Are You Suitable for a Work-at-Home Position?

This post is written by Nic.

I have been a work-at-home person in my early days of setting up Redbox Studio. In fact, both Krista and I know what it feels like to be on both ends – as an employee, as an employer and of course, as the in-betweener, being work-at-home folks.

As we see more and more graduates these days (when we interview them), we realize that everyone starts out with an ambition to be a freelancer or in most cases, a work-from-home person.

Which is not a bad idea if you can hack it.

A few years ago (before we hired our full-time staff and got our own office), we hired a girl to work for us and we gave her full liberty to work from home. Her work hours were from 10 am to 6pm (although she could inform us if she had other stuff to do and replace her work hours by clocking night hours – we were fine with that) and we communicated with her using instant messaging.

It didn’t work out.

You see, the main problem when you work from home is this: you NEED to be highly disciplined and highly motivated and a big self-learner.

Without these 3 ingredients, it cannot work.

Working at Home is Great… for Specialists, That Is

And come to think of it, unless you are an independent producer and can work well on your own, working from home is far from glamorous or easy.

Unless your work is highly specialized and know your work like the back of your hand and can do it blindfolded.

Unless you are a consultant or an expert in your field.

Unless you are these, working at home may not be what you expect it to be.

What this means is, clients can give you work and you can easily, happily, successfully give them what they want without much grief or heartache or frustration. You don’t need to keep asking them for stuff. You can easily find the stuff you need, execute well and present to them the work that they expect.

You can read their minds and know what they want.

Because you need to know your craft well BEFORE you can work from home.

Work at home is not for people who think they can slack off and work a few hours a day if they like it. If you insist this is the lifestyle you want, you should try your hand at multi-level marketing where they at least will train you in areas you’re weak at.

No Shame in Being Employed, You Know

Until and unless you do, I think there’s no harm in being gainfully employed and learning up all you can at your boss’ place and figuring out how things work in the industry you are in. There’s no shame in being an employee because you can be a damn good employee. And some people are good at being employees. They thrive on work in a structured organization.

Just because you are an employee doesn’t mean you aren’t good at what you do. (Don’t let those ‘gurus’ tell you that you need to take risks and jump out of that job and do something risky. It’s far better to be a great employee than to be a lousy entrepreneur!)

Far too many times, I’ve seen and heard graduates telling me they want to work from home or be a freelancer. It’s not impossible but it’s a tough battle when you need to battle boredom (you don’t have colleagues, remember?), demotivation (you are your own coach, you’ve got to keep yourself motivated and inspired on a daily basis) and distraction (there’s the TV, friends calling you up to go out since you’re on flexi-time and family barging in on you as you work!).

This trinity (boredom, demotivation and distraction) can actually kill you if you are not careful.

Ingredients for a Successful Work-at-Homer

If you really want to work from home, here’s what I suggest you load up on:

Discipline – Lots of It

This means saying no to yourself when you want to go out, go lunch, watch TV, catch up on the news etc. It means having a schedule and organising your work around this timetable and sticking to it no matter what. Discipline keeps you producing work for clients and discipline keeps you where you need to be. Saying NO to yourself is the hardest to do as you are your own boss at home. No big boss is going to come nag you if work’s delayed.

Motivation – More Than the Usual Cheer

Some people are self-motivators. They can motivate themselves to do anything. Others need to be pushed, nagged and pulled along. What type are you? If you are in the first category, congrats to you. You can fly high. If you are in the second group, it’s not all doom. You need some extra help and you get this by hanging around friends who are supportive of your work, reading books to keep your spirits up and learning from people who have made it. Today’s Internet age makes this easy. You can join forums and groups online, you can read all the rah-rah stuff online, you can get motivating quotes sent to your email account too.

Be an Independent and Curious Learner

Don’t ever stop learning – I’m sure you’ve heard this far too often! If you’re planning to work from home, get your skills and knowledge updated and improved all the time. You are competing with agencies and firms for work. Your work knowledge must be robust. You need to start becoming an independent and curious learner. Learn and absorb all you can for it will help you in your work-at-home position. If you’re slack about managing your time, learn how to stop being such a procrastinator! If you’re unsure how to become a better producer, read, take classes, go to seminars.

Working from home is not an ideal solution if you want to earn the same amount of money as your salaried colleagues in a regular corporation yet work when you feel like it.

Working from home (and I have many friends who do this and who can vouch for this) is a job like any other and you work 10x harder than your salaried colleague. Your clients’ expectations of you are much higher. Your work hours are almost seamless and you may well work into the weekend! It takes full commitment, not a part-time mindset. If you want to do part-time work and earn full-time salary, this is not the way to do it.

It’s Tough to Work from Home

You won’t believe the amount of convincing and persuasion – clients think you should be a million times cheaper and a million times faster (on turnaround time). They want your time all the time, even at 10pm on a Saturday night.

I’ve seen enough friends give up and go back to gainful employment within the year.

It’s just way too much to handle.

If you’re a salaried employee, you get to switch off the moment you get off from work. When you’re a work-at-homer, there’s no such thing. You’re lucky if your phone doesn’t ring all night.

So think and consider your options carefully before you decide to be a work-from-home person.

It’s not a solution if you just want to work a few hours a day!

8 thoughts on “Are You Suitable for a Work-at-Home Position?”

  1. hi nic

    you could add one more pitfall.

    folks will take advantage of you, even family members.

    can run an errand for me? can pay this bill for me? can do this/that, blah blah blah…

    just because you work from home.


  2. Hi bg: Haha, that’s true. People think those who work from home are there to help other people pay bills! Good point. Should wear t shirt that says, we are NOT your errand boys! Go pay your own bills or sign up for Maybank2u.

  3. I could really work from home if I have someone else cleaning it. The biggest problem I faced was trying to let everything be ‘as it is’ while I work. Anyhow, your article is really ‘good food for thought’ for those considering being free agents. Thanks! Who knows, i might need it again…..not now, but yeah…someday!

  4. Hi Ai Lee
    Haha, that sounds really practical! I know. The temptation to pick up the stuff lying around, the temptation to do another wash cycle in the washing machine, the temptation to clean the fridge, the wishes are endless. You have to close your eyes to the mess and just get on with the ‘work’. After sometime, you can do it although we women are complete neat freaks and need order before we can sit down to work!

    That’s why I have my own workspace at home and at the office. I cannot sit in Nic’s workspace because it’s messy and I tend to start cleaning things if I sat at his workstation. Bad for me coz I need up spending 30 minutes just rearranging files and books on his table! So I just focus on my area, my PC, my table and make sure I can live with my own mess and as Nike says, Just Do It. 😉 Keeps the peace too!

  5. Nicely written article. As one who’s been at it the past few years, I wholeheartedly agree with the points above.

    One more point – wait till the kids come into the picture! That’ll be one BIG ball to juggle 🙂

    Cheers to Krista!

  6. Very smart article that tells-it-like-it-is about the truth of being a full-time stay-at-home worker..

    I am still at my beginner’s-stage, but am looking forward to really learn from experience. Your article is really helpful!

  7. Having tried working at home on a few occasions, I have to say your article “rings a few bells”.

    Working from home saved me about an hour a day in commute time, but the hour soon vanished while reading google news. After a while I started to miss things like the sound of coworkers jokes, courier trucks, working under fluorescent light etc.


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