Almost two years passed since I quit my job inside a multinational company to work from home on the Internet. For me it was pretty a straight forward move. One year inside a corporation was enough to clarify what I wanted to do professionally, and working for someone else was definitely not part of it.
Another aspect that facilitate the transition was the fact that I was 22 when I decided to quit; meaning no bills to pay or responsibilities that extended beyond “staying alive.”
Now I am sure that there are many people out there wondering if they would like to work from home. Others already know they would love to, but they are not sure about the downsides, or how to make the switch. For those, I think it would be interesting to share what I learned along these two years.
On this first post I will cover what I think are the Pros and Cons of working from home on the web, and on a future one I will cover how you can plan a smooth transition.
1. It’s lonely
If you need social interaction through out the day, then working from home might not be ideal to you. There are people that just need to have others around at any given time; that need face to face communication, and for those a corporation might be a better fit.
Instant messaging clients, Twitter and social networks might help people to overcome this problem, but we all know that they are far from the real deal.
2. Many distractions
If you live alone this should not be a problem. If you live with your parents, friends or wife and kids, however, be prepared to get interrupted more often than not. Other people have a hard time to conceptualize that you are actually working when you are at home on your computer. As a result, they will knock on your door or call you even for the smallest of the issues.
Creating an ad-hoc room in your house that will serve as office can help, but it will hardly eliminate the problem.
3. It requires discipline
I sure love what I do, but I won’t deny that sometimes it is difficult to stay focused on the computer when there is a beautiful sunshine outside. Luckily I knocked off the habit of playing computer games years ago, else my productivity would probably be suffering from that as well.
If you are a disciplined person then you might not face any problems. If you need to have a boss or colleagues around to motivate you, however, it might become an issue.
4. Always the same place
One of the advantages of working in a company is that you have a physical separation between your house and your work. I believe this separation is healthy in many ways.
First of all it allows your body and mind to associate the office with work, and your house with leisure and relaxation. Sometimes I find myself going to sleep while thinking obsessively about my websites and overall online business strategy. Not cool.
It can also get very monotonous if you need to stay in your home all day long. Going to a nearby Starbucks can alleviate the problem, but it won’t solve it.
Once you start prospering you could rent or buy an external office, but then you would risk going back to the frenetic corporate rhythm.
5. Difficult to explain what you do
Good luck explaining to other people or relatives what your job is. Whenever I get asked about my job I just say that I “work with websites.” Personally I consider myself to be a web publisher or web entrepreneur, but it would be complex to explain this to someone that only uses the Internet to check his Hotmail account and to search in Google once in a while.
Obviously I couldn’t care less if people understand what I do or if they don’t, but some people care about those things. Additionally, sometimes it can become a real life issue.
Suppose you want to get financing to buy a house, for instance. It will be difficult to get credit if you work on the Internet with no fixed monthly salary or a company to back you up.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of working from home is the flexibility that comes attached to it. Just a small example: I forgot what the felling of waking up with an alarm clock is a long time ago.
You can work any time you want, and in any way you want.
Like to work in pajamas? Fine. Like to listen to heavy metal in the highest volume while you design? Go for it.
Some people are more productive at night as well, and for those working from home must be a paradise.
2. No boss
Frankly, getting told by someone else what you should or should not do is unbearable.
For me at least.
The reduced levels of stress that you get by not having someone barking at you once in a while is gold. Sure, there must be companies out there with nice corporate cultures where people are friendly, smart and caring. Truth be told my old boss was a really cool guy.
Still, there is nothing like doing what you want, when you want, because you want it.
3. It is healthier
I always loved sports, and practiced one or another discipline since I was ten. When I started working after university, however, I suddenly saw a drop in my training sessions. I tried to move them to the night, but after a work day your energy levels are far from optimal.
Now that I work from home I have time to train every day. Some mornings I run, other afternoons I hit the gym, and others yet I swim. I am definitely in my best shape ever.
Another factor that contributes to your health when you work from home is your diet. If you know the basics of nutrition science you should be able to have a very balanced diet. You can time your meals perfectly, and you buy the recipes and cook them, so you know what is entering your body.
The same cannot be said when working inside a company. You don’t have time to make your meals (remember you should have at least six of them in a day!) and you often need to eat whatever fried crap they are serving at the nearby bar.
4. More family time
There is a point in the life of all of us where our family become our anchor and main priority. I am not talking about your parents, but rather about when you move outside with a wife or husband, and when you get kids around.
I am not there yet, but I am sure that people that work from home value immensely the extra time that they have to spend with their loved ones. As a dad or mom you will also be in a much better position to educate and take care of your children if you are around all day long.
5. Work from anywhere
I am finishing this very article as I sit in an airport. I am taking a plane to the northern part of Brazil. It is winter here, and the south (where I currently live) becomes very cold. Since I am not a fan of cold weather at all, I decided to spend June in a tropical beach.
The advantage here goes beyond taking holidays once in a while. You could literally move to the
other side of the world if you so desire. When I quit my job I was still living in Italy. Now I am back in Brazil because I wanted to stay some time with my family and friends. Next year I am planning to move to the U.S. or Canada to attend some conferences and meet with the people that I interact over the web.
Having the possibility to live in the country or city of your choice is awesome.
My real opinion
I tried to be unbiased while covering the points above. If I need to lay down my honest opinion, however, it would be quite in favor of working from home. I believe that the pros far out weight the cons.
In fact, I also think that over the next years a smaller and smaller percentage of the young people and graduates will head to work for companies and corporations. If today this number is close to 95%, perhaps in ten years it will be down to 70% or so.
Finally, if you are still considering if you should quit your job or not, my advice is: go for it.
It takes guts and some planning depending on your situation, but the feeling of freedom you will get once you get walking with your own legs is priceless.
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