Working From Home: Perks and Pitfalls

Working From Home: Perks and Pitfalls

I have worked at home, from the Internet, since I became pregnant six years ago. I started as an intern; then I became an editor, an editing manager, and several other roles. After that organization suffered from the recession, I was laid off and started writing freelance. Since then, I’ve written for magazines, websites, nonprofit organizations, and even some book companies. I am living proof that you can definitely make a living while working from home full time—and care for a child while you’re at it. (People who want to write for a living should definitely check out About Freelance Writing; it’s the ultimate site for freelancers, and I tell everyone to go there. Most of my clients were found there. She also gives great tips!)

Of course, you don’t get benefits or a vacation this way, but you get a ton of flexibility. One of my clients allows me a monthly deadline in which to do my work, so I can do it all in one week, or throughout the entire month if I choose. That can result in a sort of vacation, if you plan it out right.

I started out working all night and caring for my baby all day, which was dangerous. I didn’t sleep for days on end sometimes, which researchers will tell you is akin to being on drugs; I started to see things, like giant bugs crawling up the walls, and knew that it just wasn’t working.

I made arrangements to work a split shift, allowing me a few hours in the daytime and a few hours in the evening, making it to where my husband was available to care for our child while I worked, or I worked during her naptimes. It worked out much better, though I was still pulling more than 50 hours each week, which led to my ill heath and eventual blood poisoning and hospitalization. I don’t recommend working that many hours to anyone, and would definitely advise against it.

Sleep is also so important, even when you have an Internet job. No matter how many people brag about not sleeping, it’s really not cool; it’s stupid. If you can get sleep, get it; if you can’t, make time for it, period. You need at least seven hours. I know it can be hard; I’m a lifelong insomniac who has trouble staying in bed for more than three hours. Just try; talk to a doctor if you think it might help.

People may think you have all the time in the world, but in reality you have to manage it much better, since they’re always stopping by, calling, asking for favors… You have to set boundaries when you work from home, such as not answering the phone during certain hours. I have a rule that when my office door is shut, I’m working, so no one can enter unless it’s an emergency.

To really ensure your Internet job is flexible, I would suggest taking on jobs that do not require complicated invoices, regular meetings (a few are fine, but if you’re having them daily—as one client wanted with me—you should ask to be paid for your time), or daily deadlines. This will ensure that you can work when you want to, and that you can fit all of your other obligations into your schedule as well.