So you want to work from home. That is definitely great. I have been doing it since 2003 and I cannot believe so much time passed since I wrote my first article for my first client. I will always remember that batch I was hired for: 5 articles about Norwegian fjords.
What followed was a true rollercoaster of ups and downs. Around that time, nobody really knew what freelancing and outsourcing were. The only way to get paid was by check. Now, I sometimes even accept payment in cryptocurrencies. Boy, how much timed changed.
The problem is that working from home sounds like a dream job but this is not actually the case. There were many moments, especially when I started, when I wanted to get a regular 9 to 5 job. I chose not to but this is not necessarily the best answer for all people.
If there is just one thing that I wish everyone knew about work from home, it is:
“Working from home is not for everyone!”
This is why most people tell you to not quit your job when you start working from home. You might hate it or you might not be able to do it.
Now, besides the crucial thing above, here are some other things that you should know about working from home, before you set your sights on this. Also, it can help you when you just start out because you need to be realistic about what will happen. Blind optimism never works.
People Will Think You Are Always Available
Because when you work from home you can create your own schedule, many will think that you are always available since you have time to spend with them whenever they want to. Although it will not bother you at first, eventually, friends and family will just assume that you are always available.
You will feel your boundaries violated and you will be interrupted. It is important to stop this behavior as soon as possible.
The trick is to be the first person to respect the boundaries you set for yourself. For instance, if your schedule means you work on Sunday from 11 AM to 6 PM and you are invited by someone to an event that starts at 2 PM, you have to clearly state that you cannot because you are working.
Another thing that helps is how you refer to the work that you do and your schedule. The words that you use are quite important. For instance, if you are on a Skype call with a client and someone bothers you on Facebook (this is quite common), tell that person that you are in a meeting, not that you are on Skype.
Household Chores Are On You
Because you are physically present in the house it is possible to be faced with many that take advantage of this and many household chores end up being your responsibility. This happens without even realizing how you reached that point.
For instance, if a plumber is scheduled to come to your home between 2 PM and 6 PM, the assumption is you will be available to meet the guy. When it is snow day, it is expected that you babysit.
The only way to deal with this is to set really clear boundaries. No, you cannot welcome the plumber during that time because you are working. No, you will not be available to do the dishes since you are working then.
Get ready for fights. They will happen, no matter how great the relationship is with people in your home and it can lead to a lot of resentment. After all, you are home. How can you not do those simple tasks like welcoming the landlord? The answer is: you are working. Work from home is still work and it still involves a schedule, a period of time when you will not be available for household chores.
Kids Will Be Around
If there are kids in the house, there is always a possibility that they are going to come in when you work. This is completely normal since they do not really understand what you are doing and why it is important.
Kid interruptions can cause some problems. For instance, when they come into the room as you are in a video conference. There are many clients that will see this as being unprofessional. However, this is not always the case.
From my point of view, if a client has a problem with a kid walking in a room while you are working from home, you need to get a new client as soon as possible. Every single person in the world takes business calls outside, in pajamas, without wearing makeup and so on.
In the event that you have problems with children interrupting your work, unfortunately, there is a good possibility that working from home is not actually for you. This is the type of interruption that is bound to happen. You can actually take it into account by arranging a longer available time for work tasks, just to take into account unexpected interruptions.
Your Health Can Improve Or Get Worse
Commuting is documented as being really bad for general health. This is why you will often hear the fact that working from home is something that can improve your health. In theory, you control your diet and your time. It is easy to sleep later, get all the hours you need and you do not have to waste time preparing for commute so, in theory, you have more available time.
I know many freelancers that used the free time they got to eat healthier, exercise and basically do things right when it comes to taking care of their bodies. However, this is not always the case.
Working from home, especially as a freelancer, brings in an extra stress few people think about. There are times where deadline is close and it is more important to finish everything than to cook dinner. You can find yourself ordering unhealthy foods several days in a row, making you fatter, no fitter.
