20 years of working at home has its pros and cons!
I have spent the last 20 years working from home. It has been an interesting journey of which I am finally beginning to understand.
Having a home office was a great alternative to lots of challenges. These included dragging myself into the shower each morning. The long trek into the office was a two minute walk. The daily challenge of dealing with annoying people.
The fact is, I never minded working in an office.
I enjoyed the camaraderie, the brain storming, and ability to talk face to face with someone. It is very difficult to pick up a persons body language and gestures via email. Even video conferencing has many problems. I had lost a big advantage.
The drive to work each day allowed me to prepare myself mentally for work. It also allowed me decompress for home life with my kids. The drive allowed me to do a check list of things I knew I needed to get done. My attention to detail and focus is always better in the morning. My drive home allowed me to remove the stress of work and to be a good parent for my daughter.
Being a single parent, in a place where I did not have any family close, was tough. Covering the cost of day care for a 9 year old as a single parent was a challenge. School only covers part of that time that you are at work. There is a limit that you can rely on friends. I was lucky though to have friends close by who watched my daughter whilst I was teaching at night.
Contracting jobs starting to become available to me…
I managed to pick up a few contracting jobs through teaching. I appreciated that contracting paid higher rates than being an employee. It also gave the unique benefit of being able to manage my time around my daughters school schedule. Disadvantages of course, were having to manage your taxes, and no medical insurance.
When I was reaching the point of earning 130% of what I was taking home as an employee, I took the plunge and quit my job. At first it was a joyful time! Working in your pj’s is awesome! Coffee breaks whenever I felt the need was beneficial. No wasted time sat in a car and spending hard earned money on gas. Finally being with my daughter whenever she needed. These were all wonderful things!
I had three or four regular clients. I was still teaching because it was a great source of new clients.
But as time went by…I became complacent – I had enough to pay the bills and I was happy. To be honest, I am not a greedy person when it comes to money…it has never been something that drives me to the next step. Even as a Sales Director, it was always the closing of the deal that drove me. In Sales you are always measured by hitting your sales target. My need for closing deals was always enough for the me to over achieve in selling anything.
I have found it hard to replace the hunger I had for closing the deal. Getting a new client was feeding that hunger enough when I was working on my own. The appreciation from my daughter, having me at home all the time was the icing on the cake.
Complacency as a contractor is not an option.
Please learn from my mistake. Without any notice I lost two of my main clients who made up 85% of my income and I began to struggle. I did not lose the clients through anything I did, they both decided to choose at the same time to take my role in house. They were in Utah and New York, so that commute was not an option from Colorado. But the severe loss makes you question yourself and check and double check if you did anything wrong.
Luckily, not long after this happened, the guy I had been dating for a while suggested we move into together. My struggle continued but not from a money perspective. I struggled to find some more clients to work with. I had stopped teaching and did not have that “lead rich” environment anymore. You know the old saying, its easier to find a job when you have a job, applied here. I found a couple of new clients and the stress lessened.
So, I got married, had another child (a son who now stands a foot taller than I at 16 years old) and have moved states. Clients have come and gone over the years. I am still working with a couple of clients that I worked with when I took the plunge into contracting. As we all know keeping a client versus looking for new ones is way easier. I have always applied the knowledge that customer service is a high priority.
But once again I admit, I took my eye off the goal, lost a big client and was almost at the point of wallowing in self pity! I had not learned from the mistake of the past. It is hard as an independent contractor to keep many clients “on the boil”. There isn’t enough time in the day. This is a challenge you have to overcome. Never let a client take more than 50% of your time…better to have 4 clients at 25% of your time. I did not follow the golden rule. This one client was taking up 75% of my time, was a dependable payer and I was in my comfort zone again with the work I was doing.
Now, today, I think my eyes have finally been opened.
In the past I had not focused. In fact I had been “strolling” along in the world and it was time that I started to get serious. I needed to “pull up my socks” as my Dad would say.
In the last 6 months or so I have started to communicate. I have started to focus. My son is no longer in need of his mom being around all the time. I now have the time to dedicate to my business. I can develop more fruitful professional relationships.
So yes, I still work in my pj’s far too many times. I still get coffee far too much each day. But I am focused on making things work. To growing my client base, and finally beginning to learn what type of person I want to be.