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The Work at Home Entrepreneur

Dominic Foster has written a post on Benefits of Working From Home which, as the title suggests, outlines some of the upsides of working at home:

  1. Choose your own hours
  2. Get to see more of your family
  3. Save money
  4. Maintain sanity
  5. Save time

He explains each and makes good sense – I’d write a similar list of benefits that I’ve enjoyed over the last couple of years.

I’d add a few things to it including incredible:

  • flexibility – as I’m writing this I can see the delivery guy for our new washing machine arriving – if I were not working at home there’d be no one here to take deliveries, let tradesmen in to do work etc.
  • productivity – IF you’re a disciplined type of person (and don’t get distracted by the XBox) productivity levels are potentially quite high. I find I get an incredibly amount of work done simply because I don’t have the distractions of meetings, workmates, etc. I also work more hours (and enjoy doing so) as I can just pop into the office in the evenings or weekends without having to catch a train or drive anywhere.

Of course there are a few downsides to working at home also that include:

  • Loneliness – while I have a constant stream of ‘virtual companionship’ via IM and email I’ve often lamented the fact that I don’t have someone to chat to over the water cooler about the footy or someone at the next desk to work on a project with. While I’m an introvert and enjoy my alone time a definite downside of working at home can be isolation.
  • Blurring of Home/Work - I actually think that this is a partial strength and partial weakness of working at home. On the upside it does mean that you CAN (if you’re disciplined) get more work hours in a day. This might sound bad but as someone who really enjoys my work it is actually a plus for me. On the flip side there is obviously a downside and while Dominic rightly says you get to see more of your family (if they’re home during the day) it can mean negotiating boundaries and avoiding the temptation to always be working.
  • Distractions – every workplace has it’s distractions and the home is full of them. They can come in the form of family (I suspect I’m about to learn about this one with V stopping work in 3 weeks and Mini-Rowse moving in a few weeks later), electronics (TV, gadgets, video games etc), books, gardening, bed…. the list goes on. Having said this I constantly surprise myself by how focussed I am on my work. If you’d asked me 5 years ago whether I’d be able to do it I’d have said no way – but for me if anything perhaps I should work MORE on being distracted than less as if anything I work too much.

I’d love to hear the experiences of other work at home bloggers and entrepreneurs. What are the benefits and costs that you see of working at home? What strategies do you use to get the most out of it?

A Question for Work at Home Parents
I’m particularly interested to hear from Work-at-Home parents. As I move towards this myself I’m really looking forward to it but am also a little anxious about how it will go as I not only become the sole breadwinner (once the maternity leave runs out) but also have the added distractions of wife and baby at home. Anyone got any tips for me?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. brem says:

    my problem is discipline ;)

  2. Dominic says:

    Thanks for the link.

    I too was concerned about becoming the sole breadwinner. I was a little worried about how we would maintain our lifestyle with less money. However, we found that our lifestyle changed completely after having kids and is actually less expensive. A lot of the stuff we do now does not even cost anything – mostly involves being outdoors a lot.

    Having kids is the biggest life changing experience I’ve had. And when you become a single income family – especially if the income is not guaranteed, then the only advice I can give is that you just have to deal with it. Drawing up a budget is a good start.

    I thought working from home with kids would be a nightmare, but has turned out to be really good. For some reason, I feel more productive, and I think this is down to knowing that there is definitely only a certain amount of working hours in the day.

    Hmm.. this seams to have turned into a long comment, so I’ll shut up now and see what everyone else has to say.

  3. I work full time at home and at work. :) Talk about too much work. I suspect the thing that drives me to get to the point of working at home is that I want to have the time with my son including home schooling him. Educating my son even at 2 and a half right now is great fun and he’s a sponge.

  4. graywolf says:

    Defining the “daddy is working” moments are clearly difficult. Since I pick up the kids after school and take them to whatever activities they have to go to makes for an interrupted work day. You have to learn to work on the stuff that requires more thinking when you are “alone” and can concentrate, not while homework is being done at the table and definitely not after midnight when you’ve had two red bulls and a bowl of nachos and salsa.

  5. Steve says:

    I am a full time stay at home father of 4 children and I work from my home. I do a lot of lighter things while the kids are up and about but when the kids are napping or asleep I do all my heavier work and more creative things. It has worked well for 3 years and my online business is growing with leaps and bounds.

    Congrats on the little one on the way.
    Steve

  6. Tim says:

    I work about 50% home and 50% away from home. Running our multiple businesses from home has provided my wife and I the opportunity to raise our 4 kids with a father who is more present than the one who has to commute everyday with office hours.

