Are You Sure You Want to Quit Your Job and Work from Home?

People fill Google with thousands of queries about working from home – and enough scammers are out there willing to take advantage of gullible souls hoping for the next miracle to make their dreams a reality.

But what’s it really like working from home?

I’ve worked from home as a writer and webmaster since 2005, more than seven years now – and I’ve learned some things that I don’t think lots of people give much thought to when they are so focused on giving their smug bosses their two-week notice with a silent middle finger subtle scratch of the temple.

Consider these things I’ve come to know about working from home before you decide to jump your corporate ship.

Your Pay Can Surge Up and Down

Unless you’ve got a relatively steady gig where you’re still backed by a corporation that lets you work full-time from home and still collect regular checks every two weeks or on the 15th and last day of the month – and let me know that gig, if you have it – your from-home income will most likely vary.

Whether you’re a photographer booking shoots in your make-shift living room studio, or an online writer like me – taking jobs where I can get them – your pay will no doubt vary.

Unlike the steady and uber-predictable $72K annual salary I took home when I left my last corporate job in 2001 – or the $31 per hour I made in my last contractual position with a company in 2004 – my write-from-home job’s income varies.

In 2010, I brought home more than $50K from sources as varied as Google, Yahoo, Amazon and other venues. But in 2011, due to unforeseen changes in a shift in Google’s algorithm ranking program, that take-home web-writing pay dropped to around $26,000 for the year.

Thank God for my husband’s steady corporate job to rely on – so if you’re going it alone, keep in mind that becoming an entrepreneur who works from home comes with the risks – and great rewards – of an income that is not as predictable as a corporate salary may be – but it’s also not as limited either.

One big turnaround or a hit product can send your income to the stars. (Just reference Facebook’s latest IPO offering to learn how a kid can create something in his dorm room that would create reportedly 1,000 millionaires years later when that stock went public, finally.)

It Can Get Lonely, But That Works for Me

Another interesting fact about working from home – as opposed to trudging into a building full of a bunch of people each day – is that it can be a lonely, solitary event.

It really depends on your personality type and how you handle being alone.

Working from the safety and warmth of my home works for me for the most part. Seeing as though I’m a writer, I love having large blocks of super-quiet, unfettered, uninterrupted time to let my thoughts flow and form.

Plus, I have more of an introverted personality that doesn’t feed off of being with another body every single second. I like my space.

My sister, on the other hand, called me every single day when she was away from her corporate job on an extended maternity leave. She’s just more of a people person than I am – one of those types who love to talk, talk, talk.

I don’t think she’d be great at working from home – and if you experience a similar way of being in this world, you probably know it already – and an extended period of time working alone may not benefit you as much as it does me.

Of course, the loneliness factor can always be mitigated by increasing your outside-the-house activities, like joining a ministry team at church, or taking a class – or even joining a health club.

Sometimes I’ll go to the health club just to be around people – even if I only make small talk with a few folks – it builds up that something inside of us all that feels the need not to be completely solitary. And that gives me my “people fix” of human interaction for the moment.

Of course – there’s a big difference between being lonely and alone. And just because I’m by myself for the better part of each weekday doesn’t mean I’m isolated and longing for workfolks.

It wouldn’t necessarily work out for the better if I had someone popping over my cube’s wall each morning, asking if I’d like to make a Starbucks run with them. It might make my brilliant plot turn disappear.

Speaking of which, part of that corporate camaraderie is something I do miss – at times. A good thing about working with a group of people that you’d normally never hang out with is that you’re forced to meet and talk to varying types of all races, creeds, religious backgrounds and personality types.

It’s like we were locked in this jail together – and some of us would make the most of our time by taking “breaky-breaks” to the break room or outside or anywhere, just to bond and pass the boring time served in those gray cubicles highlighted by too much fluorescent lighting.

Can you tell why corporate life wasn’t for me?

I didn’t like the structured time – knowing I had to be somewhere at 8:30 a.m. and couldn’t technically leave (aside from the long lunch breaks I’d steal) until 5:00 p.m. or later, if I wanted to put in that brown-nosing “face time” that showed I was a team player.

And that leads me to my next point about your new work-at-home time shift.

You May Put in Looooonnnnggg Hours

Unlike when you worked for “The Firm” – as it were – coming home to work for yourself isn’t about passing time and still collecting a paycheck when you “actually only did about 15 minutes of real work each day,” as the hero from the cult classic Office Space admitted.

If I decide to blow off a day of work and spend it at the health club or chatting with my friend, I might feel it in lost sales. Conversely, when I eschew the health club and yacking to sit my butt on this couch and pump out article after article and work on my new Kindle book, I often see the increase in income in new sales and income earned via advertisers that pay me based on the amount of pageviews I receive.

Therefore, if I’m skipping out on work, I’m not hurting anyone but myself. I’m not sticking it to “the man” or the higher ups. I am the man and the higher ups when I’m my own boss.

