Working from home – it’s the ultimate dream, the ideal goal, the plan of blissful paradise for someday. I know that’s what it was for me.
As I trudged daily into job after job that I would eventually grow to hate, I told myself that someday, I was going to be freelance writing from home full-time, and then everything would be better. It had to be better…someday.
I watched my glorious days of working from home play out in my head – I would wake up in the morning to start my day with an energizing workout, or maybe I’d go for an early morning walk as the sun was rising and the dew sparkled on the grass. I’d enjoy a cup of coffee or two at my leisure, followed by a full healthy breakfast.
Then I’d get to work in my designated home office space, where I would churn out piece after piece that someone, somewhere was paying me handsomely for. I’d take a long break for lunch, maybe another quick stroll outside to stretch my legs. Eventually, I’d find my way back to my desk overlooking a window to finish up some work, and move on to my own creative writing projects. It was beautiful, and I longed for those days to arrive.
Since I recently jumped into freelance writing full-time, and started to work on building my own business, I’ve discovered that the reality of working from home isn’t quite like that.
For one thing – I’m probably the epitome of “not a morning person.” If I grunt at my husband when he kisses me good-bye as he leaves in the morning, he considers it a good start for me. There’s no way I’d be up walking while the sun is rising. My designated “home office” also serves as our storage room/spare bedroom/library/extra closet, and I desperately need to clean and re-organize it, but instead I just avoid it, and when it gets to be too much I take my laptop downstairs to work at the kitchen table. I haven’t worked out in months, and I haven’t had the time to really focus on my own creative writing for a long time.
Not to say that I don’t love working from home, and feel absolutely blessed to have the opportunity to do so, but it isn’t quite like I imagined it. It’s a lot harder.
When you don’t work from home, but want to (and who doesn’t?), you hear all the stories about how challenging it actually is; how it’s difficult to stay on task, and how much you miss the daily social interactions that come with a typical 9-5 office job.
I remember hearing those stories, and thinking, right. How difficult it must be. I’ve had to work in hectic, crazy busy environments before – I’m a master at time management. And missing social interaction? Ha. I’m an introvert, so sign me up!
But it really is challenging. I’ve always prided myself on meeting deadlines. In college, I always procrastinated and stayed up all night right before the due date, but I got my papers written. When I worked as an editor, the paper had to be done every week by the end of the day Tuesday. I didn’t go home until it was complete, and after a while I started turning in my portion of the paper early.
But those were all deadlines enforced by someone, or something else. Some external power that was more important than me, and could affect my job and paycheck. Sometimes deadlines set by someone else are a little easier to abide by.
The perks of working from home are undeniably great. I get to choose when I work, but I also have to live with the consequences if I don’t make myself do what needs to be done. Depending on the situation, those consequences could be losing a potential client, or not getting paid, which are scary when you’ve quit a job that provides a steady bi-weekly paycheck, even if you did slack off a bit on Friday afternoon at the office.
You can’t really leave work at work when you work from home either. Because of that, it can be hard to draw boundaries sometimes. Of course, with any job you’ll have days or nights where you need to pull some extra work to get ahead, but when your office is largely operated out of your personal cell phone and laptop, you really cannot escape those pings that signal an incoming email or text from a client.
There are days where I’ll work long past the typical 5 pm “closing time” or be answering work related emails on my phone while I’m on vacation or at a weekend BBQ. Just because I may be wearing PJ pants or I might not be sitting in a corporate office while I do those things, doesn’t make the work/life balance any easier.
Having said all of that – working from home is amazing. I’m much happier now, being able to write and work on projects that I choose, than I ever was sitting in an office all day, following directions from someone else. I get to make the decisions, which is both a good, and a scary thing, if I’m being perfectly honest. But I’ve learned that even though working from home is a dream come true, it’s not quite as easy or effortless as I once envisioned.
Tallitha Reese is a professional writer and content manager based in Wisconsin. She savors rural, small town life, although she enjoys the offers of the big city as well - particularly theatre, dancing, coffee houses and bookstores. She is married, and has two extremely entitled cats.
Tallitha has a professional background in journalism and communication, having worked in newspaper, corporate communications and marketing in the past. She studied English, Journalism and History, and holds a BA in Literature With a Writing Emphasis.