This one goes out to all the people that work from home and actually make a living doing it. No, this is not for the people who get to work from home a couple days a week who have office jobs. Though I would imagine some of this stuff probably applies to you. I’ve now been working from home for over 10 years and I’m pretty sure I’m convinced that 99% of the people I interact with still don’t think I have a real job. I live in a real house, with a real garage, a real pool, a real refrigerator, and even a real home office from which I do whatever it is I do to pay for 95% of my family’s entire financial nut. But it doesn’t matter. I work from home so that means I’m available ALL the time right? Doesn’t it? It has to mean that. For whatever reason, working from home is the mental equivalent to “not having to do anything.” That is, unless you’re someone who actually makes a living at home and considers it their livelihood. So let’s dive in. Let’s talk about working from home. I’ll even start with the good stuff (sort of):
My first work at home experience
I began working from home over 10 years ago from a one bedroom apartment in New York City. People always ask me if I miss living in New York City. The short answer is, “absolutely not.” But it’s not because I don’t miss crowded subways or walking everywhere. I actually didn’t mind that stuff as much as I thought. It’s because I didn’t have a true New York City experience. And by that I mean the day after I quit my full-time job to pursue what I’m doing now, I was spending around 80% of my awake time in one room. The same room I watched TV in. The same room I ate meals in, entertained company in, did virtually all my “home” stuff in but also did my work in. My “office” was a corner desk near the window of our “living room.” Don’t get me wrong, I very much enjoyed the fact that I didn’t have a boss anymore. I loved the fact that I could “set my own hours.” However, I learned quickly these things were all a farce. That is, if I truly wanted to make this a living, many many unspoken rules had to be followed. But before that, let’s talk about what happens when you actually start. At least, this is what happened with me.
Separation of work and home becomes that much harder
While it didn’t happen immediately, something they don’t tell you about working from home is that it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate home from work. When you work in an office you’re gone all day. You can leave the office and mentally when you physically leave the office you can detach (somewhat) from your job. Granted in today’s business climate technology is making that harder every day, the fact that you have a physical space to exit from is still a help to the brain. Working at home has virtually none of that. Especially when you work in a one bedroom apartment and literally work in the same room that you do the rest of everything else in. Nowadays I have a home with my own office, as well as a nice backyard, pool, etc etc to retreat to. But as you’ll see, even that can become minor compared to some of the other challenges you’ll face.
Normal home stuff becomes a major distraction
It’s nice when you ordered something and it arrives at your doorstep right? How about the time your toilet stops working or your cable goes out? Isn’t it a relief when the repair man arrives? If you work at home these things aren’t a relief anymore. I mean sure, technically they are but if you’re in the middle of it, in your working “zone” if you will, it’s extremely annoying when any normal “home” thing interrupts your flow. And that’s not even half of it. Try doing your work in the middle of a 2 year old having a tantrum. Try doing your work when a six year old barges into your office demanding you play video games with him. Don’t get me wrong, I love my two sons but believe me, I’ve gone looking in the classifieds for office space more than once in my life. Oh and I happen to have a pantry and washer and dryer adjacent to my office. Tell me that’s not annoying as hell. I even had soundproofing done to my office here at home. Let me tell you that nothing, I mean nothing can sound proof children in the kitchen or anywhere for that matter. Even something as small as my wife coming into my office to ask me a question can really irritate me. Granted none of these things are her fault, the kids’ fault, or anyone’s fault. But nevertheless, they exist and they become problematic no matter how many steps you take to get rid of them. So how do you push through all of it? How do you actually get your job done? Discipline. Serious discipline.
See this picture up here? This is NOT working at home.
