Walking the Line When You Work from Home

by Natalie Jost

47 Reader Comments

Back to the Article
  1. My office is also a separate room for the last 5 years. I love work at home because it is absolute freedom! :-) I have only one problem with tracking work time…

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  2. This article is particularly relevant, especially in light of “Kathy Sierra’s recent tweet”:http://twitter.com/KathySierra/statuses/858693111 — learning to balance all of the home responsibilities is difficult but so very important.

    Another important part of learning to work at home is learning how to deal with the phone, especially if your personal cell phone is your work phone.  I just recently went on vacation and got quite a few requests for work at the strangest places (in fact, one woke me up this morning).  I’ve found that professional and candid responses work best: “Thanks so much for calling, I’d really love to talk with you but I’m actually on vacation right now, can you call back Tuesday of next week?”

    I’ll probably look into Grand Central again to help divert things better; I was under the assumption that commercial usage of Grand Central was prohibited.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  3. I was under the assumption that commercial usage of Grand Central was prohibited.

    I admit I didn’t read the TOC all that closely so I may have missed that if it’s true. Although, in my case, the number isn’t just for business; it’s my primary number – for everything, including family and friends. I wonder if by commercial it would mean a company setting it up as an official line rather than a freelancer’s occasional use? Still, great to know, thank you!

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  4. Although I’m not a freelancer, my employer has allowed me to participate in a pilot of their telecommuting program for the past year or so. I work in the office three days a week and work from home the other two days. It’s been wonderful, but distractions are definitely something that’s proven difficult to manage.

    My particular family situation (a 3 month old infant, a wife who works the night shift, and a house that’s too small to accommodate an office space separate from the living room) makes mitigating those distractions pretty difficult, but we’re working through it. It certainly helps when your employer — or client — is flexible with your work hours!

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  5. Thank you for this excellent article!

    I’ve been working from home since 2002 and have learned some of these things the hard way. I have the opposite perspective of being a dad with a 2 year old and a wife who works part time in our business, but she works from the couch most of the time because she can.

    When we moved into our new home in 2006 I designated one of the bedrooms as an office (yes with a door lock). One thing that has helped me tremendously was designing and painting the office to look completely different that the rest of the house. When I leave or go to “work” the transition is easier because I walk into or out of a different environment. And the (business) phone doesn’t ring in the house, unless I am expecting a scheduled call.

    As a man my tendency is to want to look back to the office when I should be spending time with the family. Having a unique space and scheduling my time helps me better do that.

    Thanks again for this great article.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  6. One thing that has helped me tremendously was designing and painting the office to look completely different that the rest of the house.

    That’s a great idea!

    As a man my tendency is to want to look back to the office when I should be spending time with the family.

    Again, a generalization, but interesting isn’t it, that the instinct is different for moms and dads?

    Great comments, I’m learning a lot!

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  7. I’ve been a working from home full time as a freelance developer since late 2001. My children are now 14, 10 and 7. When the kids were younger I thought they could get loud at times, but in the last year or so, during the summer it can get kind of crazy. We’ve been fortunate that my wife does not have to hold a job out of the home so that’s been a huge help. We’ve tried to develop in the children an awareness of what’s going on around them so that they can “try” and not be too loud, but they are still kids and there’s no way around it really. When we moved fro CA to Idaho we were able to find a house that had a good set up for a home office, without that I’d be on the fence (near to jump off!) about getting an outside office. Don’t want to sound too negative, but it doesn’t get easier as they get older, I’d guess until they’re around… 20? ;-)

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  8. Having your own space has psychological advantages for everyone. In our house, we decided the best way to give me the psychological and physical space I needed was to give the kids the same thing.

    One of the things we did when I decided to work from home was convert the entire upstairs to our children’s domain. They are 10 and 6. We gave them the upstairs office and the loft in addition to their bedrooms. They have their computers upstairs, an art room, a video game center, and a bathroom. They only need to come downstairs to eat or to play outside. Otherwise, between the time they come home from school and the time I’m done working, they live upstairs.

