Running a business from home comes with a unique set of rewards and challenges. Issues like isolation, work/life balance, and professional perception are heightened for the home-based business owner.
To research this piece, I asked my network of home business owners for their opinions on the challenges and rewards they face. I found similar threads among the many answers I received.
One of the most common problems mentioned was the ability to set “office hours”:
“The biggest drawback I face with working from home is ending the business day. There is always something else on the list to be done. It's a vicious circle to be sure!”
Penny Perasso, iPenshop Promotional Products
The feeling that you are “always at work” is a hard one to break when you are constantly “at the office”. I have learned that, barring a special project or rush job, it is important for me to simply stop.
If I was working from a traditional office I would, so I need to treat my home office the same way. No one can maintain their health and sanity without down time.
Another challenge is fighting the misconception that when you work at home, you are not “really working”. Justine Pretorious from Lucky Dog Consulting finds she is “labelled with a stereotype that I don't really work if I work from home.”
Not being taken professionally without a traditional office is a concern. When I started my business in 1996, this was definitely a prejudice. However, I believe this is changing. As more and more small businesses are being run from a home office, and much of that business is done online, the need for a “brick and mortar” office is lessening.
Many times when you work from home it is also hard to make others understand that you are not available:
“Neighbors, family and friends think I am not doing anything important and always ask me for favors.... I learned how to say no very quickly!!”
Veronica Nourse, The Cupertino Soap Company
Setting boundaries is absolutely necessary. As Ellen Mattli, Owner of Mattli Mechanical Commissioning Business states:
“I definitely have to set firm boundaries and ignore calls or emails to get my work completed.”
You need to let others know you are unavailable during “working hours”. Stop yourself from taking personal calls or answering that email from a friend - exactly what you would do if you were “at the office”.
Self-discipline is also a challenge:
“It takes tremendous discipline and focus to manage business and home life. It is too easy and convenient to go golfing on a nice day. Sit outside and enjoy the weather.” Anthony Mannella, Director of Compliance and Enforcement, CAIRSS Corp.
Diane Bianchi, Owner of Business Expansion Enterprises, has found what works for her, and many others agreed:
“What I do is totally plan out my day with time frames for each activity and I stick to it, no fail. Since I started doing this I get a lot more done, and no goofing off!”
Perhaps the biggest concern home-based business owners face is the isolation. Many expressed that not being able to run down the hall to bounce ideas off a co-worker or get support are definite drawbacks:
“In the corporate world, I could walk down the hall to the graphics group for advice. Now I'm it, for both strategy and application.” Karen Runtz, Director, Marketing and Communications, Sunbelt Business Brokers (Canada)
However, as a group, we have found ways to combat this:
“Even though I am a solo entrepreneur, I hire a bookkeeper, hire a marketing consultant, work with a printer..... This is my virtual team.”
Ann Gatty, Drs. Gatty, Business Learning and Life Coach
And Darcy Nybo, a Freelance Writer makes this suggestion:
“If you get a network together of people with businesses like yourself, you'll find it makes life much easier.”
Coline Walther, Sole Proprietor at The Virtual Virtuoso, seconds that:
“I try to make it to as many networking events as I can, and meet friends for coffee or lunch once week.”
Establishing a network, whether in “real life” or online, is a great help. Reach out to local business groups. Find groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that interest you. Whatever you choose, you will have opened up yourself to a whole new support system.
Despite these challenges, the majority of Home-Based business owners have found great rewards in running their business. The number one perk cited was flexibility. The ability to set your own hours, work in “less than professional attire”, and run your business “your way” cannot be paralleled.
“I can take time out of my day because my schedule is what I make of it. So when I need a “brain break”, I can change what I am doing...without anyone monitoring me”. Bette Novak, Board Certified Coach, LifePath Assoc., LLC
Many also noted the cost and time saving benefits. No commute time is definitely a favorite. Mentions of not missing the hour or more drives to and from work and sitting in traffic were common. There are also the expenses saved by not needing lunches out, a professional wardrobe, or parking and toll fees:
“The first thing that is positive for working at home is I am saving the cost of rent for my office, phones and parking fees.”
John W. Wenzler, Owner at God’s Grace Publishing LLC
Running a Home-Based Business is definitely a big undertaking. It comes with great responsibility and commitment. However, I believe the rewards outweigh the challenges.
Having full control over what, when, how, and why you do what you do is exciting. You are the master of your own destiny and I, for one, cherish that!
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Access Profiles - "Week in Review" for more tips to help your Small Business!