Running your own business is the American dream. Add “work from home” to the mix and it sounds like paradise, right? There are certainly plenty of upsides to running a successful (emphasis on “successful”) business from home. However, many entrepreneurs find themselves lost, overwhelmed and overworked.
I personally have worked at home for the past four years, running several businesses. Even my current free hosting company, we have eight people who all work from home in the San Francisco Bay area and we all meetup every other week at a co-working space.
With this come flexibility and problems, which is why it important to take a holistic look at what being an entrepreneur from home is really like.
Not every person or team is cut out for working from home. There’s a reason over 80 percent of small businesses fail within the first year. The more informed and prepared you are, the better off you’ll be. It’s not going to be all conferences from the couch, yoga pants and not setting alarms (although, at times, there’s that, too).
Here are a few biggies nobody tells you about taking this career path and how to prepare for it:
1. You’ll get less respect
This is true and will remain true for years, and possibly forever. There is still a bit of a stigma around working from home. Plus, your family, friends and even strangers you just met will often assume you are not as busy, stressed or dedicated as they are. You’ll be asked to meet up for hours-long lunches when one of your friends is on a sabbatical because they assume you’re "not really working.” Or, you'll be asked to run errands in the middle of the day. You’ll need plenty of self-respect, and boundaries, to take these misconceptions on a regular basis.
2. There is no such thing as weekends
Or holidays. Or clocking out. A number of entrepreneurs will tell you about the many consecutive birthdays, Christmases, and Thanksgivings they have missed year after year. Working for yourself means time management, but it also means sacrifice. It could be several years before you have a full vacation without working, especially if you have clients around the world.
3. It gets tougher and tougher to 'go back'
Your goal is likely to never work for someone else again, but sometimes dreams don’t work out that way. However, the longer you get used to working for yourself from home, the tougher it’ll be to ever “go back” to a more traditional career path. You get used to setting your own schedule, getting paid per project instead of per hour, and wearing whatever you want in the home office. Not only will you struggle to “go back” if you ever have to, most work from home entrepreneurs won't want to.
4. There’s no such thing as 'done'
This can be one of the hardest areas to get used to, and while it may also be true for in-office workers, it’s always true as an entrepreneur. A deadline is a deadline, there is no clocking out and forgetting about it. Often, long before one project is complete, you’re already in the planning stages for the next one. Plus, while it’s relatively easy to clock out and forget when you have a more traditional job, it’s nearly impossible as an entrepreneur. You need to start honing those compartmentalization skills now.
Don’t let these struggles of being an entrepreneur dissuade you, if you are really dedicated. It really is the good life for many. However, you need to be ambitious, driven and have strong time management skills. Otherwise, you’re suddenly more of a slave to your career than you ever were before -- and isn’t that exactly the trap you wanted to escape?