    The logic here was that if they had their own space—not just a bedroom—that they’d feel less need to invade the privacy that I need to get my work done. So far, so good. The house feels like it really houses everyone’s needs—my husband and I share a bedroom and an office, and the kids have upstairs to themselves. That’s really helped my productivity.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  9. The issue of “how not to go insane when working from home” is one that’s been occupying my mind, after going freelance and homeworking for the last year or so. It’s interesting to see the perspective of someone with more of an established home environment.

    Not having a family or, for that matter, house, puts a bit of a different slant on things but I find it quite illuminating that actually a lot of the issues seem to result in similar conclusions. For instance, the section titled “when all else fails, get away” is precisely what I do when I realise that I have been refreshing Twitter for the past hour instead of actually doing anything useful.

    It does make me wonder whether some of the advice as to avoiding distractions is to an extent to avoid giving in to distractions as well, putting oneself in a position where one just can’t procrastinate.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  10. I apologize to all of you trying to get a Grand Central account. I didn’t even know it was still in beta until people mentioned it in the comments of the article! I looked into it and apparently the beta invites are over, so the only way to get it now is to sign up via the home page and wait for an invite from Grand Central. If I could give you all an invite, I would!

    If you do a search of “virtual telephone number”:http://tinyurl.com/6rh2eg you can find a number of other similar services out there. Which ones are any good and how much, if anything, they cost I can’t tell you, but it’s there for you.

    What about Skype? It’s been a year since I used their phone service. Has anyone had experience with that lately? I hate to give advice on things and have them not work out.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  11. Natalie, I would be lost without Skype.  I use it three ways – regular telephone conversations, video conferencing, and IMs.  Skype means that I never use my landline phone anymore and my phone bills are barely £10 per month.

    I am one of those people who finds that I just cannot work from home in jeans or pajamas – I HAVE to “dress up” – and knowing that I may find myself on a Skype videoconference at any time is great motivation to not let myself go into “slummy mummy” mode.

    In terms of planning and structure, try the Printable CEO series –
    http://davidseah.com/blog/the-printable-ceo-series/
    it takes a while to get the hang of it but once you do, wow.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  12. Video, now that’s motivation, huh? Thanks, Heather! I’m always nervous calling someone Skype to landline because of the quality, but I’m hearing it’s better these days.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  13. Great article! I’m reading more and more people recognizing the need for a dedicated, quiet time to really be in the zone for doing your best work. This includes controlling your email… not the email controlling you! Your comment about not taking local clients was a surprise… something for a St. Louis guy like myself to think about ;)

    BTW, I have found the local library to be a great place to work. In particular, the reference room—which is “reserved for quiet study”. I almost always find a table, and the wifi network is fine.

    I’ll have to start checking out “Standards for Life”.

    Thanks again,
    —Joe

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  14. I’ve been working at home for about 18 months now as both a full-time employee for a company that used to have an office in the city and as a web design freelancer on the side. But on Friday I finally quit the day job and am now a full-time freelancer.

    We’ve got a 4-week old baby at home now along with our 15-month son so I don’t have to deal with the issues of them answering the phone or interrupting me too much (the older one’s at day care until we settle in with the new one), but it’s something I’ll need to be aware of in the future because I hadn’t thought of it.

    On thing that I’ve found useful is to keep exactly the same schedule as I used to have when working in the city – starting and stopping and taking breaks at exactly the same times.

    When I finish work, I head straight out to take the dogs to the park which is my exercise for the day but also is often the place I get my daily dose of interacting with other people.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  15. One thing that I’ve found useful is to keep exactly the same schedule as I used to have when working in the city — starting and stopping and taking breaks at exactly the same times.

    I’m ear marking this one, John, thank you. I hate schedules personally, but I agree that it does make it easier to stay on task. It’s a personality conflict, me and schedules. :) Congrats on the new baby too! What fun!

    Oh, and Joe, thank you for the idea of the library. I keep meaning to find out if mine has wifi, but I forget and end up going to Borders or Panera (then feel guilty after an hour or so of taking up space there). Thanks for the tip!

