I’m not too proud to admit that working at home isn’t as easy as it sounds. You have likely spent so much time researching and taking in advice, you think you are ready to jump in with both feet and you’ll never miss a beat.
No matter how much research and planning you have done, nothing compares to the real thing. You will likely have a harsh wake-up call or two. Several work-from-home veterans have stopped by today to share their stories of harsh lessons they had to learn fast.
Not Having Boundaries
Laura Pennington of Six Figure Writing Secrets
When I first got started working from home, I wish I had known how much I would need to reinforce boundaries, both with clients and family members.
Although I was running a full-time business (not to mention studying for my PhD in my off time), people seemed to interpret my being at home as “being available 24/7”. Some of my freelance clients acted the same way, as if having a cell phone meant that I should be tied to it around the clock. One freelance client who made up less than 1/20th of the monthly revenue even got mad if I didn't text him back within the hour! Soon enough, I realized that I needed to let my clients- and some people in my personal life-realize that even though they thought I was sitting at home in my PJs luxuriating all day that I should not be interrupted unless it was a true emergency. Clients were much easier to train- I set up a Gmail auto-responder with the following message:
“Thanks for reaching out! So that I can provide each client top-notch service, I only check my email a few times a day in between projects. I'm currently working on someone's project, and I aim to give that same focused attention to you. I'll respond to your message within 24 hours!”
It worked perfectly- my clients realized that I would not be available 24/7 and I think it discouraged some of them from sending unnecessary emails in the first place.
For others, it took a lot of time and me ignoring phone calls, FB messages, and texts. I even had a conversation once “I know you think that I'm not working because I'm at home, but I am running a business. I have client meetings, phone calls, and periods where I am unreachable just like anyone working outside the home, so I appreciate you understanding that.”
If clients don't respect my boundaries now, I fire them. Most are quite pleased to hear that I'm not accepting calls/texts/emails while I'm working on their project, since this allows me total focus on what I need to do.
I wish I'd done this method sooner, but I'm still thrilled at how much better things are now because of it!
Not Planning for Taxes
One thing I wasn't expecting as a work-at-home freelancer was the massive tax bill. I had been working as a freelancer part-time for several years before working from home full-time. In the past, I didn't have to pay in a whole lot of taxes on a part-time income, so I had WAAAY underestimated what I'd have to pay on a full-time income. My husband was paying in more than he needed to, and I received an education credit because I'm in school. We figured these things would help, but they didn't help as much as we thought. We still had to pay in around $5,000 this past year on income tax. Everyone's taxes will be different because of credits and deductions, but if you're not sure you're saving enough for tax time, you probably aren't!
Sometimes You Get No Respect
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of Making Sense of Cents
One difficult aspect of working from home is everyone thinking that you do nothing all day long. This leads to many people asking for favors, making negative remarks about how you do nothing all day, people thinking you are lazy, and more. I've come to terms that many people will just never understand that you are working and I don't let their opinions impact me anymore. I also inform others when they make negative remarks that I am busy, just like they are when they work. The location of your workplace should not sway someone's opinion of how hard of a worker you are 🙂
Not Being Diversified
Karen Newcombe of Write Bank
My advice to new freelancers is this: Do not become too specialized. Every pundit tells you that you must specialize, that you’ll get work easier if you pick one market and focus on it. I disagree — if that market goes belly up, so does your income, your home, your college fund for your kids, everything. Diversify your business; don’t rely on one industry, or one size of client, or one type of work.
Today, I still work for the design and construction industry, but I find clients in as many diverse industries as I can. I have branched out into offering more services, for example, working with authors to edit and independently publish their books. The way people find freelancers has changed somewhat by moving online, and although I still get a majority of my work from referrals, it’s important to keep up your website, blog regularly and participate in forums where your clients participate. In a world where some folks are willing to work for a penny a word (that’s what Edgar Allan Poe made for his writing in 1840, when the dollar was worth nine times what it is today!) you must be able to explain what your work will accomplish for a client.
Human beings don’t particularly like change, and we sure don’t like surprises when it comes to our money! I’ve lived through multiple recessions, and if you prepare your business now for the inevitable next downswing, you’ll come out in a better position on the other side of it.
Elna Cain of Writeto1K.com
I started working from home when my twins were almost two years old. At first I didn't find it all that difficult. They slept well, played well and I didn't have many freelance writing clients at the time. But as my business grew – and so did my twins – the mom guilt started happening.
Since I was working more, any free time I had was devoted to chores. A full day could go by without me actually sitting down and playing with my children. Obviously, I didn't like that very much.
But, there was never enough time for work or for play. My brain didn't automatically stop working when I left my home office, so at times, I found I was “there” with the kids, but I was thinking about my next writing piece.
As the one-year mark of my business neared, I knew I had to make some changes. I plan on working from home for a while and for this to work, I needed to remind myself of why I'm working from home in the first place. It's because I want to take care of my twins.
I've managed to have family days and I've also outsourced tasks that take up too much of my time. That's helped reduce my stress level and freed up my time.
It's all a work in progress, but for now, I'm grateful I can work from home and be with my twin toddlers.