Women's Job List

Owning a Home-Based Business is no Monkey Business!

By Genise R. Caruso, CPRW

The idea of being self-employed and having my own business is something I wanted throughout my entire work history. My father was self-employed, as a Certified Gemologist, primarily appraising jewelry until he retired, only several years ago, at the age of 86! He had an office in downtown Chicago, on Michigan Avenue, which is one of the most exclusive locations in the city. While I wouldn’t say we were rich, our family always lived very comfortably.

Before I go any farther, I want to make an important distinction. There is a difference between working from home and having your own home-based business. You can work for a traditional, brick and mortar company, where you have a boss, etc., but instead of going to work every day, you do the work from your home. Having a home-based business means you are self-employed, or your own boss. Your income comes solely from the goods or services you provide to your clients. You answer to no one other than yourself, [and I suppose your clients, too.] I will be discussing this kind of endeavor — home-based, self-employment.

I knew a long time ago, I wasn’t cut out to be “corporate material.” I had a major problem keeping my mouth shut and doing what I was told. With positive intentions in mind, if I thought there might be a faster, more effective or cost efficient way of doing something, I couldn’t sit there and bite my tongue. However, my rationale was constantly misinterpreted. “Why couldn’t I just do my job and not make waves, or ruffle feathers?” I was viewed as a troublemaker, know-it-all, and [my personal favorite] a threat to some people. They weren’t smart enough to realize I was only trying to do a good thing, and just because a task was done in a particular way, since the business began, didn’t mean it was the most effective, beneficial, or optimal way to do it!

When I went to work, I went there to do my job, but was constantly put in the middle of some ridiculous office politics. I spent more time forced to “rat” on my fellow coworkers, or justifying my own actions. Nobody seemed to understand if you treat employees like children, they will behave like children; if you want their respect, you must respect them as well.

After years of unfulfilling jobs, where my only purpose was to make my employer rich, I said no more, and was determined to start a business of my own. That was more than 10 years ago, but I knew I was smart enough to make money doing something on my own.

I bought a book that virtually changed my life. It was titled, “How to Start a Home-Based Writing Business,” by Lucy V. Parker. It was an all-inclusive handbook, filled with the essential means and strategies necessary to effectively establish and implement a home-based business. I read the book from end to end, and found the most valuable, straightforward and comprehensive information on this subject. For the next six to eight months, I did little else than more research and follow the steps of this book.

What made it even more appealing, I had 95% of the resources needed. Since it was a service that I would provide, I didn’t need inventory, and already had most of the office equipment and supplies. I would need little start-up funds. Nevertheless, I couldn’t get around one major component. I had no recent experience, no writing samples or newspaper clips, nor did I have the credentials substantiating I knew one thing about writing. The longer I thought about it, the more I realized only a fool would pay me a dime for my writing services. I had absolutely no credibility, and my word alone was not going to suffice.

Fast-forward; I went back to school, earned a degree in professional writing, then became a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, and here we are today. I finally got my wish.

Statistics [depending on the industry] show that nontraditional roles, such as contract work, or being self-employed are held by as much as 25% to 40% of the workforce, and increasing every day. Being self-employed, working from home obviously has many advantages, but there are drawbacks too. We’ll look at some of the more typical pros and cons of self-employment vs. traditional work. I also want to discuss a selected number of valid reasons that generally don’t make the “top 10,“ in addition to explaining a few of my personal motives. 

  • The most obvious and number one reason for becoming self-employed is you have no one other than yourself to answer to. At a traditional job, you must answer to your immediate supervisor, but may also be accountable to his or her superior, the department’s manager, a regional director, and so on. Furthermore, you may have multiple people giving you orders, and everyone thinks their work takes precedence.  I  wasn’t willing to participate in these antics for too long, and told them to fight it out among themselves.

On the opposite side of the coin, home businesses are not for everyone. Having no one other than yourself to answer to can be terrible if you’re the kind of person who needs structure and a closely controlled environment. For many people, the uncertainty of not knowing when or if they will make sales, etc. is too stressful. Being self-employed takes a lot of self-discipline and commitment. It’s easy to get complacent and lazy working from home. Furthermore, anyone who is self-employed must realize they probably aren’t going to show profits for a while.

