Recently, writer Ann Lardas told me, “Home office is an oxymoron. Work colleagues think you’re in the office, doing office things. But your family sees you sitting there and thinks, ‘Oh, good, she’s home and can do things!’ The trouble is, you can only do so much at a time.”
This is a struggle I know all too well. As a writer, working from home really suits my lifestyle. Even though I might find myself struggling to appease both worlds at the same time, I wouldn’t have it any other way. This working setup has allowed me to stay home with my daughter since she was born. I don’t miss milestones in her life, and at the same time, I get to accomplish everything I’d like in my career.
But working out of your home isn’t the only option. In fact, renting a coworking space or a storefront may be a better idea, depending on your needs. So, how do you know which option is best? To help you make a decision, here’s a list of the pros and cons of working at home when you’re self-employed.
Cons: Home Life Can Get in the Way
1. People Won’t Respect Your Time
Some people just don’t get that being at home means you are working. Because of this, you’ll either get a lot of social invitations — or worse, task requests from friends and family. Sasha Gray, a humorist and motivational speaker, says, “You appear available for errands to anyone who works a traditional job.” It may be hard, but establishing clear and regularly enforced boundaries will help the people in your life understand that work is a priority.
2. You’ll Be Distracted by Home “Stuff”
It’s tough to stare at a pile of dirty laundry or a sink full of dishes that need to be washed when you’re supposed to be working. Dietician Julie Kay Andrews agrees that “one con of working from home is getting easily distracted by chores that need done. But a pro is that more chores actually get done!” Yes, you can start your workday after you clean your house, but life will continue to pile up day after day. Unless you also hire a housekeeper, it’s tough to avoid the mess.
3. There’s No Uniform
Not dressing up for work isn’t as exciting as it seemed in the beginning. When I first started working from home, I had a newborn, and it took all I had to shower daily — forget dressing up. I wore my pajamas all day, and it felt like a blessing. But when wearing yoga pants started to feel like dressing up, I realized my self-esteem was affected by my blah attire. Working outside of your home encourages you to keep yourself groomed and presentable — which can help you feel your best.
4. You’ll Feel Lonely
I miss having coworkers sometimes. Writer Stephanie Harper agrees: “It can be isolating, and sometimes I get a little stir crazy.” Author Peter Nelson says, “You get so lonely you start talking to the spider in the corner of the window, but as long as he doesn’t start talking back, you’re okay.” When you’re self-employed, being around others in a coworking environment or having customers walk through your store can help you feel less alone.
Pros: Time Is Money
1. You’ll Save Money
You’ve probably already calculated how much money you’ll save in gasoline when working from home, but there’s even more to save. Think about food consumption: It’s a lot cheaper to shop at the grocery store than it is to eat out every day. Plus, you’ll spend less time grabbing a coffee before work or an afternoon snack from the store. Oh, and remember: There’s less clothing to buy if you’re going to be spending a lot of weekdays in your pajamas.
2. You’ll Save Time
I spent years commuting to work. All that time I spent in the car, I could’ve been working. In fact, it got so bad when I was in graduate school that I started using the talk-to-text feature to transcribe notes for the papers I was writing as I drove home. Author Suzanne Brown, who consults in strategic marketing and business, says, “Since I don’t have a commute, my most productive time in the morning is spent doing work and not in a car.”
3. You Get to Choose Your Environment
Sometimes I have to remind myself that just because I work at home full-time doesn’t mean I can’t change from my normal position in the living room to work outside on the deck or trek to the local coffee shop to mix things up. As independent professionals, our workspaces can be personalized to our wants and needs. Andrews says, “I love having the windows open with fresh air when the weather is nice! It helps me focus.” Let’s face it, you probably can’t do this in an office environment. But because Andrews is the queen of her own castle, she can alter her home to meet her work environment needs.
This year I bought my first home. Within a week of moving in, I had to be home to meet six different contractors showing up for work, all dependent on their schedules — not mine. Had I been renting an office space, I would’ve easily lost a month’s worth of rent from not being able to use it. But, since I work at home, I simply adjusted the times I worked to accommodate their visits. (Fact: Writing while someone is hammering away on your furnace isn’t easy).
Because I work from a home office, I can complete my job duties at any time of day. While your home is always open for business, coworking spaces, for example, might not be open at nine in the evening or five in the morning. But remember: There’s no best option for where you work when you’re an indy. Get the most out of your professional freedom by choosing the work location that makes the most sense for your life and business.