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  16. I am a beginning web designer (self-taught), and I feel my best option is to start work from home (my husband and I have a good system for kid-sharing!) But I wonder if anyone has advice about how you get clients this way? Is it better to start out working for a company, thereby making contacts and getting to know the industry, and then converting to working for yourself from home? Any comments on this would be appreciated.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  17. I have been working from home for the past year and a half.  At times it gets tough.  I’ve had the inadvertant scream from the other room during a business phone call already.

    The one questions I have is about your clients.  You said you don’t take local clients.  How then do you find your clients?  I’m interested in picking up another client, but I also live in a small town and there isn’t much work for a web / database programmer.

    Thanks for any hints.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  18. I started working from home just over a year ago and I love it. In my case I work for an organisation so to me I get all the benefits of being self-employed and the benefits of being salaried. I pop into the office every other week for a day but other than that I’m at home.

    I do have my own space though it is currently a shared space. I work in the conservatory which we also use as a utility room. I do NOT recommend this compromise. But this is short term until I get a new office in the loft.

    The comments about getting the family on board are so true. My wife stays home with the kids (19months and 7weeks) and if anything happens with the kids I am absolved from all responsibility while I should be at work unless the incident would have called me home from ‘the office’.

    That’s a tough rule to follow but it works well. The other great thing is my wife is great at making sure I work the hours I need to and no more. She will usher me back to work or ask me to leave work depending on the time.

    For me the big bonus is that when I finish work I am at home and able to play with my kids. It’s great.

    so while it is a balancing act it is worth perfecting.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  19. Melanie, the answer is – networking, networking, networking.  Find some local business groups and organisations and make a point of attending everything you can.  Look for networks for small and startup businesses; sometimes the well known large organisations can be old boys’ clubs and you won’t get a second glance from anyone there.

    I get a lot of my business from a special network just for women who are thinking of starting up or have just started up their own businesses.  I get to work with clients who are on the exact same “page” as me and we have a great mutual understanding.  Also, if my kid is wailing in the background, they don’t care because their own kid is doing the same.  Let’s face it, you go into business for yourself to get away from office politics and nonsense, and if you are going to take on clients who would look down on you for having a child, you’ve brought old office politics into your own business, which defeats the point entirely.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  20. Networking is certainly a good way to go but in my case I built a client base first through friends and then by being a regular poster on web development forums – when you begin answering more questions than you ask, people sometimes contact you to do work for them. Do good work for them, and they then let other people know about it and so on.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  21. Melanie: I would encourage you to work for another firm (or two) before freelancing. I think there is a lot you can learn on your own, but I think there is also a lot to be learned from working at an established firm or agency. I think a four year degree is optional (some people learn well that way, some people not so much), but I really think it’s important you work for other people for a while to learn the business. Just my 2¢.

    I’ve been working from home about 4 years now. I love it. I have two small kids and I see them all the time, that’s worth a lot to me. I’m trying to forego my desktop and go strictly to my laptop (and external monitor) to make work more portable when I need to go to a client’s place for the day.

    One thing I’d point out that I haven’t seen on the comments yet: Make sure you don’t work too much, especially if you’re married and/or have kids. It’s hard for me to ever “leave” work. I try to turn off mail and iChat at 5(ish) and really be there for my family on nights and weekends, but I’ll admit there are weeks (used to be months) where I’d work from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. It’s not only unhealthy and very bad on the family life, but I think it really hurts the creativity.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  22. I installed a free program called Rescue Time and, at the end of each week, it tells me how much time I have devoted to email, to IM, to Twitter, and to applications. Always interesting. I imagine you could fine tune much more than I have, so that you could track billable projects.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  23. Interesting read. I have been doing freelance projects for the las 3-4 years. I have a regular dayjob and work at night on freelance jobs. For the last couple of months, I rented a small room with internet connection. Me, my friend and cousin all go there to work on sidejobs. No TV, so comfortable bed – in short very little distractions. A little overhead but worth it. We share ideas and work individually on our projects. And in case we need a helping hand, we have each other.

    I especially like the “Be Discriminating” part. I always choose my clients and make sure that they understand that I have a regular day job and my work hours per week is limited.

