Do You Really Want to Work from Home?

by Rob Spiegel

Would working from home be your dream come true? Most people would eagerly jump at the opportunity. Before you do, consider all the angles.

Raise your hand if you’d like to work from home and be your own boss. Most people I meet say they would eagerly jump at an opportunity to run their own company from home.

The idea of owning a business is ingrained in the American spirit. The dream runs deep. It mingles the desire for independence with the urge for self expression, even sale actualization. If you really want to “be all you can be,” you go out and get a business license, then set up shop in your garage.

But some dreams are not meant to come true. The actual experience of running a business is dramatically different from how you imagine it. In reality, it’s much more chaotic than you planned. Growth is almost always slower than expected and it usually takes far more money than anticipated. It’s also hard to foresee the fear and anxiety that comes with the responsibility and unpredictability of running your own show.

Recently I received email comments from a very unhappy home-business owner. He gave only his first name, Mike. He found that managing a home-based company was a major disappointment. “I gave up my full time job to work from home four years ago,” declares Mike. “And it is turning out to be the worse decision I’ve even made.”

What was surprising about Mike’s email is that he is actually succeeding in his business. “I work from home and I have lots of free time. I am my own boss. I make more money than I did at a job, but it’s turning into a nightmare.” Turns out Mike hit two of the hard walls that come with the territory of building a company at home: the loneliness of a one-person shop, and the terror of an uncertain future.



“Days on end go by without me stepping out or talking to other people,” explains Mike. “And the stress levels are sky high. Although I’ve made great money for the past six months, there is no guarantee about next month.” Mike admits the loneliness was something he hadn’t considered before he launched his business.

As a home-based worker, I’ve been spared Mike’s isolation. Not only do I frequently work while my kids with me, but I also spend a considerably amount of time on the telephone in conference meetings and talking with sources. I treasure the little time I actually get to be alone. But I well remember the gripping fear that comes from the financial uncertainties of working for yourself.

Mike makes important points about the hidden challenges of home-based companies. He noted that he’s ready to give up the independence and prosperity in order to take care of his need to be with others. “I’m at the stage now where I am seriously considering getting a job again, any job, just to get out of the house and around people.” says Mike. “I’ll never work from home again.” He strongly urges would-be home workers to give serious thought to the potential traps in the floor of the work-at-home dream.

I find that Mike’s view is held by a minority of home-business owners. Most home-based workers I speak with chose this life based on a number of reasons, including the need to be close to young children or the low-overhead of a home office than can make the difference between the success and failure to a fledgling company.

But even if Mike is in the minority of displeased home workers, his complaints are worth taking seriously for those contemplating a home-business launch. Once you quit your day job and place your chips on the business-of-your-own square, it may be difficult and expensive to reverse the decision.

Rob Spiegel is the author of Net Strategy (Dearborn) and The Shoestring Entrepreneur’s Guide to Internet Start-ups (St. Martin's Press). You can reach Rob at robspiegel@comcast.net

 
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