Working from home can be challenging, especially when it comes to managing your work-life and home-life. Now that I’ve been doing it for 5+ years, I have it under control, but when I first started out it was short of a nightmare.
I started back in 2011 with a preconceived idea that it was going to be fantastic. I’d get to stay home, take care of my child, manage the house, make dinner and make money. I’d be free to come and go, no boundaries, I mean seriously what more could you ask for? I had this image of what it’d all be like. Really, more of a grand delusion. Yeah, I was SO wrong.
Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying, I am not trying to discourage anyone from working at home. In fact I promote it via my Work At Home Non-Phone Directory, but it definitely isn’t as glamorous as you’d think. Below, are some of the MAJOR mistakes I’ve made and some of them took me much longer to see than I’d like. Hopefully this will save you some headache in the long run.
The Six Main Issues of Working At Home
Number One: No Separation
When you start working at home there’s no longer a physical separation from work and home. Your home turns into your work area and you are always there. (Well not always, but you get what I mean) You aren’t driving to an office, store front, restaurant or wherever it is that you’d work in a typical pants job. When you are in one physical location with all your responsibilities, professional and personal in your face at all times, things start to get messy.
Number Two: Time Management (Probably the most important)
You may pick up a set scheduled job or try freelancing in several different areas. If you’re like me, I get bored doing one thing. One of the attractions of working at home was the fact that I could do multiple things and not have to worry about an 8-5, Monday through Friday. I choose to do the freelance, flexible route. With a child at home it was kind of a must anyways.
Here was (still is, kinda) my BIGGEST problem:
I always felt like I should be working. I was at home, I had my computer and we needed money; it all turned south pretty quickly. I had/have one “main” job as a Search Engine Evaluator and a ton of extra gigs and small side jobs. I had this need (pretty sure it turned into an addiction) to make money. I had a monthly requirement that I needed to meet financially, but on top of that I put a monthly goal of just extra money.
This left the dishes piling up, the laundry overflowing (truth be told my laundry still over flows.. I hate laundry) and most importantly it left my little one in need of attention. I am ashamed to say that the TV was my babysitter. Here was the reason I stayed at home watching Dora on repeat, so I could squeeze in that extra dollar for the day. It’s so easy to get sucked in and say “5 more minutes”, “just a second” and “hold on” then you turn around to look at the clock and it’s been another 2 hours.
Once I realized I was doing this, I had a few days filled with heavy guilt. I turned off my computer, spent uninterrupted time with my daughter and took care of me and my personal life. (This will play in with Number 5) I knew I had to make a plan and better organize my time. Otherwise my child was going to be better off in daycare with actual human interaction.
How I Worked On Fixing It:
I would have loved to be able to only work/clean when she was sleeping, but we did have bills to pay. So instead, I had to set a maximum amount of hours I could work a day while she was awake and break them up (Plus side of freelancing/flexible schedule).
At first, this involved me setting literal timers. Example: I’d set a timer for 30 minutes get as much work in as I could and let my child watch one show. She was no longer a victim of constant questions from Dora, along with having to tell a sneaky fox not to swipe. When the timer went off so did my computer.
I also did this with housework, I set my timer for an hour and would get as much stuff done as possible in the time “allowed”. My daughter could help with small tasks on this one so it was some bonding time, even if that involved “folding laundry” with mommy.
I did not time play-time with my daughter. For me it ended up working great. I was still having to work while she was awake but for short periods of time. I do believe in letting children entertain themselves, just not all day.
Even if you don’t have children you can fall into this trap. Make sure you’re getting up, meeting friends and taking care of YOU!
Number Three: Taking On Too Many Jobs
$$$ Money, money everywhere and you just can’t resist but drink! Trust me I know the lure. See that gif above this text? That is EXACTLY what it feels like to take on too much. Seriously, you can only get done some much in a day. Do yourself a favor and don’t go crazy with the side jobs.
If you do like picking up small jobs be realistic about it. How much can you handle? It’s better to have two really happy clients than 10 pissed off ones.
I like to do user testing for a side job and have signed up with 8 companies. But, with user testing there isn’t much work. It truly is an extra gig and maybe one out of the 8 will have something for me to do for the day. What I don’t do is user testing, community moderation, freelance writing, mock juror on top of survey taking (which I personally can’t stand).
Number Four: Not being patient
It’s easy to give up and get frustrated if you’re not getting the job results that you want. This happens even when searching for a pants job. It is easy to waste your time (ah there’s time management again) on companies that pay pennies when you’re crunched for cash.
Not all micro tasks are bad, but with companies like Humantic (I will be reviewing them later, just a word of advice STAY AWAY) you’re better off doing something else, even if that doesn’t involve making money. Plus, it’s a huge downer and does not help motivate you to find that real income earner that is waiting for you.
Number Five: Not Giving Yourself A Day Off
This ties into, you guessed it, time management – number 2. It is super easy to work 7 days a week 365 days a year when you have no limits. The office is never closed and you feel like there’s always something you can do to make that extra $20 for the day. This is a really BIG MISTAKE it’s easy to get burnt out and overwhelm yourself. I suggest trying for the traditional two days off a week, it doesn’t have to be Saturday and Sunday but you need that time.
I take Sundays and Wednesdays off, and don’t even turn on the computer. I do have a habit of checking my email or using social media but I am trying to get better. You can develop addictive behaviors and not even realize it.
Let’s face it; you’re always going to need money, but you can’t get back time. That statement right there truly sums up the work at home experience for me.
Number Six: Less Adult Interaction
I know the main point of going to work is to make money, but what about the social parts? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss conversing with my co-workers. Of course, when I was in a normal job, I’d bitch that the drama was inane and that gossiping was for high school.
Here’s the thing.. I MISS it. How ironic is that. Honestly, who doesn’t love a bit of gossip or the bonding over it? Does that make it right? No. But, that doesn’t change the truth of it, anyone who says otherwise is full of it. When you’re stuck at home with the kids all day with no one to physically talk to it can get lonely.
My poor significant other comes in the door after a long day at work and I am like a verbal tiger, pouncing. I want all the outside info and he better give it up, or no dinner!
Working from home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Would I change it? No. I LOVE being able to stay home with my kids. My job is flexible. If I need a week off, I don’t have to worry about being fired, or getting someone to cover my shift. If I don’t feel like working, I don’t have to. The advantages out way the bad for me. It’s not a right fit for everyone.
I hope some of the above will help you hammer out your own work at home journey. If you find it’s not for you, do not guilt yourself into sticking with it. Children need happy parents. Staying at home all day with a grouch isn’t any fun.
Do you have a similar experience or tips that you want to share? How did you start your work at home journey?