If you have been following this series, then you’ll recall that to date we’ve discussed what a VA is and does. I’ve also given you ideas and practical advice on how to begin planning your VA practice.
However if you haven’t been following this series or seem to have forgotten parts of it, you may go to the navigation bar, click on “Virtual Assisting” and follow the drop-down menu to the “Series”.
In this section, Part 8, we’ll be discussing the common myths surrounding working at home. “Working at Home” is being defined here as working in a home business, freelancing from home or working in a WAH job.
While this topic may not be directly focused on VAs, it’s still important to identify what you can expect by working at home. This article will help you identify what is mythical and what you can actually believe and plan for in the future. In future topics when we discuss financing your dream and transferring from a day job to your VA practice, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision.
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Oh, the joys of working from home! Who hasn’t dreamed of being able to work in your fluffy, pink bunny slippers and bathrobe on a snowy winter day? Add to that being your own boss and being in complete control over your own schedule. Sounds good so far?
You have thought about it too. In fact, you have thought about it so much that you’ve even started mentioning it to your close friends and family. They’ve also loaded you down with all kinds of advice—both good and bad. If you’re like most of us, you have received a combination of advice, hearsay, and myth given by people who have never been self-employed a day in their lives.
Here are just a few of the myths that you can expect to hear:
- You’ll have more time for family and friends. While you may no longer have a commute, you may find that you spend just as much time working as you did before. Why? Because when you are self-employed, you have non-billable tasks you have to do, such as filing your taxes or writing your own advertisements. You’ll also have to educate your family and friends that when you are working at home, you ARE working. This is not a hobby. Nor is this a 24/7 Waffle House.
- You’ll save a lot of money on “working expenses”. This is the one that confuses most people. While you will save money on gas, dry cleaning, lunches, and daycare—you may find that the money saved is simply re-allocated. The money you aren’t spending on driving to a job every day is now being spent on web hosting, a business phone, more computer software, business cards, business licensing, high-speed Internet, and advertising. You may save some money, but don’t be surprised if it isn’t a large amount due to the re-allocation. Keep good records.
- You’ll be able to save money on daycare. If you have two or more children in daycare, you may find that you will save money working from home. However, you must also realize that if you are going to now be watching the children yourself, you won’t be able to work as much either. You will have to wait until your spouse can relieve you or the children are napping. You may also have to hire outside help. Again, keep records. It probably is a savings, but do the math. The savings may not be as much as you thought.
- You’ll be able to play with the kids while you work. I have yet to meet anyone who can do this. When you are working at home, you ARE working and need to concentrate. While you may be able to tune out some of the background noise, you will still need to focus on your work.
- You’ll get lonely. While you will be working for the most part in isolation, you will also have the opportunity to develop close virtual friendships with others VAs and freelancers. Thanks to the Internet, forums, and social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter! The loneliness does not have to be intense. Occasionally, you can also get out of the house and have fun.
- You’ll get fat. While the call of the wild (A.K.A. sound of the icemaker), may have you running to the refrigerator more often—don’t. Weight gain does not have to happen. Keep track of what you are eating (food journal) and incorporate at least 20 minutes a day of exercise.
- You’ll let your appearance go and become a slob. While you can definitely redefine “Casual Friday”, you don’t have to let your appearance become undesirable. You don’t have to dress up to work at home, but you can still practice basic hygiene such as combing your hair, brushing your teeth, and showering often. Try to do these things before 4:00 p.m., and you’ll feel better about yourself.
- You’ll go broke. While you may take a pay cut in the beginning, over a period of time (3 to 5 years), you may recover your former salary. If you do not recover your former salary then look for ways to save. Also, with more companies hiring at-home workers, you could always go to work with one of those (surf this blog for ideas) as a Plan B.
- You’ll be able to sleep in every morning. While you don’t have to set an alarm, you will still have to make money working. Anyone who works at home will tell you there are “feast times and there are famine times” when it comes to working at home and getting clients. I have never met anyone, who works at home, that hasn’t pulled the occasional “all-nighter”. The most dedicated “all-nighters” usually are VAs.
- You’ll be able to set your own schedule. Again, while you don’t have to have a set schedule, many who work at home find it ends up happening. It actually will take more discipline to work at home than it does to work a regular job. Even though you are welcome to set your own schedule, you do have to be flexible with clients and any training you may need.
- You’ll be able to “cherry pick” your own clients. While it is not impossible to eventually select who your clients will be, it’s not always easy in the beginning. When you are first starting out, you may have to take a variety of clients to get the experience and initial cash flow started.
I’m sure that there are many more that I didn’t list, but these are the WAH myths that you’ll hear most often. I would also love to hear some of the myths that you have heard about working at home.
Again, I am always here for questions and comments or on my web site.