone else doesn't always make possible and it can be great to know that if you can work your little buns off for a couple of days you will be able to have a day or two off when you need them.
What it all comes down to is planning really. So here are some top tips for working for yourself from home and they all come down to organisation:
1. Organise your space - find yourself a designated work space. Even if you don't have a whole room and you can't build a she-shed or man cave set aside and mark off a space in a room
2. Organise your business - set up your systems well from the off. Don't get caught on the hop when you suddenly get a customer and you're not ready for them. Don't spend too long but do spend time planning how you are going to run your business and getting your procedures straight. Make sure your financial records are in order from day one ready to clock up and monitor those transactions and refer to you business plan regularly and keep it updated!
3. Organise your time - if you can mark off hours you are going to work and what you are going to do in those hours on a planner. If you're a crafter then set aside time for crafting, time for admin and time for social media update and response. Note important dates and appointments as early as possible and block off times when you really can not work. Don't forget your family commitments.
4. Organise your friends and family - let them know that you are working, you are not just sitting around watching day time TV and if they want to drop in that's great but please message ahead to check it's OK and do bring food and drink so at least you can combine their visit with a snack break. If you need someone to sound ideas off on or to proof read something or test something out or give you their advice or thoughts on something now is your time during these visits to grab that friend or family member and make their visit useful to your business. These has a double pronged win effect as it not only makes the time not working valuable but also shows them what you are doing and makes your business seem real to them and they'll be more supportive as a result
5. Organise your children and partner - let them know that mummy is working when the door is closed so they should go to daddy or help themselves (depending on their age) but do also let them know that mummy definitely loves them and if they desperately need her, even if only for a hug, the door does open. Also involve your children, get them helping you with filing, organising, packing and posting. It's amazing how many skills you can pass on to them if you are only willing to trust a 10 year old with doing your books :) Let your partner help, ask advice, let them know how important this is to you and ask them to make sure you do have a date night once in a while to take you away from it all... just schedule it in.
6. Organise your workload - if you factor in down time and breaks, factor in and plan for holidays and times when you will be less able to work long hours such as planning for the arrival of a baby and identify spots where you may need to consider hiring in someone to help keep things ticking over. You do need breaks and time out and you can't work right up to giving birth and then start again the second the placenta is delivered, it's not good for you.
7. Organise your free time - this is so important and touched on in the other tips but if you schedule in your free time you will be more likely to take it and less likely to get stressed and burn out. Don't neglect quick easy stress busters like walking the dog for twenty minutes, those twenty minutes might take you away from work but the benefits of the fresh air and the sleepy dog when you get back will be with you for the whole day. Organise regular nights with friends, gym sessions, pamper sessions, events and activities with the kids, afternoon teas with your mum... these things are your right, will keep you sane and will keep you in touch with the people whose support you are going to need. Working for yourself can be isolating and lonely at times so make the most of social activities and include networking with other home or lone workers too both in person and online.
Working for yourself can be hugely rewarding and liberating and if you really want to give it a go there is no reason why the hard work you put in will not pay off with good planning and organisation and good support. Go for it with your eyes wide open and enjoy it, just remember to set aside time for you and if you ever need to outsource anything then there are people like us ready to step in and help for an hour, a day or a week.