As more Americans try to fit work into their busy lifestyle, one solution is to work off-site if the company allows it. For many entrepreneurs, working off site is as common as a PBJ sandwich is to afterschool children wanting a snack. In fact, many entrepreneurs work from their home. Some love it and others find it trying sometimes with all the potential distractions.
Rebecca Ward is a home based entrepreneur who owns a historic preservation architectural firm in Jackson, MO. She has been self-employed for about five years now when her corporate job was moved out of town and she could not. Her interest in historic preservation is strong as she has worked on many projects in the area and across the state. She likes taking a building back to its roots and then making it “live” again in the modern day world. She has been a client of Richard Proffer’s for about three years. He is a business development counselor in the University of Missouri Extension’s Business Development Program where he operates a small business technology development center in Jackson.
Richard recently had an interview with Rebecca where she talked openly about her experiences as a home based entrepreneur.
Why did you want to work from home?
Prior to moving to Cape Girardeau County, I worked for a design-build construction firm where I traveled seventy miles to the office, two, sometimes three days a week. I worked at home the remaining days. It was the perfect mix for the job. I communicated and socialized with coworkers in weekly meetings in the office and had uninterrupted project time at home.
This last time around it was less a planned adventure. I was working as a corporate architect for a national chain, when the upper management made the decision to relocate the architectural department to St. Louis. The architects were offered moving expenses or a limited time contract to work at home until a replacement could be hired in the city. It was a bad time to move the family, so I began working at home, the corporation keeping me just as busy as I was prior to the office relocation. It was a great time to work at home, I knew when the kids arrived home, and it was no issue if I needed to run an errand or take a child to the dentist, I could work in the evening to make up the time.
What are the advantages of working at home?
It is so much cheaper! I don’t spend the half-an-hour driving in the morning and then again in the evening, and I don’t use the gas. Lunch is in the kitchen, I save the money I would have spent eating out. I also schedule my own time, so if I need to move work around so that I can help out with one of my volunteer obligations for example, it is not an issue.
There are no distractions, unless you choose to be distracted.
I make my own hours, if a client needs to meet at 7 am, 7 pm or on a Sunday afternoon it isn’t a problem, I can just move tasks around.
What are the disadvantages of working at home?
I miss teamwork. Projects are always better with an extra set of eyes. That is why I involve my clients so much in their projects. It is extremely important to me that my client understand that I am working for them, to do the best possible solution for their project, and that it meets their needs. I also miss the social aspect of the office. Although I am an introvert by nature, I do like company. I certainly don’t miss the politics of the corporation, the backstabbing, the maneuvering and the unprofessional mean-girl behavior that seemed to go along with how much a person feels undervalued.
What has changed in your work style while at working at home instead of the former corporate setting?
My time is spent much more efficiently. I spent countless hours listening to co-workers who had come into my office to complain while I tried to finish for a deadline, a by-product of being a good listener. Now, when I am done with a project, I don’t have to stay at my desk looking busy, as sometimes required when working for someone else.
What would you change in work from home?
Ideally, I would like a separate client area. While most of my work involves existing buildings, so I typically go to the building. But a few of my clients do new construction, and they feel more comfortable coming to me. Ideally, since I specialize in historic preservation/reuse architecture, my long term goal is to own a downtown building when I can live above my office.
What advice would you give people starting a home based business?
If you have an option, don’t quit your day job until you get your business established. Going out on my own after working for a corporation where I did no public work in my home area left me without a network and name recognition. I would also say not having an advertised location compounded the problem.
I also suggest you get good advice early. I was lucky enough to have a friend that works in the local MU Extension office. She suggested that I contact the new business development specialist that had just been hired for her office. That was the best advice I could have received at that point. I can’t say enough good things about him. Richard Proffer has been amazingly patient, extremely encouraging, great at hand-holding and extremely supportive. A great person to have on my side and someone I consider a good friend.
So readers, you can see there are pluses and minuses for the pitch of working at home. A bit of advice would be think it through and make sure it is what you want.
To learn more about Rebecca, check out her website at http://rebeccawardarchitect.wix.com/home.