This attitude adjustment can take some getting used to – but again, it works for my personality type, because, like I told a friend the other day who asked me about my writing deadlines, “I’m a self-starter. Most of my deadlines are self-imposed.”

I know I sounded just like an interview candidate, but it was the truth. I push myself to work – especially around tax time – another point you’ll see more about below – and bring in extra income when that Amex bill and Chase Ink business card balance is calling my name.

Thusly, I find myself putting in 10-hour days as of late. After I drop the kids off and spend a little “Jesus time” to get my head straight, I’m usually at the MacBook creating stuff by 10 a.m. – and I’ll hit it all the way until about 10 p.m. – with breaks in between to help the kids with their homework, prepare dinner, shop for groceries, run errands, and all those types of young mom and wifely duties.

As is known, especially when you are self-employed and building your business, you may find yourself playing several roles, until you delegate some of those tasks to others. Hmm…I gotta do some more delegating…

You’re the IT Department, the Janitor, the…

Another thing I realized about working from home are the many and varied roles you’ll most likely find yourself playing.

When I worked in the corporate world, I didn’t think much about the trash that I tossed away being picked up by someone else – or the cleanup crew that vacuumed loudly on those nights I worked late.

But once I came home, I gained a newfound appreciation of all my new roles. When my laptop died, I didn’t have an IT person to blame it on as I sat around and chatted with cohorts when the network went down, as I used to do in the work world.

No, it was me who had to trudge the thing over to Best Buy’s Geek Squad, or call SBC and see what was going on with the router. (Or my lovely husband who fixed the things with a reset.)

Since I was home more, it was me who had to get my own food and clean up after myself during breakfast, lunch and dinner at home.

These are the small things that you must consider in the long run about making the decision to come home to work, and if it’s a plus for you. You – not the tech department – are your own business resumption planning in case of an emergency of lost data. You are your own cleaning department — that’s if you haven’t hired Merry Maids or someone else to do that job.

Oh Yes, the Taxes

Taxes were perhaps my next biggest adjustment in going from a structured corporate work life to a work-from-home, run-your-own-LLC type of existence that I live today.

I haven’t always been the best money manager around – I was the type where money would burn a hole through my checking and savings accounts. So getting used to the fact that taxes didn’t come out all nice and neatly out of each check to that FICA guy and others was a big change.

Many of the places that pay me to write online pay the gross amount up front to my PayPal account, or my checking accounts, or a few still send the snail mail checks.

This leaves ol’ responsible me to pay my share of the taxes owed each year. And each year God has brought a miracle to get them paid – because I have yet to be that truly on-the-ball at-home worker who pays her estimated taxes ahead of time.

But things are getting better. At least I formed my writing-webmastering business into an LLC – and got a good CPA last year that helped me save money and get my tax situation in better order, so I’m on the right track.

However, I bring up the matter of taxes just to warn all those folks who think quitting your job is a breeze. There’s more to consider than fantasies of metaphorically flipping off that supervisor you hate and working from home in your PJs and farting all day.

Got Insurance?

Again, I am supremely blessed that my husband still has his corporate job, and therefore, we still have great medical insurance.

I don’t know how much self-employed folks pay for their insurance if they aren’t covered under a corporate plan, and whether those plans truly are as great as the Open Access Plus with Cigna that we have, but I keep meaning to look into it.

I know there are lots of good options in this arena, since work-from-home roles are a popular thing – but it’s another new and different expense to consider — one that doesn’t just come out of your check as you’re probably used to it doing in a corporate (or even a part-time) job.

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Working from Home

Okay, I can’t think of much agony other than the points I’ve touched on above, including the unpredictable pay and the lonely time.

Truth be told, after all these years, I still love working from home – and it would take a pretty significant job – or some desperate times – to call me back into the corporate work world with its structured timesheets and vacation days and sick time, if you’re blessed enough to get those in your current job.

I love being able to schedule my days as I need them – like if I want to run over to a Christmas performance at my children’s school, I can do so without sneaking out or making up lame excuses.

If I need a “mental health day” I can just take one, though workaholic that I am, I admit that I rarely do. I tend to work seven days a week at this online publishing gig – which goes to show you just how much time it can take to make a decent income working on the world wide web.

Yeah, people may bitch and moan and come up with negatives about the “gap in your resume” from your work-at-home years, but that’s not really true – because all that’s being built through me is something credible and easily trackable.

Though I may have my down times and wonder if I shouldn’t try and get back in the corporate game that I left eons ago, that thought usually passes – and I go get some fresh air, away from the chaos and disorder and noisy crowds others must endure in their work worlds each day.

And I pour out my angst into 2,000-plus word articles or blog posts or eBooks that – when they connect heart-to-heart with others – and bring me that next hunk of PayPal pay and checking account chunk to boot – let me know I am exactly where I need to be right now. Working from home.

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