Five Cons of Working From Home

Although there are many pros to working at home, there are some parts that aren’t all sunshine and roses. Working from home may be many people’s dream, but it is definitely not for everyone.

As I approach three years of working from home, the pros still outweigh the cons. But don’t get me wrong, there are cons.

Here are some of my least favorite things about working from home.

1) Isolation

Working from home can be very isolating. Assuming you are the only person working from your home, you will be alone all day. Email will often be your only form of communication. If you live alone, you could go an entire day without saying a word out loud. Being isolated can be depressing and discouraging.

You may have coworkers, but they will also be remote and not likely to live near you. It’s harder to form friendships with people that you’ve only emailed or had phone calls with. In addition, online relationships don’t give people the same satisfaction as in-person ones. You may feel lonelier after talking with someone online than you did before.

2) Distraction

“Oh, I just remembered that I haven’t watched the latest episode of How to Get Away With Murder, let me stop working and turn that on.”

Working from home can be very distracting. All of your fun gadgets, TV shows, video games, or other forms of entertainment are at your fingertips. Even if an office job is boring, you probably don’t have the ability to watch TV from your desk without consequence.

Even if fun things don’t tempt you, you may want to do your dishes, run the vacuum, or take a nap instead of working. It can be stressful to have a messy house when it’s also your office space. You may get distracted and start doing errands during prime work time.

You have to have strong willpower to avoid becoming distracted while working from home. For some people, this isn’t possible.

3) Poor work / life balance

When your home and your office are essentially the same place, it’s easy to blur the lines between work and life. You may sneak in 20 minutes of work before making dinner and then check email in bed before going to sleep. Sometimes I find I’ve worked on and off the entire day without doing much else.

If you don’t separate your personal life from your work life, you will eventually burn out. Sometimes, the burn out is spectacular. Tim Ferriss’ assistant had a mental breakdown and abruptly quit his job due to burn out. Other people experience a low-grade resistance to doing work, become careless or sloppy, and feel a general disinterest in life.

4) Weight gain / sedentary lifestyle

You may think that when you work from home, you’ll quickly do a workout or go to the gym in the middle of the day to break up the monotony. There are people who do this regularly!

I almost never put on a workout DVD while I was home and Norah was asleep. However, in my experience (working from home while taking care of a newborn – toddler), I often did not have the energy or the time to do anything except work. I didn’t have the time to head to the gym or go for a walk most days.

I’ve since lessened my workload so that I’m able to include things I want to do in my day, but I still can’t say that involves regular exercise.

In addition, I have full access to my pantry and fridge at all times. This has led me to drinking too many cups of coffee with sugar and creamer. I eat way too much snack food while I work.

When I worked in an office, I brought my lunch and snack and when I ran out of food, I was hungry until I went home for dinner. My office had some vending machines and a cafeteria that served breakfast and lunch, but often I wouldn’t bring money with me and those expenses weren’t in my budget. My lifestyle allowed me to maintain my weight, give or take 10 pounds, for six years. After I started working from home, and had my daughter, I quickly put on 35 pounds.

Even if you don’t gain weight, you will probably have a much more sedentary lifestyle working from home than you did in an office. In my previous life, I showered, got dressed, did my hair and makeup, packed a lunch, grabbed my books, walked to my car, drove to the office, walked into the building and moved around a decent amount throughout the day. We had a morning standing meeting that was typically 20 minutes long. We had meetings in other rooms throughout the building. I went on walks with my coworker on our breaks. I filled up a water bottle 2-3 times per day from a fountain around the corner. I did a decent amount of moving even though I had an office job.

At home, I move a lot less. I get my daughterr things when she asks for them, but the kitchen is a 10 foot walk from the living room. I am usually on a kitchen chair, at the dining room table, or downstairs in my office when I work. Almost all of work is done sitting down in a chair because I am constantly typing. I try to incorporate more movement into my day, but it is difficult.

Becoming very sedentary is a definite con of working from home. Remember sitting is a deadly disease!

5) People don’t think you’re working

Working from home is taken a lot less seriously than working in an office. I’ve had to set boundaries with people and explain that just because I work from home doesn’t mean I am able to run errands throughout the day, do frequent favors for others, or have visitors drop in unannounced. Although I enjoy some of these perks, they aren’t something that I can do regularly and maintain my workload.

Doing things in the day often guarantees that I’ll be working until 11 pm. Sometimes I have to make the choice to enjoy my day knowing that my night will involve working until midnight.

