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Want To Work From Home? Here’s A Warts And All Reality Check!

Want to work from home? Here’s a warts and all reality check!

This is a contribution by Dana Flannery, who successfully established a work from home career in 2009. 
Her work from home venture grew into Talk About Creative a successful digital agency, with over thirty contractors, most of whom work from home.

I work from home. I have our spare room set up as an office and I spend my days in there, pounding away on my computer. Living the dream right? A cousin was looking for a work from home job and called me to pick my brain. This is what she was after:
“I want to find a job where I’m paid the industry standard to work part time out of my house so I can spend quality time with my young kids and still make enough to cover the mortgage.”

Sounds realistic right? Could be. Could be that everything falls lovingly into place and everyone lives happily ever after. In my experience (and I’m playing devil’s advocate and being a bit pessimistic here) this isn’t a realistic expectation. This is a warts and all view of why this is unrealistic. Warts. I am including ALL the warts.

work from home | All Mum Said

Problem 1: I want a job

This woman wanted a job. She didn’t want to be a contractor. She didn’t want to freelance. She wanted a job. Job security. Paid holidays. Sick leave. While the world is slowly heading in the direction of remote workforces, it’s not there yet. Finding an employer who will hire a stranger to work from home is near impossible.

For one, it’s a pain in the butt having work from home employees. It’s inconvenient. For 99% of businesses, that means that there’s nothing in it for them having you at home. If you were already employed, you might be able to negotiate flexible working for return to work but otherwise why would they give this high trust, high demand option to “the new girl”? Just about every woman in their office wants this option. Don’t you think they’d get “first dibs”?

Problem 2: Paid the industry standard

Not too much to ask is it? Generally, if an employer is actively seeking a work at home employee, it’s because they’re a start-up, or they are expanding into a new territory. If it’s the first, they probably won’t have much money. If it’s the second, your first work at home job will likely be to find office space to go work from! So say you do find a well-paid job you’d love through a site like Lifestyle Careers or School Hours, you can bet thousands of other people will be applying for that sucker too! You’ll need a kickass resume.

Problem 3: Spend quality time with my young kids

When you work from home, young kids see you as “being home”. They want you to play with playdough and do finger painting and have a Frozen concert in the lounge room. They don’t understand that you’re “working from home”. “Not now, mummy’s working” is a hard thing for a kid to accept and you’ll say it, a lot. Your boss will want to know that this work from home arrangement still gets him/her access to your time and that you’re not slacking off.

“Not now, Mummy’s working” becomes the sentence you say most to your little one. Suddenly your mummy guilt goes through the roof. If you’re out in the office all day, your young kids don’t lay the guilt on, you get the privilege of doing that to yourself. It’s not right. It’s not simple. It just is. Working from home doesn’t mean an end to mummy guilt. Not one little bit. If you work from home, you need childcare.

Problem 4: Still make enough to cover the mortgage

So you’re in a lucky situation. You have a partner who earns some cash. The bills are mostly covered, you just need a bit extra to live happily ever after. Contribute to the mortgage and pay for enough day care to get the job done. About $600 a week? That’s not much to ask is it?

Let’s say you’re going to do admin from home. The award rate, pro rata for permanent part time will be between $25 and $30 per hour depending on your experience. Let’s call it $30. So that’s 20 hours per week. But, that’s $600 in hand, so you’ll have to factor in about $3600 tax a year. Another 3 hours give or take a week for tax. So you’re doing 23 hours per week. Easy right, that’s like three days. You can totally do it! Those three days will be three days of childcare expenditure. That’s about $240 in most capital cities and the more you earn, the less you get back from the government on that. So, of your 23 hours a week, 8 will go straight to the childcare centre. Eek. Maybe you could work nights and weekends to save on childcare? That quality of life you were seeking isn’t looking so high quality is it?

When kids get sick (and lordy, how often these little blighters are sick!) you’re going to be the one that it falls on to care for them. You work from home – to everyone else, that means you have oodles of time on your hands. To you, a sick kid means paying for childcare you can’t use, while working your heart out to stay on top of workload. If you can’t manage all the balls you have in the air, you could find yourself unemployed and unable to make that mortgage.

work from home

Yes, I know, I’m a big old pessimist

Maybe I’m just jealous of women who get dream jobs that don’t have the stress I have! That’s entirely possible! Back to my cousin, I explained some of the challenges she would face and she seemed a bit annoyed that I wouldn’t just hire her and be done with it. I told her that most women in her situation set themselves up as a contractor/freelancer/consultant and go from there. I suggested that she get herself an ABN (that sounds hard) and register a business (oh, really, I wouldn’t even know where to start) to get some contract work.

She was right of course. If it sounds too hard to get an ABN (literally one form) then running a freelance business isn’t right for her. Working from home in your own business is hard. It’s lots of unbillable hours, and learning TONS of new skills (some are painful to learn too – hello GST) and making sales. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but it is a viable way to work from home, make good money and live happily (but tired) ever after.

work from home
Some of the same problems apply, childcare is still a necessary evil, but if you can choose your own hours, you can plan your week to fit to childcare – and therefore do it all more efficiently. You might be able to squeeze your working week into two days of childcare instead of three if you commit to doing emails and admin in the evenings. Your work week will be as long or longer as it would with an employer but your time can be managed to best suit you, not the boss.

The biggest benefit to running your own work at home business is one that you might not expect. Working with young children is HARD – for full time working mothers, full time working fathers, part time working single mums, parents who study – young kids are just hard in general! When you run a work from home business though, the hard work hurts less because it pays off directly into your bank account. It’s not working your heart out to make your boss rich. It’s working your heart out to make your family comfortable.
That’s worth its weight in gold.

