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"I have too much work lined up. I have too much work on purpose. If I didnít have too much work, I would spend every spare second drumming up more work. When you work for yourself, you can't afford to have ' just enough work.' If you have just enough work, one bump and youíre back scrolling through Monster.com and HotJobs.com, answering every ad for every job you could possibly do from home."

- Rob Spiegel

Doing Your Home Biz Homework

by Robert Spiegel

Everyone looking to start a homebased business thinks the grass is always greener on the other side. But as this twenty-year pro explains, "the green grass of a homebased business has its share of crabgrass and a bit of freshly-painted green dirt. I conduct my business with smoke, mirrors, and midnight music."

When people ask what I do for a living, I tell them I work from home. I explain that I have my own business, make my own hours, and I frequently take a big chunk out of a business day to go on one of the kidsí field trips. Most times, the person who asks then says, "I sure wish I could work at home."

The grass is always greener. While they marvel that I get to work from home, I envy their ability to come home from work and really be home from work. When I go off on a field trip, Iím stealing time away from piled-up work. Iíve taught myself to not feel guilty about slacking off. But when I get home from the field trip, I dash to the computer to answer emails from clients who are wondering where the heck the expected work is. "Iíll send it in an hour," I write back, then put on some early Rolling Stones and furiously get busy.

Chances are, I also woke up at 2:00 a.m. that morning so I could get a good chunk of work done before the kids got up. Early Yardbirds, Van Morrison, and live Led Zeppelin help keep me awake during those desperate mornings. And I have a good stack of CDs, as well as a five-CD player, so I can work for hours without changing the music. I keep it all handy because those ungodly dark mornings come two or three times each week.

Iím not complaining. Just pointing out that my green grass has its share of crab grass and a bit of freshly-painted green dirt. I conduct my business with smoke, mirrors, and midnight music. A friend of mine who also runs a business from home regularly complains, "Itís like I always have homework."

I wouldnít have it any other way. I can no longer remember what office politics were all about. But I do know I quit jobs because I wasnít quite able to rise above them. I also canít remember what itís like to sit down in front of the TV and watch "Meet the Press" without feeling guilty that I am missing work without even the chestnut excuse of spending time with the kids. I did enjoy Shrek II this summer because it was a good movie and the spend-time-with-the-kidsí duty trumped the guilt of letting a project run late.

I Always Have Homework

I have too much work lined up. I have too much work on purpose. If I didnít have too much work, I would spend every spare second drumming up more work. When you work for yourself, you can't afford to have "just enough work." If you have just enough work, one bump and youíre back scrolling through Monster.com and HotJobs.com, answering every ad for every job you could possibly do from home.

There is no solution to this. When a home business works right, you have a constant flow of projects. If you have half a wit, you churn through your customers until you have a stable of clients who expect work from you every month. Iím fortunate in that I havenít had to look for new work for more than a year. That also means I havenít been caught up in more than a year.

The old saw goes 'Youíll have dirty laundry in your basket the day you die.' Yep, and Iíll also be three days late on my monthly article for Automation World. Iíve had my own business–both successful and unsuccessful–for more than twenty years. I think itís normal to quit working when I just canít take it anymore rather than quitting when Iím done or quitting when the click strikes 5:00 p.m.

Iím blessed to be able to work at home. Iím blessed to be able to take time off for field trips and ballet practice. But it comes with a price. I always have homework. But the homework comes with a consolation. When I was a kid, my mom didnít let me listen to the Rolling Stones while I did homework. Nowadays, I canít get it done without listening to the Stones.

_________

© 2004 by Rob Spiegel. Rob Spiegel is the author of Net Strategy--Charting the Digital Course for Your Company's Growth (Dearborn) and The Shoestring Entrepreneurís Guide to Internet Start-ups (St. Martin's Press).

 

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