    Being transparent also helps a lot. I never lie to the clients. When I am tired and don’t want to work (sometimes I work full 15 hours in 1 day, – dayjob + sidejob), I tell them. Most understand :)

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  24. Good stuffs, wonderfully delivered. =)

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  25. I have been working from home for about a year and a half now, and for the most part it has been very enjoyable. I get to see my son and wife each day when most fathers would be out of the house, I work to my own schedule and I can take a break when I want to.

    I have discovered some downsides though, with the main one for me being the lack of contact and ‘tech talk’ with other fellow geeks. I also find I miss the ‘bouncing of ideas’ that you get when working closely with other people on a project. Also, my daily train or tram ride used to be where I got a lot of reading done – now I find I really have to make time, usually at night, to read.

    I am thinking of coworking in the city one or two days a week to counterbalance this. Then, I think I will have the best of both worlds!

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  26. Natalie, this was a great article. Even as a single person working from home this gives some food for thought.

    I think though that David brings up something that needs to be emphasized: don’t work at home ALL the time. Working “from home” doesn’t mean staying in one place necessarily. Coworking initiatives are popping up everywhere to help alleviate these problems.

    I understand that might be harder with people with young families; though, this does bring up a possible business opportunity to open up a family-friendly co-working initiative (daycare + office?) heh. :)

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  27. Lea, you’re right, that’s a great idea! I wish every day that I lived closer to more people who do what I do. I would do something like that in a heartbeat, but in my small town it seems like all I have are mom+pop design shops from the 90s (still designing 90s style) and big design firms who’ve beaten their poor designers to un-ambition. Incidentally, this is why I’ve remained freelance all this time! :)

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  28. You have a very good point about not being able to connect with others.  I find I can no longer attend mums-and-toddlers groups because all the women there who have children my daughter’s age are there because they have chosen to be stay-home mums – whereas I would be attending because I was taking a break between projects on a busy work day.  I love being a mum, but I just cannot talk about babies, babies, babies, babies, babies all the time, so I found that I didn’t have anything in common with anyone there.  I definitely felt uncomfortable and the feeling was mutual.  I thought running my own business would give me the freedom to attend lots of groups, but instead I had to exclude myself from them.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  29. The timing of stumbling upon this article could not have been more appropriate – as I don’t have any friends who are working from home full-time, I was comforted in discovering that my daily struggles were not my own!

    Though I’m not an official ‘mom’ per se, I do tend daily to our domesticated zoo, consisting of 2 great danes, 2 Eclectus Parrots, and 2 cats. Though not entirely like children – I often end up overwhelmed by minor emergencies which steal me away from my desk, unexpected trips to the vet that require me to shift around phone conferences and priorities, and there’s nothing like two birds screaming “I love you!” or whistling “If I Only Had a Brain” (from the Wizard of Oz) to add an interesting flavor to a phone call with a client! I, too, have decided to be transparent with my clients, and I find that so far all of my clients appreciate this – and therefore feel more comfortable being honest with me as well. We’re all human!

    In saying this, Natalies article really made me reflect on why I wouldn’t trade this home office for anything in the world! We’re about to re-locate to Denver, and I was considering looking for a ‘job’…but now, I’ve decided not to – because I’d miss my cats lying on my keyboard, my dogs lying under my desk, and my birds whistling a cat call whenever I come in the room!

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  30. I’m a wife/mother/teacher/writer and a client of Natalie’s. She recently designed my website (www.christaallan.com) and was incredibly patient with my techno-disabilties. I appreciated Natalie’s honesty, patience, and sense of humor in the process of moving from nothing to something. And I respected her transparency; in fact, because of it, I felt I could be more open as well in sharing what worked and what didn’t.

    I admire people who work from home, those who are attempting to maintain balance between making a living and having a life. As a writer, I admire anyone who chooses to pursue a dream.

    Bravo, Natalie. Nicely done!

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  31. Very informative article. The biggest problem I have right now is not having a creative little space of my own. It’s been a bit hard trying to be creative when there is no comfortable, inspiring place to work.

    Not to mention that although there is air conditioning here, it does not cool and I sometimes have to give up working due to heat exhaustion. We are actually planning to move in the next 2 months and I’m hoping to get into a better situation on space.

