Almost everyone dreams of working from home: sitting at your computer in your PJs, listening to music and grabbing a break whenever you want to without worrying about what the boss might think. Yet whether you want to telecommute for your current employer or start your own business, there's something you should know: not everyone is cut out for working from home.
I'm a freelance writer and have worked from home for nearly six years. I'm able to motivate myself to get the work done and can block out distractions (mainly, the kids). I embrace the freedom it allows and know that if I step away from my desk for a long time during the day to help out at school, I have the internal motivation to work after supper or on the weekends.
But on a recent snow day, my husband was stuck at home and brought out his computer to get his work done. I won't sugarcoat it -- it was a disaster. He was completely out of his comfort zone and couldn't get a thing done. He was distracted by the kids and the lure of the TV. He couldn't harness any internal motivation to get his work done.
He proved my point: you need to have the right personal qualities to work from home. With more people doing it now than ever, are you wondering if you can cut it?
Here's how to figure it out. Are you...
Are you able to get your work done without being watched? If someone says she needs something by Friday, can you get it done without anyone checking up to see how it's going? Can you work even though the people around you (your family) may be there and doing something fun?
Can you keep track of several different projects at the same time? Can you easily keep the files and papers from your business life separate from your personal files? This includes both digital and paper files.
Okay with being alone?
Let's face it, when you work from home, you're alone. There are no coworkers to chat with about what you saw on TV last night or the latest celebrity gossip. Yes, there's social media so you can communicate instantly with other people, but there isn't that personal touch. You can schedule lunches and coffees, but it's not something that will happen every day. Several times a week, I may not talk to anyone for six hours or more.
Good with time management?
Even when you work in the office, there are times -- maybe even days -- when you don't get a lot done. You may be distracted by something going on in your personal life, or you just feel like crap. When you work at home, it can be harder to get back on track since there isn't that external pressure (a.k.a. the boss).
There are also other distractions you face when you work from home that you won't find in the office, such as the laundry and dishes, and you need to be able to say no. I won't lie and say that I never do laundry during the day while working, but it's a balancing act.
Can you work without getting constant feedback from someone, whether it's a coworker or a boss? If you have questions, can you find the answers on your own? Can you just take a project and run with it? If you said yes to the above questions, then you might have what it takes to work from home on a regular basis.
Many of us -- whether it's due to a sick kid or a snow day -- sometimes have the opportunity to work from home, but the key to long-term success is being able to get your work done day after day, no matter what life throws at you.
MaryBeth Matzek is a freelance writer and editor based in Appleton, Wisconsin. Follow her on Twitter at @1bizzywriter or check out her blog at http://1bizzywriter.wordpress.com. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, we offer edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work -- this isn't your parents' career-advice blog. Be Brazen.