Working from home takes a lot of discipline and self-motivation. It can be lonely, boring, and difficult. It does have many perks, but the disadvantages are weighty too. The internet is full of articles about how great it is to work from home and although that is mostly true, you should be aware of the negative side of working from home before making the leap.

Freelancers & Mamas, Work When You Can

As a freelancing mama, it’s hard to find time to get everything done. During my first year freelancing, I struggled to find a balance. I was working when I should have been doing other things like cleaning, exercising, relaxing, or spending time with my family. I didn’t get to enjoy my self-made schedule.

I thought that working from home meant I needed to be working every moment that I was at home. This was exhausting because I’m home 95% of the week. I couldn’t possibly work during all of my waking hours. That wouldn’t be fair to my husband, daughter, or myself.

After a year, I got into a better routine and became more comfortable with the idea that I didn’t need to constantly work. I realized work was always going to be there. I wasn’t ever going to reach a point where I completed absolutely everything, emptied the 4-6 inboxes I manage, and wrapped up all of my personal projects and goals.

Instead of worrying about working all the time, I started working when I could.

I used these methods to find a better work/life balance.

Wake up earlier

One way to I was able to get things done without feeling the panic of needing to do other things was by waking up earlier. Sleep is very important and I make sure to get at least 7 hours per night, but I didn’t need to get 9-10 hours every day. Instead, I would wake up before my daughter and get some work done in complete silence.

I found that 1-2 hours of concentrated work, without my daughter, was often more productive than 3-4 hours of work with my daughter around.

I don’t particularly like getting up earlier, but I know that I always have the option especially when my workload is heavy.

Dedicate one evening per week to working

Thursdays are usually my working nights. I go down in my office around 7 pm and stay there until 10 or 11. I don’t do this any other day of the week (unless there’s an urgent request or emergency).

Only doing it one night per week makes it tolerable. If I did this every night, I wouldn’t have any time with my husband. I chose Thursdays because my husband and I stay up later on Fridays and spend time together. Even if I’ve had a frustrating night working, I always go to bed thinking “It’s OK, tomorrow night I’ll relax.”

I also sneak in a little more office time when my husband travels. He travels for work anywhere from 2-10 days per month. When he’s gone, I typically spend the evenings working after I put my daughter to sleep.

Do a little work on the weekends

Most weekend days, I go downstairs and shut myself in my office for two hours. I typically do this as soon as I wake up.

I do my 30 minutes of writing and then tackle client work for 90 minutes. I can get a surprising amount of stuff done in that time because I’m 100% focused on completing tasks. When I come back upstairs at 10:30 or 11 am, I don’t feel like I’ve missed any of the day and my stress levels are decreased because I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

Work in spurts

It will be years before I can work for an uninterrupted eight hours again. I plan on continuing to grow my business and work for myself for the rest of my life. This means that I probably won’t be working eight hour days until my daughter goes into kindergarten in three years. At that point, I hope to have more children that would still be home. With the amount of children I’d like, I estimate 3 – 10 years from now before I would work full-time hours again.

Instead of worrying about how much I’m working, I grab 10 minutes here and there throughout the day. My daughter can entertain herself long enough for me to respond to a few emails or jot down some thoughts for a future project or blog.

My brain has learned to run on spurts. I’ve gotten so much better at getting focused immediately. In college, I would sit at my desk for hours before I began writing a paper. Now, it’s do or die. I use the 10 minutes or I waste it. And I don’t want to waste it.

Take on less

At some point, you may realize that you have too much to do and not enough time to do it. As my daughter has gotten older, I had to become comfortable with taking on less. This has many perks. I’m able to take my daughter to lessons, mom’s groups, playdates or the library in the middle of the day without worrying about not being able to finish my work.

Having a decreased workload means that I only take on high paying, quality work. I’m no longer pitching for things on Upwork or accepting content mill jobs because it’s not worth my time.

It’s hard balancing a business and a family. Much like running a side hustle when you’re a full-time employee, you just have to find the time where you can.

You won’t always work a consistent schedule each week. Some weeks you’ll find more time and other weeks will be so packed with personal obligations that you may feel like you’re getting nothing done.

When you look at your accomplishments, try to take the long view. It doesn’t matter if today was unproductive if the past two weeks have been great. One of the greatest benefits of working for yourself is that you decide when you work – and you work when you can.

work-when-you-can

Your Guide to Becoming a Virtual Assistant

If you are considering working from home, but don’t have a specific business idea in mind, being a virtual assistant is a great option. A virtual assistant handles many of the same duties that an in-person administrative assistant or receptionist does. Average pay for virtual assistants can range from $10-$40 per hour with the rate increasing depending on demand and experience. Virtual assistant may also choose to charge clients by hourly packages or work on a retainer.

