Working from home and why it’s not as easy as you might think
So you have your business idea and you are going to run much of it from your laptop at home. Maybe you have an eBay shop or you want to share stories and opinions through blogs and articles like I do. Even if you don’t have your business idea yet, chances are that you will use your computer to find one. Either through researching on Google or doing countless ‘identify your passion then base your business around that’ exercises, your laptop is fast becoming your best friend.
Let’s face it, the thought of running a business on a shoestring with just your laptop and an internet connection is very appealing. Once you have made lots of money you could base yourself anywhere in the world – can’t you just hear the white waves gently breaking from a turquoise sea onto silver sands, palm trees rustling in the gentle breeze and a cool cocktail by your side? You have been working for a whole 20 minutes and are now ready for a dip in the sea – the heat from the breeze is comforting and envelopes your body as you walk slowly towards the lapping ocean. Well, we can dream and if I ever get to manage my business from a tropical idyll – you’ll be the first to know!
Back to reality. There are many things that appealed to me when I decided to set up my internet business from home. It’s cheap with no office building costs, it’s familiar with all my ‘stuff’ within easy reach, and I can literally fall out of bed and into my chair (still in my nightie) with as many brews as I care to drink. Heck, I don’t even need to shower if don’t want, probably one of the most appealing benefits to me!
So, with office space set up (second hand desk and chair from charity shops in town, tables used for camping in the summer to place my clutter on, and stapler, hole punch, pens of various colours, pencils, highlighters, notepads, memory sticks etc etc) I was formally in the Attic, not to be disturbed and ready to make my fortune.
What I didn’t count on was how difficult it is to establish a routine. Why would I need one? Simply because I find I don’t get an awful lot done without one. I pity those young enough to have small children who are trying to work from home, with bottles to make, nappies to change and cuddles to dispense. How hard that must be. At my age I can’t even use children as an excuse. When I make an appointment to meet someone, even if it’s another September Woman for a coffee, I tend to make it for mid-morning/afternoon then find I don’t get settled into doing anything else for the rest of the day.
It’s amazing how for much of my life I have avoided ironing and cleaning yet when I am in the Attic they are the first things on my mind. “I also should wash up really, I can’t just leave it. I need to tidy the house before I get down to serious work in case someone calls by unexpected” (despite the fact that they never do). “I really should do some exercises, especially since it is one of my Goals and if I don’t do it now I won’t feel like it later. Oh, and I need to go into town to get my mum a birthday present for next week, it’s much quieter shopping during the week and anyway, it might rain later”. I’m sure I am not the only one who has these silent conversations.
Yet one of the main reasons for being easily distracted is, I believe, not just the fault of the age old ‘procrastination’ habit (putting things off and doing easier, more rewarding tasks instead). I think that it is in part due to being a woman. Seriously. It’s guilt. How can I justify to myself by being glued to my laptop when the house looks like a mess? How do I explain that to ‘Him Indoors’, who has been to work all day, that I haven’t got the tea ready because I’ve been in the Attic all day with not much to show for it and certainly no income as a result?
Additionally, I read somewhere that women become easily distracted because of their innate ability to multitask and organise several things at once. They shift from one thing to another without necessarily finishing the first task, then they go back again. Laptop – wash up – laptop – brew up – iron – laptop – another brew – and so on.
So I have decided to go to work like everyone else. I have booked some office space at the Blackpool New Enterprise Centre where I can set up my laptop and actually get some work done and meet people. Just a few half days every week. The housework will still get done, just as it did when I was working full time. And the effort of actually travelling there will make sure that I don’t waste time. I now get up in the morning like I used to and get dressed for the office. I chat to the receptionist before I start and can brew up to my heart’s content. More importantly, my office time is in my diary. This makes sure that I organise myself better and if I need to meet anyone they have to fit in with my schedule.
So you may find working from home is not as easy as you thought. I did. It doesn’t mean that I want to go back to work full time – I was fortunate to be able to give that up earlier this year. But it does mean that, for me, I have realised that I will not be able to develop a successful business without hard graft - and that means dedicated time. Every day. I believe that if you don’t put your passion into what you love, it will wither and die. Thanks to the support of Blackpool Unlimited I can now avoid the ironing and cleaning legitimately. And still have as many brews as I want.
Brenda is founder of September Woman and has recently retired from the NHS.
She is supporting women over 50 through changes in their lives by writing blogs and sharing the stories of other women. She has an interest in women in business and in sharing her own experiences to inspire and inform others. Follow her journey on the Blackpool Unlimited website as she attempts to develop a blogging hobby into a successful business. Good luck to her!