Working from home is a dream for many, but sometimes the dream doesn't match up to the reality. Though the glittery and vastly appealing idea of being your own boss, setting your own hours and running the show has merit - and definite benefits - it also requires a lot of work, self-discipline and comes with a few drawbacks as well. That doesn't mean that working from home isn't your thing; it just means you should have a complete picture before you launch your home business so you can deal with the problems and enjoy the benefits of working from home. (Your work environment can make or break your career as an entrepreneur. Check out Creating A Home Business Work Space.)
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1. You can't pass the buck.
When you work from home, the amount of work you do is entirely your responsibility. Your failure or success depends on you: your ability to focus, to hustle, to connect with clients and the bottom line on what you produce and what you get paid for. When it's just you, at your desk, in your home office, you can't blame a pesky boss or chatty coworkers for your lousy workday.
2. You are the team.
Some of us love the thought of working in solitude, getting things done without the interruption of productivity meetings that just reduce our productivity; but even the most introverted among us can start feeling a little claustrophobic after a few weeks at home, alone, staring the same project in the face. When you work from home, even if you work as part of a virtual team, you're still the only team member around. It can get lonely.
3. You have to take yourself seriously even when other people don't.
Your mom calls for an afternoon chat and gets mad when you cut her short. "But, Mom, I'm working," you try to explain. Mom doesn't get it. To her, "working from home" is the equivalent of "sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring since I'm really not working."
Maybe it's not your Mom, but every person who has spent time working from a home base will have to deal with this lack of understanding. The burden lies upon you to set your working hours, stick to them, actually work during those hours, and refuse to let anyone else dissuade you from taking your work seriously.
4. You can deduct, but you can't deduct everything.
So you set up a home office, put in your hours and sit down to do taxes at the end of the year. Those work-related expenses are sounding good, but hold on before you try to deduct half your mortgage for "office rent" or the entire cost of your internet bill. You can deduct valid work-related expenses, but only the percentage that is actually used exclusively for your work. So if you pay for an internet service that is also used by your spouse and children, and even yourself for non-work-related matters, you can't deduct the full cost of that internet bill: only the portion that is used exclusively for work. Same goes for office supplies, telephone bills and utilities. (Homebodies can save big on their tax bill. Learn how to get in on the action. See How To Qualify For The Home-Office Tax Deduction.)
5. You can't leave work.
Shorter hours and more flexibility are two of the top 10 reasons that people want to work from home; but when your office is always there, waiting, with that deadline looming over your head, it's pretty hard to just close the door and pretend you can't get in there and get a few more hours of work. Many home-based workers find themselves working more hours, not fewer, logging in work time on nights and weekends just because it's there and they can't ignore it. Sometimes flexibility is too much of a good thing.
6. You don't have to do everything yourself.
As someone who works from home, you are solely responsible for what you produce; but that doesn't mean you have to do every single detail of work yourself. Smart freelancers and business owners will often subcontract or hire a virtual assistant to tackle the more time-consuming tasks that have to be done. Hiring out can be done on a project-by-project basis - for example, subcontracting out some portion of the big project you need to complete - or on a regular basis - hiring a virtual assistant to provide five hours of work per week, or complete certain weekly tasks for you. (Freelance work is a way to escape the daily grind - but don't ignore the added responsibility that comes with freedom. For additional reading, refer to Freelance Careers: Look Before You Leap.)
7. You can set a great example.
If you have children at home, letting them see you work hard at something you love - even at the parts you don't love - can greatly influence their future career choices and entire attitude toward work. Working from home isn't easy; it requires planning, foresight, self-discipline, and focus. But if you cultivate the character needed to be successful working from home, you'll get to carry that over into your personal, family, and home life. Those benefits can be enormous.
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The Bottom Line
Making the commitment to work from home means acknowledging and accepting the responsibility to be your own boss; that can be a great thing, if you go into it understanding that you'll have to do the not-so-fun stuff as well as enjoy those flexible hours. If you form good work habits, stick to your priorities, and find ways to connect outside of your work at home, it can be a great experience and a successful one as well.
For the latest financial news, see Water Cooler Finance: Goodbye 2010 (And Good Riddance?)
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