Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Rants of a Home Business Owner

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“Do you work tomorrow?”

A simple question. A seemingly innocuous question. Yet the moment someone utters those words to me, I cringe to my core.

Why? Because I am a home business owner, and in those four simple words is contained a volume of misconception about the life I lead.

And I am not alone in this. My father runs a business out of his home. So does my brother-in-law. My current employer of my part-time work also has a home-based business, as did the woman I worked before that. And we have all run into the same problems on how “regular workers”—those who hold a 9-5 job outside the home—perceive us, as if working from home makes us so different from them.

Here are five of the biggest misconceptions I’ve run into as a home-business owner:

Misconception #1—My work isn’t a “real” job.

This is why the opening question bothers me so much. Embedded in it is the idea that somehow the person who doesn’t get up and go to a place of business each day really doesn’t work or his work isn’t as important as your work. Therefore, it’s my responsibility to pick up any slack in the world, whether in family, church, or other social circles. This misconception especially applies to those of us who don’t have a regular paycheck to show for our work.

But in truth, I have to get up every day and “go to work” just like anyone else. I have to sit down and write, whether I feel like it or not. I have to spend hours staring at a computer screen. I have to do business, whether or not I get paid now, because if I fail to do the work now, I will definitely not be paid, now or later.

Misconception #2—I am always open for business.

We want to accommodate our customers. Really, we do. But just because my office is a few steps away, must I meet all your demands, even on weekends and holidays? And although I love my work, is it too much to ask that you allow me to have a life beyond work?

Please, extend the courtesy you yourselves would want, and don’t ask us to give up what little free time we do have just to accommodate your requests.

Misconception #3—Working from home means I have more time than everyone else.

While home businesses can provide more flexibility (though that’s not true even for all home businesses), we work hard. Forty hours a week? Most of us dream of the day when we’re earning enough profit to do that. Instead, fifty or more hours are our normal. And that doesn’t count the time spent when we’re officially not working—like brainstorming a new task while doing house work.

So just because I’m home, it doesn’t mean I have endless time to donate to babysitting, chatting on the phone, or helping with church functions. Rather, the opposite is often true: I have less time, because I must put in extra hours (usually not billable) just to make ends meet.

Misconception #4—Since I am my own boss, I can do what I want when I want.

This is true…to a point. However, because I want to earn money, I am subject to deadlines not my own. I have to be available for customers—especially during business hours (and not just the business hours in my part of the world)—and their deadlines become my deadlines.

On the flip side, I also have family and a life beyond work. So just because I can work 70-80 hours a week doesn’t mean I want to. So customers, don’t think you can endlessly change projects or leave everything to the last minute as if I have nothing better to do.

Misconception #5—My flexibility has no consequences.

Home business owners love their flexibility. It’s one of the main reasons many of us started home businesses. But to gain that flexibility, we give up much in return.

Every time we flex our time for interruptions or non-business activities, flow is lost. This results in lost time and lost pay because we don’t get paid for settling back down into a project.

We also spend hours on work for which we don’t get paid. At a “normal” job, you work eight hours and you’re paid for eight hours, no matter the tasks assigned. However, as a home business, we may work eight hours for which we will be paid, but then we have to spend time billing clients, doing promotion, packaging goods, and answering questions—all tasks for which we receive no direct compensation. This is why we often have to spend more hours for the same amount of pay as a go-to-job worker.

But most of all, we have no paid leave, sick days, or vacation. If we don’t do the work, we don’t get paid. End of story. So yes, we can go golfing this morning—but that means I’ll work late tonight or over the weekend. And we ask ourselves—is such an interruption really worth it?

So as you can see, home businesses do have many advantages. But at the core, we are still a business. Please treat us like the professionals that we are.

Now it's time for me to get back to work!


Grace Bridges said...

Wow, you said it! I agree wholeheartedly. Especially that bit about being expected to pick up the slack. Thanks for this post!

Chawna Schroeder said...

Thanks for stopping by, Grace. I'm glad that one of my rants connected with you.