I started off my remote working career as a virtual assistant. I didn’t have administrative assistant experience, but my previous position as an Information Specialist required me to be meticulous and organized. These traits came in handy when I applied for a virtual assistant position with Zirtual. After a short interview process, I was offered the job. It paid $12 per hour with optional healthcare and 401K. Other benefits were added a few months after I started.

I went through a two week training process which detailed all of Zirtual’s policies and procedures. The training process was very organized and helped clarify what would be expected of me as a virtual assistant. The company had created an organizational system through Google Apps that included documents and templates for most requests and a list of things that a ‘Zirtual Assistant’ could and couldn’t do. Anything “specialized” such as writing, photography, accounting, etc. was considered out of scope. Everyone who worked for Zirtual was college educated and many had advanced degrees.

Although I enjoyed working for Zirtual, I felt constrained by the set work hours and inability to do creative tasks. I’d been slowly picking up marketing clients throughout and I had enough business to strike out on my own. I left in February 2015 to pursue my marketing business. In August 2015, Zirtual imploded and 450 employees were instantly out of jobs with no warning. Many of these employees went on to create their own successful virtual assistant companies.

I currently maintain one virtual assistant client. My work with this client is a mix of administrative assistant, project manager, writer/editor, and social media management job duties.

What Does a Virtual Assistant Do?

Some of the regular duties I perform as a virtual assistant include making and returning phone calls, digitally filing emails and documents, invoicing and creating expense reports, and inbox maintenance. Other responsibilities include booking flights, hotels, and restaurants, making appointments and scheduling meetings.

Many other virtual assistants offer some level of social media management, data entry, transcription or other tasks suited to their skillset.

If you work for yourself as a virtual assistant, you can set your own hours and decide which job duties you’d like to do and which ones you don’t.

Where to Find Virtual Assistant Jobs

Consider starting your own business

Most virtual assistant companies will have you work as a 1099 independent contractor. This means you’re a freelancer. You will not be provided healthcare or benefits. Some companies may offer to have you work as an remote employee which would give you whatever benefits that company offers to traditional employees.

If you’re going to work as an independent contractor, you may want to consider starting your own business to cut out the middle man and maximize your full earning potential. You can look into filing as an LLC, C Corp, or S Corp – each choice offers different tax benefits. My business, The Sturm Agency, is an S Corp.

How to get started

  • Build a website

You can hire someone to do this for you or you can use a premade template option like Squarespace. My professional website was created on Squarespace and I highly recommend the platform; my site was easy to make and looks beautiful. Squarespace offers easily to install ecommerce plugins that allow you to sell through your website. If you’d prefer to invoice and manage your business through another program, I’d suggest 17Hats. I use it for time-tracking, invoicing, and project management.

  • Create social media pages

At the very least, create a Facebook page and a LinkedIn page for your business. Consider each social channel a difference customer acquisition point. The same people on Facebook may not be on Twitter and vice versa. Your social media profiles should be updated with some frequency, but you can decide how often that should be. One to three times per week for a business page is good. You don’t want people to think you’re out of business, but you don’t need to fill people’s profiles with constant self promotion either.

  • Join some Facebook and/or LinkedIn groups

Search for freelancers or virtual assistants groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, join the groups and introduce yourself. One of the most active Facebook groups I belong to is the Freelance to Freedom Project Community. People regularly post business opportunities in groups that may not be listed anywhere else. You can also network with your fellow virtual assistants to share tips and tricks. If you have questions or encounter a situation you don’t know how to handle, you can ask for advice from other professionals who have been there.

  • Work with an established company

There are a number of established virtual assistant companies that you can work with (FancyHands, Zirtual, EAHelp). Most, if not all, will employ you as an independent contractor. If you’re concerned about how quickly you can get work, it may be a good idea to start with an established company because they will supply your clients. Keep in mind some companies will have you sign an agreement that you won’t create a competing business or poach clients.

Being a virtual assistant can be a very rewarding job. You will interact with people in many different roles in a variety of businesses. You will become knowledgeable in a multitude of fields, making you a Jack or Jill of all trades. You will be able to keep a flexible schedule and work from anywhere with a reliable internet connection. You will be able to develop meaningful relationships with people that you may never have had the chance to meet otherwise. Whether you start you own business or work with an established company, being a virtual assistant is a fulfilling remote career option.