It takes an enormous amount of discipline if you want to make a real living
So here’s the road I took to get where I am today. Some may argue, “where I am today” isn’t even a desired place to be. For me, I love my life now but let’s keep in mind I’ve been at this 10 plus years. A full decade to reach this point. When I first began working at home is was in tandem with my full-time job. Another thing to note is that I am the owner of multiple websites. However when I started it was just one. Still though, when you’re just starting out you have to do everything, and I mean everything. This included the technical specifics of the website as well as writing all the content. In the very beginning I was working from around 8 to 6pm at my full-time job as a recruiter and then doing my website(s) from 9pm-1am or so. As I began to learn my business I realized that putting in the hours could definitely grow a website but while I had a full-time job there was no way of growing to the extent I wanted to unless I truly put in the consistency of time and effort (hence my eventually quitting). So right off the bat I had to squeeze in 4 hours a day at home. So what happened when I eventually quit my job? It became worse before it became better.
I basically worked from 6am until approximately 12am or even later. This was virtually every single day. This was from home, with a TV right there, a bed right there, and no one home but me. Believe me, it’s tempting to get up, have a snack, watch a show, or even take a nap. And YES, I had that option (and still do) but those of us who actually make a living working from home know that these aren’t options if you actually want to be successful. And the discipline applies to weekends as well. If you’re a work at home person you’re in this for the long haul which means an essential 24/7 commitment to your business. You’ll find very very soon that if you don’t stick to a schedule and rigorously discipline yourself, you will fail quickly. For those still reading, it does get better. These days I run 8 sites and only have to work about 5 hours a day. Mainly it’s because I’ve become better and more efficient at my craft, not to mention offload a ton of work to other people.
Here are a few more things I need to say before signing off on this article:
1. For those of you that have children
There’s nothing you can do. It will never get better. Seriously. Just make peace with it. That or get yourself some office space outside the house. There’s really not many options. I’ve tried to soundproof my office which worked a tiny bit. Your only salvation is if you have a home office that’s super far away from anywhere your kids will be. But even then, if they know daddy or mommy works at home, they’ll come find you. If I were to give advice it would be this: get angry, it’s OK but realize it’s not their fault. Try, and mind you I said “try” to hold in any outbursts even though some are eventual. Just remember this is all normal. Also, your kids will eventually grow up and you can tell them to stay away from your domicile.
2. People will never be convinced you have a real job
I’ve been at this for over 10 years now and the one thing I know is that anyone who has never worked from home before will never fully understand or appreciate it. I’ve had every kind of job under the sun. That includes being a bartender, bus boy, life guard, sales rep in the World Trade Center, financial recruiter, corporate office bullpen person, you name it. I can tell you right now that working from home is by far the hardest of any. Granted it’s 100% the most rewarding but again, far and away the most difficult to do successfully. Something you need to realize is that unless a person has been in the same trenches as you, they will never, ever understand it. That doesn’t mean they’ll poo poo it, or disrespect it (some will). It just means they don’t fathom nor understand the responsibility you are enduring every single day. Even still, it can really piss me off when I’m interrupted because I’m know that when my wife interrupts me at home, it holds zero weight compared to if I were in an outside office. It’s just the way it is. It sucks but it’s my truth. She’ll just never get it, ever. Perhaps one day I can come to her in the middle of when she’s helping a five year old with speech, barge right in and say something like “is the pool getting cleaned today?” Maybe then she’ll feel the pain.
See this picture? It’s a way more accurate representation of working at home. Only imagine that cat and dog are people. People aged 2 and 6 who don’t remotely care that what you are doing pays for their summer camp, toys, food, clothes, pretty much every single thing in their lives.
3. Don’t ever say this to someone who works from home:
We, the work at home crowd, are growing in numbers. There’s this little thing called technology that’s putting thousands if not millions of you out of work. What was once an elite and promising place to be AKA the corporate world is getting decimated by AI and systems much fast than us who can do twice the work in half the time. All of you folks out there who think it’s nice to have a cushy corner office are going to have a rude awakening pretty soon. So let’s get to the thing you should never, ever say to someone like myself and others who do this for a living. “Don’t you work from home?” That is the ultimate slap in the face and 9 times out of 10 it’s inferring that your job isn’t has hard as the rest of them. If you’ve read this article I can only hope you understand that this line of work is quite challenging. The next time you come across a work from home person remember that eventually we’ll be the majority and you will likely be there yourself, so have some respect for what we do.