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January 21, 2011Setting up a new business: can you really work from home?

So, I snapped. After valiantly trying to tough it out working from home with two highly-strung girls and their overactive cat, I moved into a new office today. And I can safely say I’ve done more work this afternoon than I have in the last three weeks put together. There’s less furballs, too.

I know what you’re thinking. You get up in the morning. London’s all grey and awful. You’ve got to get up before it’s even light and trudge twenty minutes in the rain to catch a bus to catch a tube and stand around geting pushed around just to make it to your desk for five to nine. Then, in eight hours time, you’ve got to do it all again.

Working from home is living the dream, right? Wrong. Let me tell you how working from home becomes a nightmare you can’t wait to wake up from.

I’ve worked in offices before, and I’ve also worked from home before. But since moving closer to central london late last year, I’ve sacrificed space for location and I’ve done it in a big way. Let me tell you how it starts.

Snooze Button

Imagine your office was only ten feet and one doorway away from your bed. Okay, so you’d have to be <i>really</i> lazy to knock off work at 1 for an afternoon nap, but think about the temptation. It’s 09:30am. The alarm’s ringing. “Just another half an hour… after all, it’s not like I’m going anywhere today…”

Then, once you’re actually up. Your xbox is only 10 feet away. So is your TV. So is your fridge.Worse, the person you live with just quit their day job and bought a cat. But you’ve got clients breathing down your neck demanding first drafts, while the washing machine churns away in the background. How many pants does the woman own! Concentrate? You’ll be lucky. You’re not at home any more. You’re in work hell.

Working from home successfully requires separate space

I’ve managed to work successfully from home in the past simply by having a bigger home, scheduling client meetings for early mornings (so you actually have to get dressed and leave the house by nine) and by being disciplined. After all, when you’re self employed, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. But in the central London shoebox I’ve been living in, my work ethic totally broke down.

You see, the thing is, you don’t hate working in an office. Sure, you might hate the commute, but the chances are you have friends in the office, people to talk to, people to bitch to, people to go for a drink with. What you really hate isn’t being stuck in an office. You hate not being your own boss.

Live the dream – become self-employed!

When people say “I wish I could work from home!” what they mean is “I wish my boss wasn’t looking over my shoulder all the time” or “I really hate Clive from Accounts!”

They mean things like “I hate my boss, I hate having to do a 9-to-5…” They rarely mean “I hate my actual job.” They think working from home will solve their woes. They’re wrong.

People put up with “working in an office” and dream of being free. But the truth is working at home won’t set you free. You’re still working. Only now you have to be self-motivated, too.

So go ahead. Quit your job and start your own business. I did. And I’m earning twice what I did before. I’d probably walk straight back into an agency if the money was right, but I’ve definitely started enjoying being my own boss.

You’ll love the freedom. Just don’t turn your home into your office hell.

If you’ve decided to go it alone and start your own business, chances are you won’t be able to afford an office right away. As Mad Men fans know, even Don Draper, when he starts his own breakaway agency, has to start off in a hotel. So here’s some tips for turning your home into a working environment:

1. Use a separate room. That means don’t work in your bedroom. Definitely don’t work in the living room. It’s where you’re supposed to relax.

2. Never work with children or animals. Fido’s bark never bothered you before, but now you’re trying to concentrate he’s become your worst enemy. “The cat wants to play” is not an excuse to stop working.

3. Get out as often as possible. Schedule meetings early and often and in places you wouldn’t otherwise socialise. Make sure you go out for a drink with your friends now and then. Otherwise, you’ll turn into one of those shut-ins you see in documentaries on Sky 3.

4. Accept it’s never going to be a long term solution. If you’ve any ambition, you’ll want to start taking on staff one day, and do you really want them in your house? What about when your dream client comes through and you have to tell him you can’t meet him “at the office” because your flatmate is playing video games / watching porn / having sex with strangers next door?

5. Pretend you’re at work. Put on a shirt. Put on a tie, if it helps. Watch the clock — start at nine and end the day at five.

The golden rule: do everything you can to keep your home and work lives separate.

The chances are after six months, your dream of working from home will have turned into a damp squib. But you’ve learned how to be self-sufficient, you’ve learned discipline, and you’re ready to take your business forward. Just like me, soon enough, you’ll be back in the office.

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This entry was posted on Friday, January 21st, 2011 at 6:49 pm and is filed under Blog, Me and my business. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 comments

  1. Karri Flatla says:

    There must be something in the air as this theme is popping up around the web this month …

    I just moved into my own downtown office space this past Monday after working from home for 6 years.

    I always had a separate room in the house to call my office, but eventually I just couldn’t stand the cloistered feeling of being at home all day … and all night … never a need to look presentable or go to bed early or whatever.

    I JUST posted about this same thing on my blog (you can delete the link if it’s inappropriate to share here but the post is at http://ht.ly/3Ics4). It’s about my business’ “re-arrival” into the community.

    Sometimes working from home ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

    Congrats on the new space … pics? :)

    Karri

  2. Karri Flatla says:

    PS: My kids are nuts too :)

  3. [...] running rampant at 4.8% and the price of petrol is almost double what it was in 2008. I have my own central London office that’s about 200 yards from the Thames. These things aren’t [...]

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