When we’re stuck in a job we’ve grown to dislike it’s easy to dream about how perfect our lives would be if only we could work from home. No boss, no company politics, no office drama…at least, that’s the fantasy. But how do you know if working at home is right for you?
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How can you find out if working at home is right for you?
Before you take the leap and decide to quit your job – or think about starting a home-based business – there are some things you need to think about. It’s one thing to daydream or fantasize about the work at home life, but it’s something else to live it.
So before you take the plunge and go all in, here are some things to think about and some questions to ask yourself to determine if working from home is really the right thing for you.
Are you able to set – and stick to – a routine?
One of the hardest things about working from home is the exact thing that makes it so attractive to so many…the lack of a routine.
While it’s true that your commute may be no more than a few steps and there won’t be a boss dictating what you do ever minute, the fact is that if you’re going to succeed in your work-at-home life, then you’re going to have to have a routine.
That means that you’ve got to develop a routine, and then have the discipline to stick to it…even when you don’t want to (and there will be days when you’d rather binge watch HGTV and paint your nails).
Because it’s easy to put off till tomorrow what you need to do today.
And when we’re at home there’s always something else that needs to be done. Home chores (like laundry, cooking, cleaning) that we used to do after we got home or on weekends, now beckon to us when we’re frustrated with a work task. It’s so much easier to push the work task aside and go fold and put away the towels. You’ll find that when you’re home during the day the house will scream at you in way you never thought possible.
Here’s the thing…it’s possible to take predetermined breaks in your work day to get a few house things done. There’s nothing wrong with taking a five-minute (scheduled) break to swap clothes from the washer to the dryer. The trick is that those house-chores must be planned for so that you’re incorporating them into your day and not using them as excuses for not working. Because it’s easy to do.
So before turning in your notice or setting off on an entrepreneurial venture, you’ve got to access whether you’re truly able to set, and stick to, a work routine.
Now the good news is that your work schedule doesn’t have to be from 9 to 5. Your work hours can be broken up into chunks where you work a couple of hours here and another couple of hours there with a big break in the middle for other activities.
It’s not uncommon for me to work a three-hour block early in the morning (or in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep) and then take a couple of hours off to go visit a friend before coming back to work a few hours in the afternoon and then again in the evening.
In fact, my ideal work schedule looks like this:
- 7-9am: work
- 9-10 am: breakfast, shower, & dress
- 10-12pm: work
- 12-1pm: break
- 1-3pm: work
- 3-4pm: break for business reading
- 4-6pm: chores, cook, eat supper, clean kitchen
- 6-8pm: final work block
- 8-10pm: personal time
- 10:30 lights out
You also don’t have to work Monday through Friday if that doesn’t fit your life situation. I always take a day off mid-week for errands and shopping, but I make up for it by using a weekend day as a workday. And there’s no rule about a 40-hour week either. If you can achieve your goals in less time then celebrate. On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with working a lot of hours either if you love your work and are trying to build something from the ground up.
The bottom line is that you call the shots, set the schedule, and are responsible for the outcome.
My favorite scheduling tool is the Planner Pad. I discovered this organizing tool a few months ago and have fallen in love with it – and my productivity has increased tremendously!
Related Post: 26 Time Management Strategies
Are you able to set priorities for getting things done?
One thing I hear lots of from those who work at home is that they’re not sure exactly what they need to do. Without an imposed set of tasks, it’s often hard to know what we need to do and in what order so that we can make progress.
To be successful working from home it’s imperative that you’re able to set a goal, break that goal into specific tasks, and then prioritize them so that you can work your way through them efficiently.
If you’re unable to do these things then you’re going to spend a lot of time going around in circles chasing your tail. And you’ll be frustrated at your lack of progress.
However, to actually determine the goals and tasks and set a schedule to accomplish them, you need a way of tracking them.
Whether you’re a paper or digital planner, a calendar system that allows you to schedule when you’re going to do certain activities is essential. Otherwise you’re at the mercy of endless sticky notes or random pieces of paper. While this non-system might work for a bit, it won’t carry you through complicated or complex projects efficiently. A good personal organization system is a must.
can You stick with the work till it’s done?
Now that you’ve actually set the priorities for getting things done, you have to ask if you’re willing to actually work the plan…and keep working it till you get things finished. There’s no boss riding your rear end, and there’s no time clock. So it becomes very easy to let things slide as hours turn into days which turn into weeks…and you’ve accomplished nothing.
So setting priorities and developing a plan is one thing. But actually working the plan till things are done is really the test of whether you are a good fit for a work at home lifestyle.
Can you delegate and use tools?
Some folks are great at delegating tasks to others. They’re not bothered by telling others that a certain task belongs to them and getting it off their plate.
However, other folks have a hard time with this.
You may be used to doing everything yourself – either because you’ve always done everything yourself, or because you haven’t had anyone willing to help you, or even perhaps because you’re a control freak (and nothing against control freaks – I happen to be one myself).
