I’ve been a freelancer for more than a decade, and for most of those years I’ve been able to work out of my home.
Being a Work-at-Home Worker has its perks and its pitfalls.
Here are some of the best and worst things about working from the home office.
1. The commute is awesome
For most people who are lucky enough to work at home, the commute is whatever distance lies between the bed and the desk. In many cases, this isn’t more than a few hundred feet. For some, this means: no car, no gas, no car insurance. It cuts down on overhead when you don’t need a vehicle, a bus pass or a train ticket to get down to business.
2. You’re the boss
Not only are you your own boss, but your boss is awesome. Hopefully, you’re not one of those bosses that employees love to hate. You decide the work day starts at noon? Approved! You like to eat crackers while working in Excel? Go for it! You sign contracts in your pajamas? No problem! Man, the boss is cool.
3. Reinvention is a constant
Because you don’t fit into a box with the word “JOB” stamped on top of it, you can redefine who you are on an as-needed basis. Tired of focusing on a certain aspect of your job, but love to immerse yourself in another aspect of it? Being self-employed requires you to constantly be reframing your expertise in a way that is productive, happy-making, and in sync with the evolving market.
4. It’s more human
Apparently, your brain only does well focusing on something for an hour-and-a-half or so at a time. Cubicle slavery doesn’t allow for that. Traditional jobs are structured thusly: START TIME, WORKWORKWORK, END TIME. Over eight to nine hours, that’s not maximizing productivity. That’s just stupid. Being able to focus, move away, and return when ready means you’re working with your brain, not against it.
5. Control, control, control
Are you a control freak? I am. That means I can’t stand people telling me what to do, I don’t share well, and I like to play God in my fantasy fiefdom. If you want to feel like you’re in control of your life — and who doesn’t? — being a WAHW is your ticket to the Promised Land.
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1. The anxiety is a killer
Think your regular office job is stressful? Try holding a job where you have no job security. Sure, you did great this month, but what about next month? What about next year? What if the economy goes down the toilet again? Did that check come yet? The stress of not knowing where you’ll be professionally in 30 days takes a will of iron to bear.
2. Is anybody out there?
Staying at home to work is a blessing and a curse. If you want to spend more time with your kids, you can do that; if you want to get work done, your kids may make that difficult. There’s no reason to leave the house, to step away from the computer, to socialize. Without water cooler chats, work buddies and interaction with other humanoids, the WAHW can live a lonely life.
3. The matter of benefits
Health insurance is something you either go without or pay for yourself. The dog isn’t offering a 401(k). No one will pay should you decide to relocate. Outside of stress, the lack of benefits is probably the biggest challenge the self-employed face.
4. Motivate this
Every week, I get emails from people who’ve decided they want to go it on their own. Usually, I don’t respond, but sometimes I wonder if they know what they’re getting themselves into. Those who are not workaholics or insanely driven should not venture into WAHW territory. It’s not easy to motivate yourself day after day, regardless of how the business is doing, and if you can’t do that, you should find yourself what is commonly referred to as a “real job.”
5. The secretary is MIA
Working at home means wearing many hats. You are the boss, the employee, the creative, the marketing team, the publicist, the strategic planner, the accountant. In one day, you may be brainstorming, producing and invoicing. Those without flexible brains need not apply.
Those who fare well as WAHWs are those who can do it all and then some, who can resist the siren’s call of the TV and the refrigerator, who can remember that in the end working at home is better than working for the man any day of the week.
© 2012 Forbes.com