More and more women are leaving the workforce in droves to start their own businesses at home. In fact women setting up businesses from home is the fastest growing sector of the Australian economy with similar trends being seen the in US and UK.
And its not surprising that women are making this choice. Especially after having children, it is common to have a feeling of not wanting to miss out on precious moments of your child’s life and have a desire to be at home more.
But is working from home all it is cracked up to be?
I started working from home about 6 years ago now and like so many, I had an idealistic, romantic view of working from home. Daily walks by the beach, yoga classes in between bouts of working. I was going to have highly effective time management skills which would enable me to arrive breezily at the school gate just in time for afternoon pickup looking healthy, stylish and just like a successful business owner who manages to balance all of her plates with little to no effort.
Cue….sound of glass shattering…..thats my illusion smashed to pieces and laying in a giant pile of broken glass on the floor.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love working from home and I love working for myself. I have learned so much in the past 6 years about business but also about myself and about life. But if you are on the verge of making this decision consider yourself warned……
Working from home and for yourself requires more discipline than an army captain, more drive than a tugboat has pulling power and about as much mental resilience as the White House bomb shelter.
You will inevitably have to put up with with the confused look you get when you try to explain to curious neighbors or friends that you can’t make the street party on Saturday night because you are so far behind with your work this week. A standard response usually comes in the form of “But you work from home……can’t you choose your hours?” You will also have to fend of the demands of your children who crankily ask why you didn’t have time to get 17 yellow pipe cleaners for their school project today because “all you do is sit at home on Facebook” I almost dread the question, “What do you do?” because once I state that I work from home, there is often an assumption that what I do is not a “real” job. My favourite response in this situation was from one of my daughters friends fathers who then said to me in his best patronizing voice “Oh that’s nice. That must keep you busy” as if it was nice that I was occupied and not pestering my partner or sitting idly in front of the afternoon soaps. I nodded and smiled whilst I visualised clocking him on the head with a large rolling pin.
You will have the challenges of keeping your workspace just that. As I write this I am looking around my desk and I have 1 pair of fairy wings, one colouring book, a wooden doll from a dolls house and 2 dirty school socks around my computer!
You will have moments where you will stare at your computer or cake in the early hours of the morning, often with wine in hand and empty bottle nearby having the seeds of doubt creep into your head. “Why….oh why am I doing this? What for? Is this really worth it? Am I actually crazy?!”
Something that really irritates me after telling people you work from home is the assumption that you don’t deserve to be paid as well as someone who works in an office. This usually comes in the form of a request from a “friend” to give her a discount because “oh, but you work from home….surely your overheads are not that high?” Sometimes I think about telling people boldly that I run an adult X-rated website just to avoid the whole conversation. Somehow I can’t imagine this friend asking for a discount on that.
Some of you will yearn for some adult conversation, some of that good old stand around the water cooler gossip. Some of you will miss actually getting dressed up for work.
But then you will have moments when your child is sick and you don’t have to frantically find a sitter or explain to your boss why you need yet another day off. The moment when you realise you can book a sale flight on the spot because you don’t have to fill out a form and wait for approval for your holidays and hope that no other employee has asked for holidays that week. Then there are moments when working in your pyjamas till midday feels like the most perfect thing to be doing.
Most of all you will have the satisfaction of knowing that your hard work is creating something for you. A business you can be proud of. That you own. That is uniquely yours. And then you will know, that it really is all worth it
And besides that, if you are like me, you will quite like creating an air of mystery and having a smug sense of satisfaction, knowing that the neighbours really have no idea what you do all day. Perhaps I will start telling them about my X-rated website.
Artice first appeared in Cake! The magazine from The Australian Cake Decorating network. Check out the magazine HERE