Work From Home Employee, or Home-Based Business Owner?


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Hi All,

So, this is just a quick post to touch on a topic that a lot of people really don’t give enough thought to when they decide that they want to work from home, but one that is important to consider, to give yourself clarity in moving forward and pursuing the right career opportunities for you. A common theme when meeting people who want a work from home career, is that they want ‘The Dream’: permanent, home based work that allows them 100 percent flexibility with their work hours and daily schedule, while paying them a decent (or really, an awesome) wage, and covering all the essential benefits (superannuation, sick leave, holiday leave, etc.). This was 100 percent what I was looking for, when I started. I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but (while this is possible), it is, to be frank, pretty damn unlikely you’re going to find this. And, you’ll get much further in pursuing the right home-based opportunity for you, if you spend some time working out exactly what it is you really want and need, and what you’re willing to do to achieve it, and moving forward from there.


I was completely put off by the thought of starting a home-based business when I first decided I wanted to transition to a work from home career. The thought of ABNs, business insurance, business tax, and the zillion other complicated things I was sure were involved in running a business that I didn’t even know about yet, made me feel it was all just too hard for a regular human like me. I wanted an employer who would give me an ongoing contract for 100 percent home-based work, pay me a big fat cheque, and give me super and leave benefits. But, there are a couple of things about working from home for an employer that many of us don’t really think about when we first get caught up in the excitement of the possibility of home-based work. Firstly: very, very often, companies employing you to work from home will still have set hours. They’ll want you to be able to take phone-calls, have virtual meetings with colleagues and clients, and generally be reachable and responsive within business hours. Some companies offering home-based roles will also have the expectation that you come in for some office-based work days each fortnight or month too. All of this is, of course, completely reasonable. However, it wasn’t going to work for me. I had a baby on the way, and I wanted a job that would let me care for my baby all day, and then work in the evenings, when she was asleep and my hubby would be home to tend to her when she woke up.


So, I found something that seemed like a suitable compromise: online ESL teaching. Online ESL education is a huge industry in China, and the hours are pretty fantastic for Australians in a similar situation to me – Beijing peak hours of 6:00pm to 9:00pm are (depending on if it’s daylight saving or not here in Melbourne) 8:00pm – 11:00pm, or 9:00pm – midnight Melbourne time. While online ESL companies will generally consider you an independent contractor, not an employee, and there were obviously various considerations involved in navigating that, I was pretty rapt to have found a work situation where I’d be paid a set hourly wage for evening work that I could do when my baby was asleep. And, I do have to say that I really loved working as an online ESL teacher. It was a terrific, positive, and financially rewarding experience for me. However, the set hours, even though they were evening ones, turned out to not be ideal for me. Our baby wasn’t (and still isn’t) the world’s best sleeper. She’d wake up during my work hours, and despite my fabulous husband’s best efforts, she’d want me. And I hated not being free to go to her.


I pretty quickly came to the realisation that I wanted complete flexibility with my work. I wanted to be able to set my own hours, and modify them whenever required. From back before I even started online teaching, I’d had the idea that complete flexibility would be best for me, and that running my own transcription business might be the best way to achieve that for me, so I’d been slowly setting things in place for that anyway, working on my typing skills and speed. Now that I was 100 percent clear that I wanted that control and flexibility and I wanted it now, I bit the bullet and got serious about making transcription happen for me. I began seriously looking into the steps required to run my own transcription business, and I stopped hesitating, and just got on with getting it all sorted out. I started working with an online transcription company to further develop my skills and get some experience. And then, when I’d got the experience I needed and I had everything necessary in place, I started looking for local clients in Australia. Now, as I mentioned earlier in this post, for a long time I was daunted by the thought of running my own business, and thought the whole thing would just be way too hard. But I wanted the freedom that comes with it badly enough that I was willing to dive in and sort out all the daunting ‘business stuff’. And, I can say with 100 percent honesty that the process was completely do-able, and nowhere near as challenging as I’d imagined it would be.


The point I really want to hammer home here for anyone reading this and wanting their own work from home career, is exactly what I said at the beginning of this post: work out exactly what it is you really want and need, and what you’re willing to do to achieve it. You’ll save yourself a heck of a lot of time and effort if you can go into your work search with clarity about exactly what it is you’re really looking for, what your deal-breakers are, what you’re willing to be flexible about, and how much effort you’re willing to put in to achieve the work arrangements you’re after. You might be 100 percent fine with set hours (and there are some great benefits to working set hours – particularly that it doesn’t allow for the procrastination that setting your own schedule does!). If you’re sure that set hours as an employee is what you’re looking for, consider the nitty-gritty details: do you want a 100 percent remote job, where you never have to physically go into the office? Or would you prefer/be okay with a job where you are required to head into the office a couple of times a fortnight or month? Are you looking for day or evening hours, or does it not really matter to you? If none of this is sounding suitable for your situation, and you want complete flexibility and control over your working life, and have or a willing to develop a suitable skill-set, perhaps starting your own home-based business is the right choice for you – if you’re willing to investigate and take all the necessary step to get your business up and running, and if you’re willing to take the risk that your business may not be a success.


I don’t want to get all heavy and depressing on you here as I wrap this up, but the bottom line is that finding or building a work from home career isn’t easy, regardless of which way you go in terms of seeking home-based employment or becoming a home-based business owner. While globally more and more companies are offering work from home options these days, the community of workers chasing these positions is huge, talented, competitive, and it’s growing every day. Unless you’re super lucky and somehow fall into a great opportunity, it’s going to take some concentrated effort on your part to achieve the work from home career of your dreams. Please don’t feel discouraged by what I’ve had to say here – achieving a work from home career is definitely possible! And, starting your search with clarity about your work from home career goals, and a clear plan of how you’re going to reach them, will save you time and give you the best possible chance of success.


Happy job hunting,

Cate XX

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