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Summary:

Web workers, especially those of us who are self-employed, will sometimes encounter people who, it seems, take us less seriously because we don’t have a corporate cube to work in. There are two ways to deal with this. Some web workers go to great lengths to […]

Home-OfficeWeb workers, especially those of us who are self-employed, will sometimes encounter people who, it seems, take us less seriously because we don’t have a corporate cube to work in. There are two ways to deal with this.

Some web workers go to great lengths to mask that our office and home are one and the same. We can use P.O. box or mailbox suite addresses, and install separate phone lines that we can always answer with a business salutation. We might keep rigidly to business hours and avoid any reference in conversation that would reveal our office/home marriage.

Of course, there is another option. We can let it all hang out, so to speak, and freely acknowledge our home office location and its attendant benefits (and disadvantages) to the people we do business with.

Which of these options is best to use is somewhat a function of the industry that each of us works in and our own personal comfort level. Personally, I have chosen the second option — complete openness. There are several reasons why:

It’s cheaper. All those additional services, like a mailbox suite and additional phone line, cost money that I would much rather spend on other things like a new computer gadget.

It’s too much work to pretend. Keeping up a pretense about where my office is just takes energy I’d rather put into my actual work. And besides, I know I’d eventually make a mistake anyway and let the secret out, so why make the effort to keep it a secret at all?

It tells me what people respect. If someone dismisses me because I work from a home office, I probably didn’t want to work with them anyway. People who respect me and the quality of my work will want to work with me, no matter where my office is located. Being upfront about where I work helps sort out who respects me, and not just the office they think I have.

It makes it easier for the next web worker. Having a good experience dealing with someone that they know is working from home will hopefully lay the groundwork with people to have a better attitude towards the next web worker they encounter.

It’s my life. The bottom line is that I work from my home office because it allows me to blend my work and my personal life in a way that works for me. Pretending otherwise would defeat the purpose of that. It would remove some of the very flexibility that I have sought in being a web worker, such as the ability to be able to care after school for my autistic 6-year-old daughter while I work.

Everyone has to do what works for them, but I have chosen to be open with my web worker status. Yes, it can occasionally be awkward or get me dismissed by a few people who don’t understand the new world of web work. But I make no apologies and find that my candor serves me well in more situations than it hurts me.

How open are you with people you do business with about where your office is? Does this help or hinder you?

  1. I don’t mind telling people I work at home. However, I do use a separate PO box address for safety reasons. I don’t need customers (potential or current) showing up where my children and I live. I sell online and used to list my home address until people started dropping by to see my products in person. It was scary!

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  2. I don’t even pretend that I work from the office. When people, including clients, find out I work from home (most likely because I mentioned it), they’re usually envious.

    I do, however, still have an extension at the office. When someone dials it, it automatically rings on my computer at home via Skype. This is a convenience issue — my firm keeps a record of phone calls, and we bill our time for most of them. At the end of the month, I compare the automated phone logs with my own time records and catch anything I might have missed.

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  3. Keeping the office extension is also convenient because I worked in the office for more than four years before starting to work from home three years ago. It would have been inconvenient to give everyone a new number to call.

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  4. Ann, that’s a great point about security. So far I haven’t felt the need to do that since my work is online-only so my address doesn’t get advertised except to specific people I choose to give it to who need it. But I can definitely see why some people would want to do that if their address is widely advertised.

    It’s a sign of the times that people are starting to be envious instead of wary when they hear you work at home. It’s nice to hear you are encountering that, Charles. Where I live and work web work is still pretty unfamiliar to people so it’s nice to hear about progress!

    And I love your back-up recordkeeping with the office phone. That sort of thing is one of the things I really wish I had more of a safety net on, working on my own. I worry a lot that I am forgetting to bill for something, or to record an expense.

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  5. I work from home too and don’t mind mentioning it – In the end, almost no client seems to have a problem with and rather appreciates it if they can call me after regular work hours knowing that I can quickly pick up work again in important cases which is something most office workers probably wouldn’t or can’t do for example.

    Besides that, I spent some money lately to renovate my home office room and feel very comfortable in here so I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be able to produce results which are as good as those created by designers who work in a real office.

    After all, security is definitely something I’ll have to think about – not because I’m afraid that somebody would show up here in order to cause damage somehow or to steal things, but for privacy reasons and because I really enjoy the flexibility and freedom a freelance designer can have if he doesn’t has to expect people showing up suddenly, interrupting the workflow.

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  6. In the very beginning I was a bit ambiguous when people asked me where I had my office. I know many freelancers who took the step to hiring/sharing offices in order to have ‘official’ business space. More and more, though, I am finding that my home-office adds to the overall aura of not only my lifestyle, but also my personal brand!

    As a coach, consultant and trainer, I don’t have a real need to have clients in my work space, but I do have an enviable amount of space to concentrate, plan and let my creative juices flow (esp. now that the weather is good: http://twitpic.com/86nfz) – all to my clients’ advantage.

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  7. As Charles says, many people are envious that I work from home and that I don’t have a traditional boss. I don’t know of any cases where I’ve lost work because of this. In fact, a reasonable number of my clients are also one-person shops with home offices of their own.

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  8. I don’t hide it either. However, to keep things professional — I’ll say “I’ll be out of the office” or “I’m on my way back to the office.” I have a room that’s my official office (too bad I can’t give it a suite number and make it more official!).

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  9. Yep, I do have an “office”, and in fact, I put a sign on the door that reads

    World Headquarters
    Peltier Technical Services, Inc.

    The kids think I’m a nut. But they did before I started my business.

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  10. I also sometimes have to remind people that even though they called on my business line, it’s a cell phone, and I might not be at my computer right when they called.

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