I was one of those people whose health got worse. It happened in time, without realizing it. At first, all was great. I did go to the gym a lot due to the free time but when faced with times when work was not guaranteed and other problems, I started to slack off, and actually love it.
I turned to yoga because it helped a lot in getting healthier without having to invest a lot of time. This might not work for you but you need to be careful with your health. Always try to eat as well as you can and make sure you exercise. It will help a lot in dealing with the negative aspects of working from home, like the possibility that you will be depressed, but more about this in the following section.
Your Social Life Will Suffer
There is actually a name for this: cabin fever:
“Cabin fever is an idiomatic term for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group ends up in an isolated or solitary location, or stuck indoors in confined quarters for an extended period of time.” – from Wikipedia.
When referring to work from home, people also say this is founder isolation or loneliness. No matter what you call it, all this practically means that you spend time working indoors and you end up not seeing other people or even going outside.
Social awkwardness can easily appear as many end up not even knowing how to talk to new people or how to behave in a social event. There is a pretty bad emotional rollercoaster that appears.
We need people in our life and we have to interact with others in order to feel great about our life. You HAVE to force yourself to meet your friends and get out of that house or office. Also, it is a really good idea to find other people that work from home, like you. They understand you better and it is easier to talk about the struggles you face.
Do not think that it will not happen. Sooner or later, usually when there is a lot of work to be done and not enough time to do it, with one project after the next, in an attempt to make more money, it will happen!
Working In Your Pajamas Is A Horrible Idea
There is one pattern that I often see. Because someone works from home, they do not change, get their coffee, spend some time doing whatever and then start doing work. Oftentimes, people do not even get out of their pajamas or whatever they wear when sleeping (I am the t-shirt and shorts kind of guy).
The problem is that in time work will no longer feel like work. This is especially because of how accessible social media is these days. You get up and check Facebook, Twitter, see what is new on Instagram. Before you know it, you did not even eat and you lost hours of potential work.
The very best thing that you can do when you work from home is to treat it as if you work in the office. You do not need to put on makeup, unless you get positive energy from it, but you should change.
You have to get used to sit down at that computer at exactly the same time, every single day. Your desk needs to be organized and you have to be really serious about the work you do. If possible, try to have your workspace in a completely different room than where you sleep. Get ready for work. You already gained a lot of time because you do not have to travel to work.
Office Equipment Is Your Responsibility
What happens if there is a power surge and your computer ends up fried? Do you have money to get a new one fast or is there a backup that can be used? Most people that work from home do not.
One time my laptop simply died. In another day I had a fit of rage and broke my laptop in two with my bare hands. In another situation I forgot about paying my internet connection so I was no longer connected to the internet. In all of these situations I lost money and time.
The point is, what you use to do work is your responsibility. You need to be sure that you have everything you need and you need backups. If you use a desktop computer, you need a laptop that you can fall back to, just in case. Make a list of everything that you need and be sure you have it at all times.
I now have 2 backup laptops, several extra cables, 4 keyboards, 5 computer mice, 2 smartphones, 2 external HDDs, 3 pairs of headphones, 2 packs of extra coffee (I need coffee to work or I just cannot concentrate) and more. I even have extra light bulbs in case I need them (well, I usually do since I had to replace the last one last night and I have to buy some more).
Whenever talking about working from home, people talk about their experience. They choose the stats that they want to highlight. What you have to do is to do what works best for you. There is always a lot of subjectivity involved in working and a huge advantage of work from home is that you are in charge.
In the event that you need other people and you need interactions, there is a huge possibility that you will feel miserable working from home. However, if you love quiet time and you do your best work when not having to interact directly with colleagues, working from home is something you should seriously consider.
Always think about everything else that is important in your life, besides money. You will often make more money if you are happier. If work from home makes you miserable, you are not living up to your full potential. If you are happy with working from home and you treat things with complete seriousness, you will get great results.