If I had an FAQ, ranked number one (just above “How do you stay so casual?”) would be variations of “How do I work full-time from home?” Often it’s from someone who’s tired of his 9 to 5 or someone who wants the flexibility of staying home with kids, with various other reasons in between.
Some thoughts from your self-employed pal. Take it all with a grain of salt; I’m currently wearing sweats.
+ Don’t quit, but start now. Unless you don’t need the income, quitting on Friday and starting something new on Monday is ill-advised. Jim has a career, but also really enjoys graphic design, and would like to do that for himself and work from home full-time. But instead of yelling “I quit” and doing the pelvic thrust dance in front of his boss, he starts working on graphic design on the side.
Jim works 9 to 5, comes home, has dinner with the family, and works on graphic design from 7 to midnight. On Saturdays, he brings his laptop to a coffee shop and spends the morning working. Each week, he’s putting in roughly 30 hours. Jim banks that money, because freelancers need a hefty emergency fund, and once he’s ready, he makes the leap from working for someone else to working for himself.
+ Weigh all the monetary pros and cons. Now that I no longer work full time out of the home, I’ve said goodbye to twenty hours of commuting time each month, I’m spending less on gas, and the phrase “business casual” is no longer part of my vocabulary. But at the same time, my utilities have gone up (I’m home all day, using the electricity and blasting Pandora and keeping myself warm) and I have to shell out my own money for computers and pens and neon sticky notes.
+ Consider the children. “But the children love the books!” – that nun from Elf, right? This one applies if you have kiddos: I will be super real about how easy it is to work at home with three kids — it’s basically impossible. Your mileage may vary, however. Maybe you have just one docile child or maybe you can totally focus when throw pillows are whipping past your head at impressive speeds, but for me – if I have eight hours of work time scheduled for a day, those are eight hours where I am not in charge of caring for my kids.
If you’re looking to just work a couple of hours a day, naptime + the hour after bedtime can suffice, but if you’re putting in a full day, consider childcare arrangements or creative work hours. Example: at one point I worked from 5am to 8am, 12pm – 1pm, and then 7:30pm to 10pm. Kind of hellish, but totally doable.
+ Does it have staying power? I’d apply this one to blogging or even direct sales efforts (which I’m seeing a lot of in my FB feeds these days). Even if I was raking in crazy amounts of cash for one blog, I would never put all my eggs in this one basket. Are blogs even going to be cool in two years? Will podcasts have replaced them? Many people are quitting all of that in exchange for secure traditional jobs, not vice versa. I totally sounds like a naysayer, but I guess my point is — keep the long-term in mind.
+ Is it a job or a hobby? One of the coolest things someone can do, IMO, is to pursue a passion. But passions don’t always mean careers. The formula goes beyond do you love it? to also include and is there demand? Or what if it’s a little bit of both? You hand-weave really pretty baskets, and you sell enough to make a hobby you love free for you. That’s incredible! There are people who spend crazy amounts of money on their hobbies, and you get to do yours for free. Maybe even for free + a couple of tacos at the local taco truck. There’s nothing wrong with grinding it out at a 9 to 5 and pursuing a hobby after hours.
+ Go balls to the wall. (That’s an aviation reference, not a body part one … Mom.) If all of the dots connect, give yourself the green light and be all in. It’s a little scary, but most cool things are. There are times where I quietly coach myself and say “If you fail super, super miserably, you can bounce back.”
+ Shake some hands; hug some bodies. Get your LinkedIn profile up to date; put a portfolio together; shoot some emails to people in your field. Shoot some emails to people who aren’t even in your field. I have a casual text thread going with a couple of entrepreneurs in my ‘hood, and our lines of work never cross, but it’s nice to have friendly support.