Who said working from home is easy?

OK, I might not have to battle snow and ice to get to work. Or worry about sleeping in an extra half-hour after a late night watching the post-game shows. Or even wrestle with the perennial chore of what to wear every blessed day.

But working for yourself from home is not without its challenges. I tell people who ask me about it (with dreams in their head and longing in their eyes) that it’s not for everyone.

You have to be self-motivated. Nobody is checking to make sure you’re at your desk, doing whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing to earn a living. You have to forget there’s a TV a few feet away, a refrigerator full of food, rooms that need cleaning, a novel begging to be read, or an Internet full of time-wasting at your fingertips.

You have to deal with the insecurity of not being sure of your next paycheck. Or the one after that or the one after that.

You have to find all the jobs, pay all the taxes, buy all the supplies, and make all the coffee. You have to be your own cheerleader — attaboys are hard to come by. The very best you can hope for is that they’ll call you again next time.

Working solo means usually being alone. No one’s around the water cooler to rejoice over the big win, lament over the big loss, or dish about what so-and-so said when you-know-who told him about you-know-what. Lunchtime is no different from any other time. There’s never any birthday cake at 4:00 in the conference room. It’s isolating. You have to have the temperament to deal with that. And no, everyone else is not checking e-mail all day long. Your computer is your lifeline in so many ways, but it’s not always attached at the other end.

And, there will be other obstacles you didn’t anticipate. For example, it’s hard to write when you can’t see what you’re writing.

blocking-the-screen

And it’s hard to type when you can’t move your arm.

asleep-on-my-arm

And yes, you may end up wearing your bathrobe for an embarrassingly long time.

I’m just saying. Just so you know.

Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else. 
                                                ~ James Matthew Barrie

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Feast or Famine

I don’t know if all free agents experience this, but I’ve found it true for myself and many of my writer friends: The work is feast or famine. You’re either sitting around uneasily waiting for your next project to surface, or you have 5 people calling you at once, 4 of them after you committed all your time, with a sigh of relief, to caller 1.

It wasn’t any different when I worked at a “real” job. I was always either crazy busy or twiddling my thumbs and trying to LOOK busy — much harder when you have to be in an office for 8 hours or are expected to produce X hours of billable time. It was excruciating, and such a waste of time. But then, I still got paid. So in a way, it was all in a day’s work.

What do I do now when it’s slow? (I think my husband is dying to know.) It depends on how panicked I am about knowing there will be no money coming in 30-60 days from now.

I often check out Monster or the local want ads (maybe that dream job is just waiting for me — yeah right), clean out my e-mail Inbox and Sent folders so they’re under 400 each, maybe clean my desk (but not usually — it’s the one place where I thrive in clutter). I might send out some feelers to get in front of clients who might have work. Or if I’m convinced no one will call and suddenly need me, I tackle any of a thousand house projects (from the mundane laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping to the latest torture-du-jour — paint scraping, mortar chipping, wall sanding — fun stuff like that).

And lest you think I’m a saint, I do sometimes take an afternoon nap, tune into HGTV, or go for a walk. (I always ask the boss first to make sure she says it’s OK.)

Now, of course, I can add blogging to the list — more fun than any of the above and even like working … for free … so it’s like volunteering … or doing pro bono work … so I should feel good about it. Right?

Fortunately, my current mini famine comes without hunger pangs. I have 4 or 5 projects hovering out there, including a couple of white papers to write (major deals — a bit intimidating), an article, a bulk of editing, an internal safety campaign, another editing project…all committed to and all obviously conspiring to strike at once.

The feast is coming — better tighten my thinking cap and get those fat pants ready.

The supreme accomplishment is to blur
the line between work and play.
                         ~ Arnold Toynbee