    I have found that the contact with the kids by far and away is the best advantage. As we home school I am able to have some input if necessary, including ensuring they are obedient to their mother who manages the schooling around her business responsbilities.

    Additionally there are the savings of time commuting (though when I do have to commute I enjoy the reading time) and also the ability to wear what I want saving on expensive workwear.

    The downsides revolve around my capactiy to organise and discpline myself. Fortunately I am pretty good at this and I use productivity tools like OneNote and Outlook to assist. It is easy to get distracted by the Urgent and ignore the Important.

    One thing I have done that may be off assistance as you prepare for a new baby is allow yourself to be distracted for certain reasons. Eg if the hamrony of the home is better suited to you not being at your desk right now, then take that break – spend the 20 minutes restoring order, giving your wife a massage, giving her a break from the baby, going out for a coffee etc, and then get back into the work after the crisis is over.

    Enjoy!

  7. vawz says:

    I am mainly working from home these day although I do coach some guys for COCWA and some through a business I run, so that mean cafe trips! But I love the flexability. Last night I worked till 1am. But It’s now 10 am and I have been out fishing on a friends boat and am sitting outside on my laptop surfing the net, sipping coffee…School is back, that is much better! It is tough when they are all home over the holidays! (Oh and if someone does not shut up that BLOODY dog over the road it will cease to be!

  8. Duncan says:

    The split is difficult to maintain, particularly when you’ve got to work on weekends or in my case my son is at home with me while my wife is at work (for example, he’s not at daycare etc on a particular day). Having said that I wouldn’t swap it for the world now.

  9. row1 says:

    I now work part time from home.
    The main disadvantage is that it is now winter and i do not have air conditioing at home, christchurch is a very cold city!

    I wrote about blogging from home the other week:
    http://row1.info/content/view/131/2/

    Discipline is hard, but the other week my girlfriend started making me write out time sheets, I now have to get her to sign them everyday or there is trouble….

  10. Asha says:

    My husband and I both work at home: he full-time, me part time (although my work as editor of the Parent Hacks blog is increasing by leaps and bounds thanks to your wonderful advice!).

    My husband’s tip: Define — at the outset — a dedicated workspace, preferably inside a room with a door. Then keep that space off-limits to the kids, except for special “visits.” We did this when our son was born (we now have two kids — our 6 year-old son and almost 3 year-old daughter), and the kids respect and understand when their dad is working and can’t be disturbed. When his door’s open, they can come in for a hug or a quick hi, when his door’s closed, they know to leave him alone. He keeps toys in his office so when the kids visit, which they do often, they get something special to play with. (Of course, this setup requires both a room and a partner or babysitter who’s in charge of child care while you work.)

    My tip: know that the first three or four months will be a whirlwind no matter how much you plan ahead! A joyful, insane, whirlwind. I would schedule as many posts as you can ahead of time (and line up a bunch of guest bloggers for those months) so you have some breathing room during those mind-blowing, magical early weeks as a family.

    Here’s something practical (and a little embarassing): My computer’s in the kitchen, and when I need to “talk” to my husband but know he’s behind closed doors, I IM him. That way, we can “chat” without a full-on inturruption.

    Best of luck to you, Darren. So glad I can finally, in a small way, return the favor of all the good advice you’ve given me.

  11. Henry says:

    I’ve been working from home full time for 4 years now. I’ve been a Google Answers Researcher since 2002.

    As a parent one of the benefits of this is that I can constantly guide my child as we make a Christ centered home. I also help her with school work whenever she needs it. Plus we can do things spontaneously like play, talk and watch tv.

    Now I am into blogging and I hope this will be good as well so I can continue to be with her.

  12. I try to keep a pretty good balance between working at home and face-to-face client work. The last 18 months I’ve been studying part-time for an MA, which has increased my ‘at home’ time, and I recognise all of the benefits and drawbacks you list.

    On the plus side, I love working and the home office means I can get up and get going quickly in the morning. There’s no question I get more done than I would if I had a daily commute just to get to my keyboard. The big down side is having the ‘discipline to be distracted’ i.e. to make a clear boundary between work and home time, and give other people my full attention without being ‘distracted’ by work.

    I try to schedule my client appointments to give me a good balance between working at home and elsewhere – sometimes I really look forward to a day of writing at home, others I know I’ve been at my desk too long and really look forward to the client appointments, as I know they will ‘bring me out of myself’ and re-energise me.

  13. Peter Mount says:

    I’ve recently had an explosion of work in my business working from home. When I say “explosion” I don’t mean I’m getting as much work as more successful businesses but I’ve had a very steep learning curve when it comes to organising myself.

    And believe it or not I’m actually thinking I should blog about it. It could be a good cathartic experience for me.

