I was just about to leave for lunch when the switchboard operator told me I had a phone call.
Puzzled, since I was new on the job and not expecting any calls, I walked back to my desk and picked up the phone. It was my 10-year-old son.
"Hi, Mom, it's me."
"Yeah, it's me."
"Why did you call? Is anything the matter?"
"I'm at Mike's house?"
"You're supposed to be in school. Why are you at Mike's house?"
"The school caught on fire and they sent everyone home."
"What do you mean the school caught on fire..."
"So I got on Mike's bus and went to his house."
" . . .If the school caught on fire and you're at Mike's house, where's Vicki?"
"I put her on our bus and told her to go to Nina's"
"Did Nina say it was OK?"
"I don't know, I'm at Mike's house."
As it turned out, 7-year-old Vicki was indeed at Nina's, but that phone call made me start to reconsider whether taking the job as a staff writer on a business trade magazine had been the right thing to do. Although the job was exactly the type of work I had wanted and allowed me to schedule my hours around the children's school schedule, I just didn't feel comfortable about working away from home.
It wasn't long either, until I started to resent the hour and fifteen minutes each day I had to spend traveling to and from work, and to realize that the costs of going to work (need for new clothes, gasoline, tires, lunch from the deli on days didn't have time to make my lunch or forgot to take it with me) all were eating into the extra income I thought I'd gain by working at a "real" job instead of freelancing from home as I had been doing for the ten years prior to taking that job.
So, a few months later, when my husband took a new job and we had to move to another part of the state, I decided to give self-employment another go-round -- at least until the children were a few years older.
That was more than 20 years ago. These days the "children" come to visit on weekends. Stephen is an accountant with one of the largest accounting firms in the country and Vicki is a middle school teacher. I still work for myself and don't think I could ever work for anyone else again.
Over the years my business has changed and grown just as my children have. I'm no longer a one-person writer and copywriter. Instead, I run the Businessknowhow.com web site, which provides information, tools and resources to more than a million home-based and small businesses each year.
BusinessKnowHow.com was run from home until 2004. But I didn't run it entirely alone. Instead, I had - and still have - a network of small businesses and freelancers - mostly work-at-home parents - I call on as needed (and as they are available) for various projects. One of the freelancers I've used in the past was my daughter, who did some editorial freelancing while she was in grad school.
The business has grown over the years. So last year, at an age when most people are wondering where they'll get enough money to retire (and hoping they don't get forced into retirement before they're ready), I rented office space and moved my business out of the house. I hired employees to work in the office, but still call on my virtual network to do projects from their homes.
Instead of worrying about the financial and emotional ramifications of losing a job and being forced into retirement, I enjoy running my own business and working to do the things that will make the business be both saleable and valuable when and if I decide I to scale back my business activities.
Remarkably, I have never personally met many of the freelancers and business owners who work on projects for me. They are scattered around the country. We communicate primarily via computer or telephone, with fax or US mail filling in as needed to transfer documents or materials that can't be transferred by computer.
I believe in many ways, that my business - and the way it's run - is a model of the way many more workplaces will be run in the future. While there will always be glassed-in, climate-controlled, ulcer-producing corporate workplaces, today's technology gives us choices we never had before about where we work, when we work, how we work, who we work with, and how long we work. And working from home - or in your own business 5 minutes away from home- is a pleasant alternative to traffic jams and elevators and deli sandwiches gulped down between phone calls and meetings.
© 1983, 2000, 2005 Janet Attard