At least not most days…
On Friday Red/Write Web carried an excellent article about the Work From Home generation. And while I agreed with much of the article, the part about heading to your personal computer in your PJs made light of the fact that working at home – for an employer or for yourself – is serious business.
So, You Want to Work From Home?
I often talk to public relations professionals that are enamored by the idea of starting their own business and that look at what I do with some envy.
I started My PR Pro in 2002 and I was just like them. I had always wanted to start my own business. A move from Washington D.C. to San Antonio, Texas, and a ready-made client in my old employer made it possible to live the dream.
I wasn't prepared for all that self-employment entailed, but as I learned, I found that I loved it. I also found out that to be successful you must run it like a business from day one.
In other words, get OUT of you pajamas and get a game plan.
Three Big Questions to Ask Yourself
- Do I plan to fly solo or do I want employees at some future date?
- Will I work from home, or will I rent office space or work out of a shared office?
- Do I plan to generate new work directly with companies, do I work as a contractor for other agencies or both?
My answers were that I didn't want employees, that I would work from home to keep overhead low and that I would both have my own clients and work with others to service those clients.
When my husband and I built our house, I made sure the floorplan included an office space so that I wouldn't be shoved into a bedroom. The first year I worked out of the living room in our apartment and that really stunk.
The only thing that has changed from my initial approach is that I now subcontract some of my own work to others. I have found that it is the only way to move forward on a growth curve.
- It is Very Flexible: I have found that independent work affords me some of the flexibility that I wouldn't have with a 9 to 5 job. Now that I have two children, it is even more important. Still, the kids go to daycare. I could not keep them home while I am working or both would suffer.
- I Control My Destiny: I like that I control who I work for and what I do. If I don't like a project or agree with something, I just don't take on that client. I like what I do and love who I work with precisely because I can be picky.
- You're In Charge of Raises: When your skill level permits, you can raise your rates. This is tricky, because the market also decides what you get paid; however, it no longer depends on if you brown nose the boss, but on your capabilities and accomplishments.
- The Buck Stops Here: While I control my destiny, the problem is that if something goes wrong its all mine. Also, the deadline are the deadlines, and while it is flexible, I might find myself working a weekend or evening. My spouse has to be flexible too.
- Collaboration Takes Work: Everyone, no matter how good, needs new ideas. Working on my own I regularly leverage my online community and my offline colleagues to ensure I don't get rusty. You have to make an effort to get out of the house.
- Healthcare and Benefits: If we didn't have my husband's healthcare and benefits, I don't think that I would be able to do this. It is extremely risky to go out on your own without adequate health insurance and disability insurance, but I know lots of people who do it every day.
Some Last Thoughts
A couple of tips for those considering making this move are to hire an accountant immediately, the money you spend will more than pay for itself in productivity. Join a few local groups, like IABC or PRSA, to network with your peers. PRSA also has a great Independent section and a somewhat active listserv where people ask questions like, “What should I charge for a focus group?”
Also, I recommend that your find one or more mentors and meet with them regularly. You need someone to give you career feedback since you will no longer have a review.
Finally, the hardest part of owning a business (for me anyway) has been the promotional part. I promote the business by focusing on the company rather than myself. I also promote the business by being a productive volunteer locally and in my online communities. Here at the blog I try to be a great resource and hopefully the rest will follow. I think getting out there and being a productive member of the community is probably the best promotion – it has worked thus far.
Do you have any questions about starting your own business, or getting your boss to allow you to work from home a few days a week?