So you’ve decided you want to work from home, but what work could you do? Well there are essentially three tracks you can go down: (1) find an employer who will let you work at home (or persuade your current one to let you do so) (2) secure some freelance work that can be carried out at home (3) start your own home-based business
Looking at the must haves for each option will help you work out which track seems to suit you best and also what areas are likely to be your biggest challenges and pitfalls if you do go down a particular track.
Employed work from home: Becoming a ‘remote’ employee.
That is working for an employer with an employment contract, but based at home rather than on your employer’s premises. This offers all the benefits of employment like relative security, a regular salary, holiday and sick pay, training, equipment and supplies paid for and so on. On the other hand, although you’ll be working from home on your own, you’ll still have a boss to whom you are responsible, targets and deadlines set for you, colleagues whose work impacts your own and prescribed systems and processes you must adhere to. You’ll almost certainly still have fairly set hours of work and still need to attend at your employer’s premises for meetings, training etc on a regular basis.
Does this sound appealing to you?
By the way, you might not need to get a new job to move to home working – as of July 2014 all UK employees are allowed to request home working.
To make this work you will need:
- to make a convincing case for it if you want to stay in your current job
- an employer who agrees to it
- to convince the employer you’re the right person for the job in the same way as any other job
- to be in a line of work that can be carried out in isolation away from other employees
- suitable space and relevant facilities at home
- time management skills
- a boss who trusts you to get things done properly on your own
- ways to demonstrate to your employer that you are working well, putting in the hours and doing a good job on your own
- management systems that ensure your work is monitored properly
- systems to provide you with feedback
Freelance work from home
Freelance work is generally doing the same sort of thing you would have done as an employee, but on a fixed project, self-employed basis. Often freelancers start off by carrying out projects for their former employers* (NB legally you must be able to show you are not a de facto employee). I distinguish it from business start-up in that the thing you are selling is your own time, skills and knowledge to be used within specific projects which are defined by your customer. You may at times sub-contract work to other freelancers but usually you will work independently. You will be legally seen as a self-employed sole trader (UK) and complete sole trader accounts and tax returns.
To make this work you will need:
- a set of saleable skills
- enough market demand for your skills to ensure sufficient work at high enough rates to meet your needs
- the ability to market yourself and your skills
- customers who are willing to use freelancers rather than employees
- enough money to see you through until you start getting paid
- willingness to live with the uncertainty and insecurity of life without a regular salary
- a portfolio of experience
- a great CV/self-marketing documents
- excellent references from your customers
- ability to produce high quality work and motivate yourself without supervision or direct contact with others
- up to date skills and knowledge in your field, and steps in place to ensure they stay up to date
- extremely good at meeting deadlines and delivering exactly what you agreed to deliver (or there’ll be no repeat work!)
- a good network of contacts
- negotiation skills
- communication skills, diplomacy and patience to deal with your customers. As a freelancer your relationship with your customers is absolutely vital.
- a range of business skills relating to your self-employment – including financial management, book-keeping etc
Starting a business from home
Sell a product or service to customers via a business that you run yourself from home. You will prepare end of year accounts and tax returns, and pay business/corporation tax. You may take on employees or sub-contractors. You could be classed legally as a ‘sole trader’ or a small business depending on the nature of the business.
There are endless possibilities for the type of business you could start at home from making and selling your own products, to managing a team of staff who deliver a service on your behalf, to commission based selling of other peoples’ products, to sale of online services, to running a website or social media channel, to services provided to customers on your home premises. And on and on.
To make this work you will need to have:
- a good business idea – with a well defined product or service to sell, an effective means of getting it to your customers and a large enough potential market to sell it to. (Yes, yes I know that’s oversimplifying it but it’ll do for the purposes of this summary)
- access to start-up funds and enough cash to see you through until the business starts to make money
- a wide range of business management skills – or the money to pay someone else who does!
- strong determination to make the business succeed, in spite of set-backs
- willingness to take risks and live with uncertainty
- support from those you live with
- willingness to put in long hours when necessary
- cover for family/caring responsibilities should the demands of your business require it (if you suddenly have to help out your biggest customer urgently can someone else pick the kids up from school?)
- willingness to monitor progress, seek feedback and adapt your plans as necessary