Pitfalls of working from home - as a Business Owner Career Mum
Welcome to Scarf Monkey's Blog!
4th December 2018
Things I love about working from home, in no particular order
1. Being my own boss
2. Being productive, making physical things
3. Looking out over the Moray Firth whenever I peek out of a window
4. Walking the dog in the morning
5. Doing the school run instead of wrap-around care collection
I have no regrets about my decision to change career and work from home. Not one. None. But that doesn't mean life's a bed of roses ... well maybe it is, but with thorns included.
Today's blog is about some of those thorns.
Pitfalls of working from home as a Business Owner Career Mum
There's no getting around it, I spend an awful lot more time alone than I am used to. As a Head of a Secondary School my office was never empty, in fact I shared it with the Head of Primary, the Head of Music, and Head's PA! Aside from the office share, there were always folk popping in and out to ask for help with this, guidance on that, teenagers with problems, it was a glorious hub of activity, and that was something I loved.
It couldn't be more different now, something exacerbated by the fact that we moved countries (Austria to Scotland) when I left teaching, so I started from nothing socially speaking. I'm naturally sociable, so I walk across the fields most days with my neighbour and our dogs, I have a semi-regular coffee meet up with a couple of other mums, another friend who has a new baby who pops in about once a month, but fundamentally I spend most of every day alone. Like now - there's just me, the dog, the cat and the clicking of my keyboard. I am often alone, and sometimes lonely.
Over time this takes its toll. I feel guilty if I use a day to have social interaction when I feel I should be putting in the hours to make my business profitable, but in reality it's necessary for my mental health; I'm too much of a social bee to survive without company.
2. Sharing the load
There's no one else to pass anything off to! I had become rather comfortable in my previous position being able to delegate tasks to other people according to their strengths and frankly, my preferences: problems downloading an app - pass it to IT, no time to organise snacks for a meeting - pass it to the librarian, bored with writing a newsletter - assign it to the MYP Coordinator. Most of the smaller, peripheral jobs I could assign away, allowing me to focus on the core tasks, things that only I could do. Oh how times have changed ...
Now the burden of being self employed is most heavy in the little tasks. Problems with my PayPal account - unlucky, sit on the phone for hours talking to the PayPal dude, no time to wait in the Post Office Christmas queues - unlucky, find time or lose sales, bored with advertising - unlucky, get out leafleting on a frozen Sunday morning.
There are so many things I don't know how to do, things I've had oversight for in previous jobs, but not actually done myself - accounting, marketing, social media, photography, website writing, blogging ...
Just once, I'd like someone to say 'I'll do that for you' ... anyone?
Lack of esteem, appreciation and glory!
Stick with me here, I don't think I'm a megalomaniac. My previous life was utterly people centred, and I was responsible for lots of highly visible events; I was pretty good at it too! I was accustomed to people approaching me with congratulations and thanks after presentations, shows, parent events etc. You might think no one thanks teachers, but that's not true. I regularly had students and parents thanking me, bringing gifts, teachers thanking me for my support, or my ideas or my faith in them. Often the things I was praised or thanked for, were very much the work of the people who worked for me, things I had oversight for, but didn't actually graft for myself. All gone.
Here's something I'm really proud of, this design. I really love it, it took me an awfully long time to perfect, and I think it's pretty much perfect ...
It says 'we are who we've been waiting for'. I love that the characters look like girls dressed up as super heroes rather than actual super heroes (actual super heroes - LOL!). I love the writing, it took a while to find the right words. I love the colour of the t-shirt, it took considerable effort to get this lime green from my supplier. I love the hair of each girl, I spent time and care finding the right style and learning to draw the right hair style for the ethnicity of each girl. I love the diversity of the girls, that it can be worn by any girl and she can see herself as one of them. I love the colours of the design, they look great on any background. I love this photo - we had several attempts at getting it right. It took me longer to research, draw and print this t-shirt than any of the events I've organised in the past.
Despite this, I haven't sold any yet, not one (sigh, double sigh).
In this job, my work is appreciated through the medium of sales. If someone loves my work enough to part with their hard earned cash, this is my glory, it is my thanks and my sense of worth. Esteem, appreciation and glory were much more easily won in my last job!
There's no way round it, the times of plenty are way in the past, and way in the future. When you start a new business, the bills don't go away. Children still need swimming lessons, they still need food to eat, they still need Christmas presents. The Council Tax, heating bills, water bills they stay the same, they don't wait for your business to be in profit.
The worry of it is hard too. I have no need for expensive clothes, for going out on the town, indulgent holidays, these things can all wait. In fact, my stress levels are so much lower in this new life, I don't mind if they never return. But the worry of it is hard. What if the business fails? What if I never make enough to live on? What if one month we can't pay the bills? What if we end up with nowhere to live? What if I have to go back to teaching to pay the bills, but without the years of savings behind me? What if I can't afford to retire ever?
I'm not much of a worrier by nature, but occasionally, these things keep me awake at night.
There are things I've done for years, things I've worked hard learning to do in the past that are no longer part of my life. I miss some of them.
Public speaking. It was a regular part of my life: assemblies for kids, presentations for parents, speeches at graduations, presentations at formal functions. I found it exhilarating, and it definitely didn't make me nervous. I'm a bit sad that the skill is wasted. It's a useful skill, and has served me well over the years. As my business grows, this might come back into play again, maybe I'll give the odd eulogy at a funeral, but essentially this skill is on the back burner for the foreseeable!
I don't teach anymore. I don't miss teaching to be brutally honest; I do miss talking things over with teenagers though. It's a fine line to tread a meaningful conversation with a teenager - treating them as both an adult and a child at the same time, steering the conversation without lecturing, sharing important truths without damaging their self worth. I spent a long time learning to do it, but I doubt my own children will ever consider my guidance as sage as the teenagers I taught!
Thorns aside, take a look at my current best seller:
The irony of this design is that I never meant to sell it. My daughter asked me for a Dr Who costume in honour of the 13th Doctor's arrival, but I couldn't find one anywhere on line. There were cosplay outfits for adults, but nothing for children. I think the BBC neglected to anticipate that little girls would want to dress up as their idol. So, I quickly drew this t-shirt, which is definitely not an exact replica of the good doctor's, ordered some yellow braces, and ta-da! This t-shirt is currently keeping the wolf from the door - long live the 13th Doctor!
Safe to say, the length of time I spend on a design, has absolutely no correlation to its popularity.
If you think of a mighty girls design that you think would look good on a t-shirt, drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org, I keep an ongoing list of things to draw.