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  1. Rebecca H
    12/02/2016 / 12:53 pm

    That was very informative and very interesting. I am going to print this article. I have certainly thought about working from home and what opportunities are available out there. When looking for opportunities it seems a bit confusing and I certainly don’t want to be giving out lot’s of money to start up. I really like how you point out the pro’s and con’s as well, Great article.

    • 14/02/2016 / 10:49 pm

      There are definitely pro’s and con’s to working from home. Dana has definitely hit the nail on the head with this article!

  2. Chrissy
    12/02/2016 / 2:16 pm

    Spot on! I work as a contractor… I approached the company and it took a good 10 months before they hired me regularly. After a year I got an industry standard rate. I find 4 hours a day is the max I can comfortably do with a toddler full time and still get to spend quality time with her.

    • 14/02/2016 / 10:52 pm

      I am also a contractor and young kids just don’t understand that you are working and that it isn’t because you don’t want to play.
      I can manage a couple of hours of work and then take a break to play. My 2 yr old goes to child care one day a week so I try and get as much crammed in as I can but a lot of work is done at night.

  3. 12/02/2016 / 8:38 pm

    You are so right Dana, it’s not like a “job”. I started my business three years ago and it’s been a very steep learning curve! My kids are both out of school now so it was the right time for me 🙂

    • 13/02/2016 / 6:22 pm

      🙂 Mine is in school now too but those first years were insane. It’s still hard. But not quite as hard.

  4. jess may
    13/02/2016 / 1:10 pm

    Love this!!
    Altho i work nights as an employee with a company i also run my own beauty business from home. I have done this for 2 years with 3 children and a shift workinf partner.i love my business and love rhe flexiblity.

    • 14/02/2016 / 10:53 pm

      Flexibility is the big pro isn’t it! Hard work though.

  5. 13/02/2016 / 6:11 pm

    Man on man I LOVE THIS POST

    It’s not easy, it so not easy. Working from home means compromise and sacrifice and being a working mum means a life time of guilt.

    I’m genuinely fed up with people who say I’m lucky to have the work situation I have. It’s not luck, it’s hard, hard, hard graft.

    Great post Dana.

    • 14/02/2016 / 10:56 pm

      I agree Kate. It isn’t as easy as everyone thinks.
      You sacrifice and compromise on so much and yet the guilt is worse than if you were to leave the house to go to a job. You see their little sad eyes not understanding why you aren’t playing with them when all you are doing is sitting at the computer writing.

      But the flexibility of working from home means you can also juggle other commitments around your work.

  6. 13/02/2016 / 8:35 pm

    I’ve just started this ride in the last year and I find myself with no time to relax. I’m always on the computer every night, trying to keep up with everything and trying to make headway. I still prefer this life to my old life (nearly 20 years working out of the home in the public sector) but it’s not the walk in the park that so many people make it out to be!

    • 14/02/2016 / 10:58 pm

      Working from home really is misrepresented! It is no walk in the park that’s for sure. But it is also very rewarding.

  7. 13/02/2016 / 10:28 pm

    Great post Dana. Hubby and I both work from home and it isn’t easy. Trying to keep the kids quiet when he is on important phone calls is so stressful for me and I try not to call people unless it’s Thurs/Fri when my son is at Preschool!

    • 14/02/2016 / 10:59 pm

      Oh yes phone calls when the kids are home are just horrible.

  8. 14/02/2016 / 7:08 am

    Oh gosh, I TOTALLY agree with the ‘if you work from home you still need childcare’ sentiment. You can’t both work (productively) and care for kids at the same time!

    • 14/02/2016 / 11:01 pm

      Ain’t that the truth! They need stimulation and attention and we need time to work uninterrupted. It’s a balancing act.

    • 14/02/2016 / 11:58 pm

      Yes the not switching off is something I have to work on as well. You take a ‘day off’ but the whole time you are going over things in your head or quickly checking emails, etc. It’s hard work!

  9. 14/02/2016 / 4:37 pm

    Dana , thank you! I loved this article. Although my 3 kids are now at school, I have just started a work from home business. It is a hard slog, & requires a lot of self motivation to not get up & put washing on or vacuum…. But what I don’t finish during the day I have the flexibility to finish when the kids go to bed. I am able to drop off & collect from school, have dinner prepared & go to after school activities without taking contact time off from my work to do so. There are benefits in a home office, but indeed it’s a battle!

    • 14/02/2016 / 11:57 pm

      I have 2 at school, a toddler and newborn, motivation and mummy guilt are the big killers for me but at the end of the day when they go to bed I can get the rest finished as you mentioned. There are definitely pro’s and con’s to it.

  10. 14/02/2016 / 5:10 pm

    Great article. I ran a business for over 7 years, then started working for a small business doing admin (your hourly rate quotes is quite high for permanent part time admin), and working in an office is much easier than working from home… though when the kids get sick it’s still a juggle.

    So many people glamorise working from home, thinking it will be amazing, but it’s hard work.

    Oh, and GST isn’t that hard to learn 😉

    • 14/02/2016 / 11:55 pm

      It surely is made to sound like a dream job Melissa. It’s just a shame people aren’t more realistic like Dana and tell you the no BS version of what it is like!

  11. 17/02/2016 / 4:17 pm

    This is so true! My husband and I work from home and it is not easy, especially with a two-year-old running around. We work for ourselves, which is good as we set our own hours, but motivation can really just be non-existent sometimes; especially when there is washing and cleaning to do. We rely on daycare to be able to achieve three full days of work per week and any other work that doesn’t fit into those days, needs to be juggled between nights and nap times.

    • 01/03/2016 / 10:28 pm

      Yes exactly! I hear you. Life keeps going and things need to be done and you think I will just do this one thing but then half your day is gone. Commitment and motivation is definitely essential!

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