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Why I Don't Hide That I Work At Home

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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?

19 Responses to “Why I Don't Hide That I Work At Home”

  1. Working from home seems to be much more common these days. And not just for the computer types. I’m an attorney and have worked out of my house for 5 years now, both as an employee of a firm and on my own as a solo practitioner. Working from home is great, but the extras (P.O. Box is necessary for safety especially when you have your address on EVERYTHING) and a separate phone line works well too as I find it better to keep business and children separate as much as possible!

  2. I’m also a writer/web worker… Time seems to be the bigger issue for me than place.

    So far nobody has seemed to care that I work from home, but one issue that occasionally comes up is my “office hours”. Sometimes clients expect me to be able to receive and act on their emails and calls, so long as they arrive between 9 and 5… even if I haven’t otherwise heard from them for weeks and have no contract with them to be on call at a particular time.

    One client had access to my home phone number, because reception on it was better for conference calls than my cell. He was in a time zone 3 hours ahead, and would often call me during dinner hours and occasionally as early as 6 a.m. with no prior notice.

    That’s a challenge, when you work with someone who works 18 hours a day and expects you to as well… fortunately, most of my clients are not like this.

    Anyone else encounter this – the “office hours” thing being hard to explain to others? The whole reason I choose to work from home is for fluidity and flexibility to not HAVE to have office hours, but instead, to work when it works best for me, and when I can be the most productive.

  3. Hi Ky! Nice to see you drop by WWD! You are so right that for people who have a need to see clients it can be necessary to have access to an out-of-home meeting space at least part time. I’m fortunate of course that I don’t have that need. Most of my work is done either via email or by phone/video conference, with an occasional trade show thrown in. So home, especially while my daughter is at school and my husband is at work, does pretty well for me.

    But there are days it would be nice to have someone else to answer my calls or chat to while I eat lunch (or procrastinate). I can definitely see the appeal of a co-working space at those times!

    Bette, in the scrapbook industry it’s not garages, it’s kitchen tables that are cool. We don’t even get our own room!

  4. I don’t hide that “world headquarters” is in my converted garage. The garage-based business has a certain caché in the tech field anyway.

    I do use a PO box and separate phone line for the reasons given above. Since we host business’s websites, I make it clear that our servers are located in a separate datacenter. Running your business from home can be a selling point. Many of my clients are running their businesses from home. They appreciate that we share their values of frugality and work-life balance.

    Still, I don’t like having the sounds of home life playing in the background of my phone conversations. The doorbell sound is probably my biggest peeve. It used to be worse when the doorbell would set the dog to barking and my son to shouting at the dog “Quiet Toby…Mommy’s working!” (doggie is deaf now and my son is 11 so we don’t have those 3-ring circus outbreaks as much).

    Maybe I’ll try to find a doorbell chime that has an “office” sound…like a buzzer or discrete electronic ‘ding ding ding’.

  5. I agree that working from home has unbeatable advantages. I’ve done that for years (and still escape to my home office all the time).

    The notion of “why hide working from home” may not apply to all: Some work-from-home professionals and home-based-business owners may still require a presence outside of the home, and there is nothing wrong or insecure with that choice.

    For instance, if you are a solo-practicioner attorney working from home, you typically will need a business location outside of your home. If you value “seperation of church and state” as it applies to business, you may want to incorporate your company at an actual physical commercial location and use the address of such. Or you may just want the security which comes with that….or in some cases you may just want to have offices and meeting rooms outside of your home, to be used on an as-needed basis, or to plugin to a network of other for co-working or to have a watercooler conversation with.

    The company I co-founded, Office Divvy, provides virtual office solutions to compliment one’s home-based business or professional practice. The matter is not as clearcut as being insecure about working from home, but in some cases how to run a smart-business with professional image (if that’s the choice).

    Day in day out, we see dozens of clients operate more efficiently, with less stress and pressure, and increase profitability…

    A salute to all fellow Entrepreneurs…

    Ky Ekinci
    Office Divvy

  6. David

    Like most of you, I don’t really try to hide the fact that I work from home, with this important caveat:

    I have a 2 year-old and another one on the way. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I’m talking business with someone and they have to stop to yell at their kids. So I’m very conscious about keeping kid noise out of the background. And if I have to stop and shoo a kid out or keep him from banging on my door I find that the mute button is incredibly useful. “Hey John, can you hold on for just a moment?” Then I mute the phone and go apply some fatherly discipline and then I’m back to work!

  7. Nancy –

    If I’m too busy to pick up the call, I let it go to vox. Otherwise, I like to at least talk with the client, and remind him/her that email is probably a very efficient way to get me the information.

  8. I didn’t really think about it until you mentioned it, Meryl, but I do use the phrase “out of my office” or “in my office” myself fairly frequently to communicate to people that I will be unavailable/available in a professional way. Funny thing is, I know I do that even with people who are well aware that I work at home!

    Jon, that’s one of the reasons that I have chosen not to use my cell number for my business number. I figure that too often I would be away from information I need and in the middle of something that shouldn’t be interrupted to make it practical.

    I love the idea of the sign on the office door. I’m a scrapbook industry trade journal editor, so I should probably make myself a really crafty one!

  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.

  10. 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!).

  11. jonpeltier

    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.

  12. caratime2

    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: – all to my clients’ advantage.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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!