Regardless, when you work at home there are two skills that you need to master:
- the art of delegating, and
- how to use tools to increase your efficiency
Now, there are a vast number of tools you can choose from that will make your work at home life easier and more productive. You can find apps, software, groups, and services that help you with everything from time management to grocery delivery (saving you the time it takes to shop).
One of my favorite apps is cozi.com. It allows me to plan meals, make my grocery list, set reminders to myself about things I need to do (that I might otherwise forget!), and you can set it to send reminders to family members. It’s really great and super easy to use (and I’m not very techy).
The trick comes in determining which tools work best for our particular needs, and which tasks you want to delegate to someone else. If you love taking the dog for his daily walk then this wouldn’t be a service you’d want to outsource. But if you despise yard work, then having someone come mow the grass might be worth looking in to.
You see, here’s the thing…you have 24 hours in a day. You want to get as much mileage as you can our of your working hours. And if you’re in a start up phase of your work at home life then you may have times when a 40-hour work week looks like a vacation. During those times it’s especially important that you make every minute count.
are you comfortable without a lot of social interaction?
Here’s where a lot of people hit the wall. They daydream about not having to commute to work or having a boss telling them what to do, but they forget about the social interaction that came along with having a workplace with other people.
When you decide to work at home you’re gaining freedom…but you’re losing companionship. You’re no longer going to run into a coworker on your way to refill your coffee cup. You’re not getting asked to run out for a quick lunch. There’s no chatting on breaks or on your way to the parking lot.
You’re on your own…alone.
And as with everything, there are pros and cons to that fact.
As an introvert it’s easier for me to work at home. But I will admit that there are times when I miss the social interaction I used to get from friendly coworkers. And if you’re naturally extroverted, then this may be especially hard for you to deal with.
So how do you deal with the isolation?
You have to become very intentional about your desired amount of social interaction. This may mean that you make plans ahead of time to meet someone for lunch. It may mean that you plan visits after working hours with friends. Or it may mean that you look online to find friends in similar situations who understand the reality of work at home life.
Honestly, my online friends have been lifesavers. Because even though I don’t need a lot of social interaction, I do need some…and my online friends (who I’ve never met in real life) have become confidants, advisors, and guinea pigs. It’ll take some effort on your part to find them – and it won’t happen over night – but you can find social interaction online from people who “get” what you’re doing because they’re doing it themselves.
It’s worth the effort you invest in fostering these relationships.
Are you willing to persist until you’re successful?
Working from home isn’t for the faint hearted. There’s no step-by-step guide, there aren’t enough mentors, and there’s no guarantee of success.
But what there is is the possibility that you’ll be able to create a business based on your skills, talents, and interests. While your past jobs may have been things that interested you, your work at home career can be one that truly lights you up, that makes work seem like play, and that gives you a freedom you’ve never experienced.
But I’m not going to lie…it’s not easy. It’s not quick. And it requires a work ethic that no 9 to 5 job ever demanded.
Because here’s the thing…when you’re working for yourself, it’s all on you.
If you decide to spend the day binge watching Netflix…your business suffers.
When you choose to spend the day shopping with friends instead of working on your business, you don’t make progress.
If you decide that follow-through isn’t a big deal…then you don’t make progress.
So the fact that it’s all on you can be a blessing…or a curse. But is true that there is a correlation between your level of persistence and your success.
Related Post: 7 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Success
can you tune out the nay-sayers?
I hate to break it to you, but not everyone will be supportive of your new work at home lifestyle.
Unfortunately, that may include your husband, your kids, your parents, and even your best friend.
You see, despite the fact that there’s been a huge increase in the percentage of freelance workers, there are still segments of people who buy into the idea that you’re only working if you’re “at work”.
Some of the negative attitudes you may bump up against may be flat out stated. Someone will make a comment about your situation that let’s you know exactly what they think. But other times the attitudes are unspoken. Nevertheless, attitudes – stated or not – have a way of impacting us.
Here are some common reasons why people may have a negative view working from home?
- it’s different from the norm – they don’t know anyone else doing it
- they were raised during a time when working from home was simply impossible
- they assume that “working from home” is code for “goofing off”
- they want you to be available on their schedule
- they assume you’ve bought into some crazy, get-rich-quick scheme and that you’re going to fail
There will also be nay-sayers simply because they have absolutely no clue what it is that you even do, and there may be those who weren’t ever truly supportive of your success in any work place.
Ultimately, you have to decide whether you’re be able to ignore the nay-sayers so that you can continue working on your business.
what’s your comfort level with risk?
As I stated before, there are no guarantees with any kind of work, and working from home is no exception.
Let me state that again…just because you’ve decided to work for yourself is no guarantee that things will work out.
There’s no guarantee that you’ll find client or customers, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be successful (whatever your personal definition of that is), and there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever make any money at all.
So if that fact makes you squirm – or you need more stability in your life – then working from home may not be for you.
When you start your at home business, there are risks. But there are also potential rewards. So do your due diligence. Research the options, develop a workable plan, put your head down and work your tail off, and take the chance…if you decide it’s for you.
But do an honest assessment of your risk tolerance so that you go into things with your eyes wide open and fully aware of the pros and cons.