  • A home-based business allows you to work when you choose. Besides the ability to make more money, the more hours you work, it’s great for insomniacs like me; I can work at 3:00 am if I can’t sleep. This has great advantages when dealing with a 13-hour time difference, like there is between Wisconsin (my location) and Singapore (the location of a firm I write for).  

With your own business, you also have to be aware that no one else is going to do your work or “cover” for you, for any reason. You may have to work nights, weekends, even holidays, if you can’t afford to hire help. Clients are going to expect what they ordered, when it was promised.

 I will admit there are some traditional jobs where you have more flexibility. A job in sales, where you are paid commission only, is a good example. The majority of traditional jobs have you tied down to particular hours, say, 8:00 am, until 5:00 pm.  A “salaried” job means you get paid the same amount whether you work 35 or 55 hours. It has advantages and disadvantages, too. Your pay won’t be deducted if, let’s say, you have a dentist appointment, and need to leave the office for a few hours, yet you won’t get paid more if you work 10 hours every day.

Hourly jobs are different. You will be paid overtime for working more than 40 hours, but that three hours you were at the dentist, will be deducted from your pay. What’s more, I’ve never found a company that allows employees to indiscriminately work overtime any time they please; it typically must be approved. Even worse, when there is overtime, it’s usually mandatory, and tough luck if you bought $100 concert tickets six months ago, or whether your 25th wedding anniversary is that week. I’ve seen people actually get fired for not working the required amount of overtime!

  • Having your own business enables you to theoretically make as much money as possible. The more effort you put into your business, the bigger the rewards. They sky’s the limit! You also have control over pricing. The fees for your goods or services are completely up to you.

If you work at a traditional job, the only reason you are there is to make money for your employer. While he/she is out playing golf, you’re busting your butt, trying to make him/her rich! Larger companies, in particular, maintain salary limits that you can’t surpass regardless of how hard or long you work there. As long as you’re making more money for your employer than he pays you, you are an asset. If you somehow manage to earn more money than you bring in for the company, you better get your résumé in order, because you’ll be looking for a job soon.

  • Needless to say, a home-based business allows you to work from your home. You can have an elaborate home-office, with all the bells and whistles, or work in a corner of the living room, with nothing more than your laptop, and maybe a drawer for files and a small bookcase.

Along with this comes many advantages. Think of all the money you can save on items such as gas, bus tickets, tolls, car maintenance, parking, business clothing, lunches, day care, office parties, gifts for employees’ birthdays, etc., I can [but usually don’t] roll out of bed at noon, and without so much as running a brush through my hair, start working.

However, there are a number of disadvantages as well. The lack of social interaction can make you feel isolated. You are solely responsible to find customers, and if anything goes wrong, let’s say your computer crashes, or printer needs a new cartridge, you are the one who has to handle it.

The thing that annoys me the most about working from home, is people don’t think I have a real job. Somehow they equate being at home as not working. Along with this comes the countless distractions and interruptions from my family. They barge right into my office and start yapping. No one asks if they can talk to me for a minute. They just charge in and start talking. 

I have attention deficit disorder, so when someone comes racing into my office, and breaks my concentration, I may not get it back again. I’ve gone so far as to tape large signs on my door, that read, ”DO NOT DISTURB, unless there is Fire, Blood, Broken Bones, or Imminent Death! Either they can’t read, or think it wasn’t meant for them!

Along with this, there’s one disadvantage of working from home makes me furious. Because I am home, all chores, bills, errands and shopping, are still left to me. I can’t count the times I’ve had to stop working and take a load of laundry out of the dryer. My husband will fold it, but not once has he ever taken the clothes out himself or turned the dryer back on because the stuff wasn’t dry. Apparently I’m the only one who knows how to pour cat food into one bowl, and water into another. Nothing I do or say matters, so I from now on any money I make “not working,” is all mine!

A traditional work site usually has small cubicles where you sit and do work from. It’s noisy, people are wandering about, and you have little privacy. The size of your cubicle clearly correlates with the rank of your job. The bigger the cubicle, the more important your job is. The “real offices” are saved for an elite few.