    At one point it was like Officeworks was my second home. At another point I had this software crash every five minutes. On more than one occaision I’ve done a 24+ hour day. I’ve been resentful about the amount I have to keep aside for tax, then learn to have it “disappear in my head”. Now I worry about “getting that next client”.

    Yes, life’s a dream when your a start up.

  14. Tom says:

    I find the children to be the biggest double edge sword while working at home. There is a great deal of joy being that close to them in their daily lives, but the converse is also true that they can be a huge interuption and distraction at times. What needs to be discussed in specific terms is what Daddy is working means. And Mom needs to be taught that lesson with refresher courses every few weeks.

    That being said I love working at home and close to my family.

  15. Judi Sohn says:

    I started working from home fulltime in 1998 (that’s when I snagged the “momathome.com” domain).

    I find my biggest challenge is in the work/life separation. Since August 2005, I’ve been working fulltime for one company instead of freelancing. The people I work with are all over the world, so I don’t really have 9-5 hours. That can be hard when it’s 6:15 pm, the kids are hungry and I’m rushing to get a fax out because it’s still just 3:15 pm where the fax is going. Complicating the mix is the fact that this job does involve some travel…a few overnights here and there and some day trips, and my husband’s fulltime job is also a mix of telecommuting and travel. We went through a bout of unemployment a while back so the fact that we both have reliable W2 income and we both get to work from home is something that I’m not complaining about.

    People who leave their homes for their jobs have that line in the sand…the drive/commute to/from work to transition. Even if it’s only a 10 minute drive, that’s still 10 minutes to process the stresses of the day and think about what you’re going to do for dinner or what laundry needs to be done, etc. I don’t have that transition time since it takes me exactly 2 minutes to walk from my office to the kitchen. So I often find it difficult to leave work in the office.

    I think I am far more productive at home than I ever was working in an office. As a matter of fact, my best time to work is early morning/late night when the house is quiet and still and my email isn’t coming in quickly.

    I know I work too much and my kids would prefer that when I was home, I was really home. But at the same time I can do things during the day that others don’t have flexibility to do.

  16. JAMINUSA says:

    It is the blurring of the home and work life that gets me. My girlfirend calls my computer the “other woman”. Yea I admit it, I am in a secret love affair with my on the side girlfriend Compaq

  17. Andy says:

    Mkae sure you get a room to yourself with a door! And tell them when you are ‘at work’. As at work bring you drink back to your desk after a short break. Be patience when the four old wanders in and demands you look at his latest dinosaur.

  18. Busy Mom says:

    I don’t have any advice, as I don’t work from home. However, it sounds like you’ve heard from a lot of experts. I wish you the best in figuring out the balance!

  19. Kim says:

    We don’t have kids yet, so I can’t help there. But I can say that the single most influencing factor in my home-based business is attending an occasional trade show. Not only does it give me a motivational kick in the pants, it also allows me to get to know people in my industry face-to-face, which is an invaluable thing to bring home (in addition to the networking that has lead to some fabulous opportunities). To know the faces and personalities of the people I email & chat with makes the communication go far more smoothly and efficiently, since we don’t have to do all those cautious writing things you have to do when you know virtually nothing about your correspondent and, say, whether they will understand your written sarcasm to be a joke. It also makes phone conversations more efficient and enjoyable. And because I actually *know* these people, I don’t feel as isolated as I did when my colleagues were faceless folks on the internet. Since I attended my first trade show almost a year ago, my entire professional life has changed for the better.

  20. Joe says:

    Hey Darren,

    There goes my question for your blogathon… :-)

    I don’t feel the need to add any advice on the child/parent/businessman/blogger situation since all the previous comments reflect my feelings on the subject so well.

    Good luck with the new adventure of parenthood… I have a feeling you’ll love it as much as I did a few years back (when everything was still in MS-DOS).

    Joe

  21. crow says:

    There is a mental process that is necessary, but not necessarily self-evident, that you need to do when you’re working at home. For the days/times that you have sole responsibility for the kids, you have to tell your brain that that is what you will be doing. You *cannot* allow your mind to wander to work things while you’re with the kids: The results are a) you will be stressed thinking of all the things you should/could be doing *right now*, and b) your kids will recognize your distracted and stressed state of mind and be alternately hurt by it and/or driven to hyperactivity and naughtiness.

    When I decided to make this decision to only think about the kids and the things related to them during my ‘time’ with them, I became a MUCH happier person, the kids became much calmer and more fun, and my work became more enjoyable when I returned to it with full attention and having the benefit of resting so fully (playing with the kids).