    I think my biggest problem is regulating my time online with distractions other than work. Kids are grown and only two out of the four are left here so they are not a problem.

    Really enjoyed the article and the tools mentioned that help you along.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  32. When I read this article I was thinking of me one year ago. As I continued reading the article I saw new perspectives what my co-workers might feel wheen they are at the “office” and when I see them after a long time. But then when I finished the whole article I started to wonder how I work and I found so many similarities to my life and I prefer to work on the office and see collegues when I work and not just on irc or communicator. I just feel more like me when I’m working myself but I feel more like me when I’m with people.
    So after I read this article I started to think if I should start to work at home but then I remembered I was there year ago and the money wasn’t so good. So what should I do?…decision decisions… I’m sticking with my job and I want to work at the office and I enjoy the people I meet there.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  33. Working from home definitely has it’s financial benefits, great tips.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  34. My kids are now grown and gone. I have been working from home for 12 years, trying various rooms as my office during that time. My husband’s office is adjacent to mine, and since he doesn’t mind me walking through and filing or putting something away in his office, he assumes I am not distracted by that when he comes through my office.

    In fact, I AM completely distracted, whether it’s him or houseguests. I just can’t completely focus when there is activity anywhere in our home. Maybe that is the homemaker thing: can’t stop mentally planning shopping, dinner and laundry?

    If I had it to do over, though, I would not go back and shut the door and put on headphones. Being home when my kids were home was a gift. It impacted my efficiency and meant for some very late nights and early mornings, but I was there when they were and that was priceless.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  35. I find it way to difficult to work from home on a regular basis. There are some good tips in this article, but I have to get out of the home office to be truly productive.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  36. I have worked from home since 1995. There are definitely perks. Unquestionably. There are a few things you don’t get, however. Not really, anyway.

    1) Sick or maternity leave. Since you can work in your pajamas, you can always work. In my case, I have three employees who come to my house Monday thru Thursday. I have to pull it together come nine o’clock or there is a breach in professionalism that isn’t productive. This, even when I am sick. And after I had my daughter, the team still came in. Just because I was on maternity leave, didn’t mean they were. This extends to the whole household. When my husband is sick, he can’t walk around in the kitchen (which is common area M-Th) in his boxers or his robe or I risk violating various employment laws.

    2) No vacation. I mean, sure, theoretically you can have as much vacation as you want if you are the boss. But since you can work from home you can probably work from anywhere. So last summer when my sisters and I took our kids for a cousins vacation, I was on the computer every evening triaging email and approving deliverables.

    3) Time away from work. It’s hard to leave work when it’s at home. There is always an email to be returned, or a mess to be cleaned up or a bill to be paid.  And for me, since I would rather be spending time with my daughter, I shift at least two hours to the evening so I can spend time with her after preschool. My husband is done working at nine but I often have a couple hours more. This can cause a disconnect if I am not careful.

    Like anything else in life working from home has both advantages and disadvantages. It just takes a very disciplined person to be able to balance it. I wish I was as disciplined as I should be, but the situation forces me to be more disciplined than I actually am.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  37. I work part-time from home while my son is in pre-school (with a few evening hours a week sprinkled in). I couldn’t be more thankful to have a job that is flexible enough to allow me to be a present parent. It helps that my boss is also a mom who works from home (oh yeah, and she’s my sister) and understands when schedules change last minute because of sick child.

    When I tell people I work from home I usually get a response akin to “Oh, you are so lucky you have time to do stuff around the house!”

    Uhhhh…. yeah…. have you SEEN my house?