  • Having your own business means it is your responsibility to keep track of all earnings and expenses, because you have to pay taxes on the money you earn. However, having a home-based business allows you to claim certain items as business expenditures. Depending on the type of business, expenses such as phone bills, car maintenance and gasoline, the cost of entertaining clients, office equipment/supplies, and even a portion of your rent and electricity can be deducted as business expenses. However, you better have receipts for everything.

With a traditional business, all taxes are taken out by your employer, but I don’t know anyone who ever questioned if they were right. We just assumed whoever was doing payroll, knew how much tax to deduct. Yet, we rarely worried about tax issues, until April 15th.

There’s another advantage, which typically isn’t even mentioned, yet it could save you a considerable amount of money in the long run. Additional deductions taken out of your check, like medical and dental insurance, are pretax deductions. This means if you earn $100, normally, you would pay taxes on that $100. Yet, with pretax deductions, if your insurance premiums are $25, the $25 is taken out of the $100 before taxes are taken, so you only pay taxes on $75 instead of the $100. This is a major benefit.

  • Here’s an advantage to having a home-based business, I don’t believe ever hearing. As long as I can think rationally, and move my fingers across a computer keyboard, I can do what I am doing, virtually until the day I die! There’s no mandatory retirement age for people who are self-employed. My dad worked until he was 86, and that including driving from the suburbs into downtown Chicago every day.  

 I chose this profession, in part, because of the longevity of doing it. I can write anytime, from anywhere, be it a wheelchair or hospital bed, and as long as my mind is working, there is no reason to stop. Look at Stephen Hawking. At traditional companies in the US, the retirement age is either 62 or 65, depending on the company and type of job. I’m close to 57, so what are they going to get, maybe eight years out of me, tops!

Most people who are self-employed, started by taking a hobby they loved doing, and were good at, and turned it into a genuine business. You hear this all the time. Hobbies such as making jewelry, cooking, baking, certain crafts, doing makeup, hair or nails, animal grooming, sewing, gift wrapping, planning parties, decorating, playing an instrument, dancing, computer programming or troubleshooting, organizing, and of course writing, all can and have been turned into thriving businesses. What could be more wonderful than being paid for something you love to do? I am much happier writing for a living, than taking crap from customers, just so they would leave me larger tips.

Everything that has its good point, also has some bad ones. It is hard to do the same thing, day after day, even something you really get pleasure out of, and not get tired of it, after a while. You love your spouse, yet after being married 25 years, I’m sure there are days when you would like him or her to just go away. Now don’t lie!

I will gladly admit that I get tired of writing, probably once a week. [In my defense, you must understand I was an online student from 2005 to 2010, and doing constant writing.] At times, I wonder how I have any enthusiasm left at all. That one is easy. Every job I take, project I do, and paper I write, is entirely different from the others. Even résumé writing. For so long I thought I’d be bored of it after a month. However, each client I write for has a completely unique set of skills, experiences, objectives, hopes and dreams, than the next one!

Working at a traditional job, count your blessings if it’s something you enjoy. That and making money are the main objectives, right? That is why we go to school and learn a trade, or gain the skills to do a particular profession. Otherwise it wouldn’t matter; everyone would simply take any job they could find. Unfortunately, in many ways, this is how it turns out. I put myself $140,000 in debt so I could learn everything there was to know about writing, and attain credibility as a writer, because more than anything else I wanted to write for a career.

I thought I’d have my pick of jobs; how could employers not want to grab an individual with my qualities? Yet, try as I did, for many reasons beyond my control, I couldn’t find a job. Frustrated and disillusioned, I started looking for work in other areas, but still nothing. My dissatisfaction lead me to become cynical, pessimistic and distrustful of everyone and everything.  I finally had to stop looking, because I was sure my negative attitude was showing through.

Once I could think rationally again, I decided I wouldn’t “settle.” I hadn’t spent the last five years and $100K+ in school, to work in a retail shop. I would write or die trying! That is when the idea of starting my own business went from fantasy to reality.  And the rest is history.

Genise R. Caruso is a freelance writer and Certified Professional Résumé Writer, dba Golden Résumé Creations. In addition to producing top-quality résumés and cover letters, she is an expert business and technical writer. For more information contact her at [email protected] and she’s sure to accommodate your needs.