The Good—”Immediate access to my studio when inspiration strikes. No worries about commuting in the middle of a Maine Northeaster. I can bring my two adorable dogs with me to work.”
The Bad—“Many more opportunities for distraction and procrastination.”
During the 30+ years I ran our design firm, it was mostly from our home. So, I know what I’m talking about when I say it’s a mixed blessing when you only have a commute from your bedroom to the addition in the garage or to a basement or an extra bedroom. In fact, as I’m writing this, I am sitting at my desk in my office/dining room. And I hate to admit it, but I still haven’t bothered to brush my hair…and it’s noon.
The number of home-based businesses and employees working from home has grown exponentially since the ’80s, and in many communities it is not the exception but the rule. Most new home construction includes a home office now. Starbucks started really growing its business when they changed their locations from a get-your-coffee-and-go environment to providing tables, Wi-Fi, and even sofas. They realized there was a good chunk of money to be made on people who wanted to conduct business at Starbucks while sipping a $4.00 cup of joe, and not from their bedroom office. Staples and Office Max realized there was huge money in selling office supplies to small, independent businesses. FedEx and UPS also took advantage of the home business growth. Jewelers Mutual saw the benefits of adding insurance programs specifically designed with the home entrepreneur/craftsperson in mind.
All that being said, there are still ups and downs, positive opportunities and difficult challenges. There is good and bad news about running a home-based business.
The Good and the Bad:
Your time is your own. Yes, but people around you often assume that since you are working from home you can take time off to play, run errands, go to lunch, and carpool. They don’t understand you are actually working while at home. And you have to discipline yourself as well to get up and go to work, even if the commute is only 15 feet away.
Granted, you can take a day off for a special event in the middle of the week but you might then have to work all day Saturday.
Also, since many of us are self-supporting, we are putting in much longer hours than our going-to-the-office counterparts because if we don’t, we won’t get paid. I have a dear friend who works from home. I know if I called her at 2:00 a.m., the odds are very good she would still be sitting at her desk. Again, the good and the bad.
The Good and the Bad:
You probably won’t enforce a dress code. At Rio Grande, we lovingly call individuals making jewelry at their kitchen table “the bunny slipper brigade.” As fun as it may sound, those bunny slippers might not be so pretty under some circumstances (i.e. a customer pops over for an impromptu visit to discuss a project.)
The Good and the Bad:
You get to wear all the hats in the company, which is good because it forces you to learn all the fascinating facets and daily minutia of running a small business. The bad news is that you are the boss as well as the maintenance crew. If you don’t make the phone calls or ship the packages or buy toner, there usually is no one else to blame but you.
You can be at home to raise your children. This is a truly wonderful opportunity. To this day, both of my daughters remember being forced to march around the dining room table collating price lists for customers. They also remember going to most of the jewelry trade and craft shows in the United States. And they grew up being friends with many of the other children of designers in the jewelry world; this was especially fun when they were teenagers in Las Vegas.
You never, ever get away from your work. I can’t walk through my house without being reminded that I should be working instead of playing a video game, even if I rationalize that the game is good for my memory. I feel guilty when I take time off. It is always there—always.
If you are working with valuable materials, there is the constant issue of security. I encourage everyone to get a P. O. box; packages are then held when you‘re away at a craft show instead of getting buried by snow in the middle of winter—or worse, stolen.
When you work from home you save money on rent. You can deduct all sorts of expenses. You save on your taxes. You have a more positive cash flow.
The Very Best Part:
You are running your own business. This is huge! You’re following your passion. You’ve created a business that did not exist before now and you’re making money at it. What more could any maker ask for?
And one final thought. One of the big advantages of technology is that even if you’re the smallest mom-and-pop enterprise, your online presence can be as slick and savvy as Apple (well…maybe not Apple), and no one ever needs to know that you’re sitting in your studio with unbrushed hair and bunny slippers.