    It is a common misconception that those who work from home have more free time to do… whatever is needed (heck, I will sometimes slip and believe I have more time to do more things because I am at home). I often have to remind my husband that yes, I could call the roofer about fixing that leak, but he could just as easily do it from his office, where he gets paid for the whole day. Every five to ten minute ‘home’ task I do is five to ten minutes I am not working and earning money, and it adds up. My big piece of advice is to be selective about what ‘home’ tasks you agree to take on when it should be ‘work’ time.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  38. As someone who is going to be searching for a telecommute job in a few months (our due date is Jan 30th), this article is awesome.  Printed it out.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  39. When the kids are at school, it’s great to be able to work on the couch, sometimes with a movie on in the background (though it has to be something I’ve seen before, just as “background” music so to speak). Once they got off for summer vacation, though, I was forced to set up a little makeshift office in my bedroom, which isn’t the most romantic thing, alas. I find the hardest part is that I’ll let the kids distract me here and there during the day, and the next thing you know I’ve got to work all night to catch up… I end up feeling like I’m not getting quality work time OR quality family time. I have to keep telling myself: shutting them out now is necessary so I don’t have to shut them out later…

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  40. Very inclusive and helpful; you encourage my decision to settle down as a freelancer.. later on. I’m working at home right now but intend to go back to part time job in a few months. Focusing on work is no lesser problem when you’re staying with your also freelancing PARENTS who want you to run errands every 5 minutes and who think the state of your room indicates not your approaching deadline, but your messiness T_T

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  41. I’m actually in a parallel boat, as I am about to become a stay at home DAD.  At one point I had an amazing home office that I shared with my wife’s craft supplies (she works out of the house, so we sort of traded the room off from day to night).  However, as my desk got piled up with documents, color chips, and wiring, I moved out to the kitchen table (where I still have a complete office set up).  Needless to say, my productivity has suffered a bit.

    We’re moving in a month or so, and one of the prerequisites now (after seeing this article) is a room large enough for an office, a door with a lock, and the ability to pile up the kitchen table instead of my desk :)

    Thanks for the great advice/article!

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  42. Thank you for taking the time to write such a great article, in what must be, your spare time. I have been working from home for the past three years, and although my husband and I don’t have a family yet, I can relate to nearly everything you’ve mentioned.

    Because my husband works out of the house, it’s pretty quiet around here during the day. Now that I’m freelancing full-time, it’s best for me to keep regular “business” hours because I am most productive in the morning. I agree that it’s most important to have a separate office, and keep work hours separate from family/recreation. This is tough with distractions like Twitter, Facebook, etc. I have to force myself to turn off the chat!

    Thanks again for the article, I really enjoyed your perspective and advice.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  43. Although I am now an empty nester with no small children at home, the advice is still wonderful. I have been working at home for the last 2 years, slowly building my web design and development business. I still struggle with keeping track of time, how much to charge and not getting distracted with household duties!

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  44. I’ve been fortunate enough to work from home for the past six months. And for a company that’s over 500 miles away!

    For me, what’s been the hardest is keeping a presence now that I’m basically in a different state. I’ll send out emails to colleagues who I haven’t talked to in a while just to catch up and let them know I’m still around. It helps them think of me when a project comes up and allows me to be more in the loop with company politics.

    I have my office set up with two desks on opposite sides of the room. One for my work machine and the other for my personal computer. If I want to spend more time than I should surfing gossip sites, it won’t show up on my work laptop.

    The only glitches so far have been the occasions when I’m teleconferencing and the mail carrier rings our doorbell causing my dogs to bark their heads off. Thankfully, my coworkers are all animal lovers and get a laugh out of it.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  45. As a new father who is just starting out with my own business this was a helpful article.  I checked out GrandCentral right away and am still very sad that they are lost in the google black hole. I also used the Emergent Task Timer for a while and it was helpful as a start, but I got tired of all the paper printing.  I just found FreshBooks, which provides a time tracking widget and a lot more features. If someone is looking for a way to track time and invoice, its a pretty slick online software option.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  46. Great articles and a much needed read and diversion for me today. I’ve been working from home since 2001 as a freelance web designer. I feel I’ve been “successful”? in my best personal opinion, though we all define success differently — something I’ve learned over time and apparently am still learning.

    Being that I am self-taught and all of a sudden found myself working from home, I started off early headstrong that I”˜d do whatever it took to maintain and persevere in the industry. Between jobs, I buried myself in books and tutorials learning new software or trying new tricks. I’d created a monster within myself and nearly eight years later am gratefully still burning the midnight oil and maintaining that steadfast ambition. Oh but yes, I falter from time to time.