    The flipside of this is that you have to schedule time for you to work, and not have responsibility for the kids. If you’re home with the baby, this might mean you need to get a babysitter, even while you’re there. Unless your baby is a great napper, and you can get tons of work done while s/he naps (maybe 2 periods of 1 – 2 hours each), a babysitter is really the only way you can continue to work ‘full time’.

    good luck, and even though it’s totally cliched, please appreciate the early days, and take lots of videos. It’s absurd how fast they become little men and women and leave their baby days behind.

    cheers.

  22. Rolla says:

    I’ve worked from home for six years. Loved it for the first 4 years for all the reasons Darren mentions – freedom, flexibility, efficiency, seeing plenty of my kids – but now I’ve found it’s spoiled my home for me.

    My home has become my place of work, and I therefore never leave my place of work. I’ve always tried to keep my home and work separate – keeping office hours, dedicating a single room for work etc but the problem has grown.

    I’m now converting one of the outbuildings into an office so I physically leave the building. I hope this complete physical separation does the trick.

  23. We have a one-year-old and another one on the way. I know exactly what you all mean by “distractions” – not that family members are necessarily distracting in any negative sense, but rather that working at home necessarily produces a conflict between spending time and thought on family or on work. So there just needs to balance. I am happy to leave the computer to feed the little one, change poopy diapers (yum!), handle errands, etc. But my wife and I try to plan each day and week ahead somewhat so that we can do all the things we can together and still have forty hours set aside for me to work for Know More Media.

    It’s an amazing new struggle, working from home, but it brings (for me at least) immeasurable rewards. Being there for my son’s first steps, for example, could not have happened had I been at a distant office.

  24. Lisa says:

    Hi Darren, This is the first time I’ve left a comment on your site. I’ve been lurking about for some time, enjoying the many articles and tips you provide here.

    This post on “The Work At Home Entrepreneur” and the follow up comments from your visitors compelled me to come out of the shadows and say hello. I am a single mom and have been running my business for 7 years at home. Moments ago I posted on my blog a post (noted above) which might interest you as it addresses several issues of working at home, and balancing kids and work. It makes reference back to this post as well as Dominic’s, and another post by Jason Fried at Vitamin. I hope you might find it useful as your family grows.

    I also want to say one thing here with regard to kids and working at home. It is quite wonderful and not as big a challenge as you would think if you institute a few rules right when they are young. Since my boys were little guys they understood that concept that “mom has to work now.” I think this has actually worked in favor of setting up a good role model for the kids…I hope :-) They have watched me work hard, be motivated, and solve problems. When I say to them “I need a little quiet time from you so I can make a business call”…they understand, they stop screaming and squeezing each others heads and I believe the request teaches them respect for other peoples responsibilities and needs.

    Well…I hope this provides some insights for you. In closing, thanks so much for this great blog of yours. I read it almost daily and have found much valuable information from it.

  25. Darren,

    I actually just posted my blogging schedule last week and it heavily hinges upon my kids and their schedules. Here it is: http://sleepyblogger.com/?p=207

  26. Moniker says:

    There’s another benefit that a lot of people don’t think of, but it’s a great one. When you work at home, you are working in your neighborhood and get to know the people in it. When you pop out for air, go to the store, or go to a cafe, you have a chance to meet and interact with people you wouldn’t get to if you drove to work at 8 every morning and returned at 6. It makes you more connected to the place you live.

  27. Kivi Miller says:

    Lots of great advice here. I currently have a 3 1/2 year old and a 4-month old in the house, where I work full-time. My top 3 tips:

    1) Learn to think about and divide your work into 10-minute chunks of time. If you are on kid duty, that’s about how much time you’ll get before the next interruption.

    2) Get a part-time nanny. There are some tasks that simply can’t be broken down into 10-minute chunks or that require your full brain power. It’s been a really big expense for our family, but paying someone to entertain the kids and keep them out of my office for most of 25 hours a week has been wonderful.

    3) Learn to read yourself and know when you need a break. Working at home so I don’t have to put my kids in daycare as been a dream come true, but also the most frustrating experience of my life. Take LOTS of deep breaths!

    Congrats on the new addition!

  28. ZaLee says:

    What really like about working from home is, we have so much time with our family and i really mean that…

Trackbacks

  1. [...] A look at Art and Design The Art and Design is written in a easy manner, centred on the design community, and points to discussions I can use. For instance, I work at home and her article Notions on Working At Home: What I Did Wrong and How You Can Learn From My Mistakes took me to Jason Fried’s How to shut up and get to work, then over to Darren Rowse’s The Work at Home Entrepreneur which sent me to Dominic Foster’s Benefits of Working From Home. [...]