When I first began working from home, I made a lot of mistakes. You will probably do the same. But if you follow these guidelines, you’ll but able to avoid some of the major errors people make when they become self-employed. So keep these in mind before you submit your two weeks’ notice.
1. Have at least six months of savings
Even if you think you have regular work lined up for when you quit your day job, have plenty of money in the bank that you can fall back on if you need to. The absolute minimum you should have is six months of savings. That means that you will be able to live off of your current money for half a year without needing to bring in any additional cash. For some people, six months is all they need. If you live frugally, have a partner who works, or reside in an area with a robust job market, six months may be more than enough.
In other cases, you might want to have more than six months of savings before you quit your day job. The job market is tough right now. You might start working from home and then realize the self-employed lifestyle is not for you. Since getting a new job immediately might be tough, having a year’s worth of savings can make a lot of sense. Another thing to think about is your family. Do you have children? Parents might want to be extra cautious with their savings.
If you are adverse to risk and taking chances, no amount of money will make you comfortable enough to work from home full time. If the thought of not having a steady paycheck sends you into hyperventilation, accept the fact that you will always be happier working from outside the home. Consider finding part time employment, a telecommuting job, or a job with flexible scheduling to allow you to have both the freedom and security that you desire.
2. Leave your employer on good terms
Sure, you’ve had fantasies about how you are going to quit your job. Maybe you daydream of telling your manager what a moron he is. Perhaps you’ve composed the perfect “I Quit” song that you are eager to belt out. Quitting fantasies are fun, but don’t burn bridges when you leave.
There are many reasons why you want to give your bosses two weeks’ notice or more. If you leave on good terms, you may be able to return to the company if you decide against working from home in the future. Even if you can’t return to that company, you’ll be able to use your boss or coworkers as a reference if you give them plenty of notice for them to find and train your replacement and you don’t slack off during your last week.
If you plan on doing some local consulting or working with area businesses, it is important that you are able to network with your former work connections. If they like you and know that you are a hard worker, they will be more likely to recommend you.
3. Have health insurance secured
Most workers in the US get health insurance through their employer. If you are going to leave your current position, you’ll also lose your current health care plan. Decide on what you are going to do about your health insurance before you put in your two weeks. If you are married, you might be able to be added to a spouse’s insurance plan. Find out when they have enrollment periods. You can either wait to quit until after this enrollment period or you can purchase temporary insurance like Cobra to cover you until this date.
People who are single and self-employed will have a tougher time finding insurance. Look at what options are available in your state. Consider the monthly cost, the deductible, and the coverage before you decide on a plan.
4. Discuss it with your family
A lot of people who are happy in their 9-5’s don’t realize what working from home entails. For most people, it won’t be their business. But if you are married, have children, or live with a significant other, you’ll need to discuss your self-employment decision with them. Will your partner be able and willing to support your share of the bills for a couple of months while your business grows to a full time income? Will you be able to set aside a time for work and a time for family? Having everyone agree with and understand your decision will make your self-employed time more productive and more enjoyable.
5. Write a schedule
Being your own boss is hard. There is no one to make sure that you go to work on time or put in the required number of hours. When you first start working at home, you may find yourself working too much or too little. People work too much because those who work from home cannot leave work at work. It will always be there and there is always something to be done. It is important to learn to walk away from work. Extra hours working are fine if you are finishing up a large project, but becoming a workaholic will not improve the quality of your life.
Other people have a problem with working too little. It may be tempting to sleep in, go to the park on a beautiful day, take a long lunch, and finish that book that you’ve been reading. All of these are fine, on occasion. One of the reasons you probably chose a home office is that it offers flexibility. But if you don’t have discipline you’ll have to return to the workforce. So make a schedule. You don’t have to follow it completely, but it will give your days some necessary structure.
6. Start your work at home career while employed
Don’t quit your day job for a dream. If you are currently unemployed, it is a great time to start working for yourself. If you have a job, however, don’t be too quick to put in your resignation. No matter what your work at home dream is, you can start it part time. It will be tough, but take a few hours every evening and devote one day of the weekend to starting your at home business.
Ideally, you’ll be making as much from your work at home job as you will at your regular career. This will let you build up your savings, get you in the habit of working, and allow you to feel confident when it is time to quit. Some people swear that they do their best work when their backs are against the wall. It is my belief that the majority of these people have not actually known the stress of trying to make ends meet with a brand new business. If they did, they would not recommend it. Working like mad when you have no choice is an admirable thing, but it is not a position you should put yourself in. So stay in your job while you can and work like mad to be able to leave that place without fear.
7. Set boundaries early on
One thing I wasn’t expecting when I first started working at home was the assumptions of other people. When they are home, they are not working. So they assume that if you are home, you are not working. Friends and family will try to take advantage of this fact if you do not set boundaries early on. While you will be able to be there for your family if there is a true emergency, do not let them make you their errand runner. Let people know that they are not to contact you during your working hours unless it is an emergency. This should stop most phone calls and surprise visits.