    A day in the life of an extrovert gone introvert without ever even trying. I miss camaraderie. I miss learning by quietly and intently watching someone else. I miss sharing obstacles and triumphs. I once sent a prayer to Einstein at 3AM over an ActionScript code I couldn’t get past for 3 days. He answered and I wrote a perfectly perfect line of script my very next attempt. I thanked him. Have I gone completely mad?

    This morning I started my day off on the lanai with coffee. I’m in Florida about 5 miles from the Gulf. Crisp air, blue skies, birds singing, light breeze blowing, the pool is blue and the trees that line the estuary behind the house are still green from summer. I am truly blessed for more reasons than one. Foremost I am not fighting daily traffic with the rest of them heading my way to a cube with hospital-like lighting. I remember those dreadful days — and most times this is how I validate my success. Freedom. Not by a 6-figure salary or bragging rights to say I work at “Disney World”? or that my latest client is a hot new Hollywood star.

    Today was different. An arbitrary conversation with my husband spawned a gut-wrenching feeling of despair and I’m stuck in it and writing it out. He is one of the few that does understand and respect what I do for a living.

    I am reminded at times that “working from home” can often be perceived of as a “cushy” job. Oh contraire! Over the years I’ve come to learn that no matter how hard I work, how many hours I sit at this computer, how much sleep I didn’t get because I had no choice but to make a deadline, nobody ever perceives it as hard work. Even worse, I feel I have been misunderstood as being … dare I say “lazy”? Ouch – that one hurts.

    I saw this morning through cloudy tears that stained my cheeks far too early in a day, feeling incredibly misunderstood. I am usually not concerned with how others perceive me; I’ve been comfortable in my skin for some time now. But why should I have to justify how my time is spent in a day in the life of a web designer? Would anyone even comprehend the headaches behind the table to div transformation? I am mostly socially quiet about the details of my job. Therefore I must be lazy. Hmm. Maybe next time I’ll take a poll of browser and resolution usage and get some stats out of it.


    Perception:
    One time someone saw some drawings of mine. They were complementing and followed with an insistent passion that I should “do something with it.” I found myself taken back and not sure how to respond. I thought to myself “I thought I am doing something with it.” Sure I loved to draw but I am also a computer geek. I’d married the talents to design websites for a living. I’ve designed far too many and counting in my career span. I make more hourly working from home than I ever would under any corporate umbrella. I’ve earned the privilege of being paid well for my knowledge, skill set and talent. I thought I was doing something with it?

    I sleep 5-6 hours a night and spend 10-12 hours at the machine. Working, cleaning, educating/playing = 80/60/30/5. That’s about an accurate read of 175%. It’s my choice to do as much as I can at this time in my life because I’ve a busy mind and I choose to feed it. Also I am usually (and thankfully) booked with jobs. It just so happens I do the majority of my “living”? from home and I shift my percentages as needed to maintain balance. I’ve been doing it for 8 years and still going strong. But working from home is not for everyone. It’s a tough job where separation is vital.

    But I do wonder how many others have ever encountered this diminishing feeling of being misunderstood? It’s difficult to explain the depth and intricate details of my work that demand such toiling and quiet hours of ceaseless non-interruption. Weekends and nights are vital to my design time whilst clients are grilling in their back yard or watching Wheel of Fortune.

    Why is it so hard for some to understand that working from home does not mean we have all kinds of extra time on our hands? When in fact, it’s just the very opposite? Am I alone here?

    Frustrated, hurt and not going down without a fight. I’m off my soapbox and thanks for listening. Peace to all.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  47. I too have learned that having a office away from the family is the best bet.  I am currently in the process of building a more professional and sound proof room in my basement.  Having kids in 6-9 range can be very noisy around the home.  In addition, I have found working the web development in the evening to morning hours (9pm-3am) gives me the most time in a completely quite home.  I then sleep late until around 8am.  I try to schedule all my meetings around 10am or 3pm.  This gives me time with my family, time with my clients and time to do my work.  It’s not ideal, I would prefer to have my office out of the home.  However, it these tough economic times, I have to juggle several jobs to make ends meet.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.