Work from home: The truth.
There is no truth. That is the truth. There are, however, patterns. Similarities across experience. There are far better and much worse ways to go about things. There is luck.
A recent poll I saw said 70% of Americans want to work from home. With so much commerce moving to virtual space, companies are happy not to shell out for physical space for employees. They save billions when they knock hours below benefits.
That said, you can duck out on stale coffee and doughnuts to build your own work from home business. I owned Mountain Webs for 10 years. Designing websites for small local businesses from home was ideal for me because I had 3 young children yet craved other creative (and geeky) outlets. I wanted to be completely available for upset tummies, karate practice and to chaperone field trips. It was great to schedule Skype and meetings in person around my schedule. Some people might believe this situation in life is not an opportunity, but a nightmare. Working from home is not for everyone. Many people prefer the structure of an office to thrive and keep family vs. work time separate. I get it completely. But somehow the chaos in a busy office is more distracting for me than the chaos at home. Running a small business in my house was the perfect answer for me and I was lucky to be in a financial situation where I could take a risk.
So this sounds good? The trick is to find clients or customers. One popular way to have clients is to carry them away from your “regular” job. You could poach them from previous employers by offering them better deals or the opportunity to continue working with you if you’ve made them fall in love with you (ie. your hair stylist who moved salons and “happened” to give you the new name). Honestly, I’d follow mine to Antarctica. There’s a lot to be said for higher-quality lower cost. Metabolism is apparently build on the notion so don’t feel guilty. Another way is to purchase a business that is already established. This is what I did. A neighbor, Donna, had a thriving web design business in her home however she was ready to move on to other pursuits. I purchased Mountain Webs from her and with that came a well established client list, a domain name, email and pricing. A win-win for everyone.
If you need customers Etsy seems to be the hot ticket right now. They’ve got an app for sellers, and if you go through the trans you’ll get a feel for what moves, when. I know designers are also doing well on Etsy right now selling bundled logo packages, branding assets, and limited one-off pieces. What do you have to sell? Cruise through the market, figure out who your clients are, and tailor your virtual storefront specifically to them. It’s better to be too niche then to do than to be too general. If it’s fit 15-year-old girls, don’t talk to them like they’re 14-year-olds.
It’s important to make sure you’re realistic about your pricing and profit margins. Your business will live or die by these. If you don’t sell enough widgets at a high enough profit margin You won’t pay your rent. A good idea is to reverse engineer your strategy. Total your expenses then add 25% for learning mistakes and that equals how much you need to make the first month.
Be prepared to look around your house and figure out what you can pawn. Just kidding. But do figure out how many software subscriptions you really need to survive. Any way you can streamline will help your new venture thrive. Thankfully, many other service providers are also working from home. When I was overwhelmed with design work and needed help with coding, Dustin, who lives in Arkansas came to my rescue online while I was in North Carolina.
My kids are more independent now. So last year I shifted the focus away from my Mountain Webs to design for a single corporation (well, plus freelance for clients I love). Instead of maintaining a group of small business accounts, I now work part time for one of my clients. And I still work from home. I go in occasionally to touch base with everyone and check on some projects. Interestingly, I have found I really enjoy going in-depth on one project instead of designing many sites that are turned over to the client for them to maintain.
Finally, you’re also going to need a website, social media accounts, and marketing. Like finding your niche, my advice is to get very clear on your questions before you reach out to any creative marketing professional. Do you design apps? Do you create E-newsletters? As we talked about with Etsy, what platform will reach your audience? Some answers to these questions will unfold as you start your journey. You may adjust your goals for working at home as you get further along the road. New opportunities may present themselves. Regardless, follow your passion and learn how to make it happen!