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There’s no place like home…

This post was spawned from a question at a recent job interview and a talk given by my friend Jordan at Bar Camp Nashville.

I’ve been working remotely for a few years.  Sometimes as my full-time gig, sometimes as my side-hustle.  For me it’s easy.  I am OCD, introverted, and a pro at multi-tasking.  Working remotely and communicating via email is the best thing EVER.

As of May 2013, I have no additional office space.  I work from home, I meet clients at coffee shops or in their spaces, and I teleconference with people in other cities.  I have a “schedule”, but it’s not 8-5.  I book clients about a week in advance so I can plan accordingly. As a general rule, Monday-Friday I am out of bed and behind my computer by 10:30.  If I have appointments, I don’t start work until 10am.  Why? I learned long ago that I don’t like mornings.  My best work actually happens after 7pm.  Saturday and Sunday are work optional days.  Sometimes, I would rather work on the weekend if it means that I get to take a day off mid-week to take care of personal things.

So, if I don’t do mornings, how do I get things done with people in the “normal” work world?  I work on an off-set schedule.   I frequently send out emails with questions for clients or some sort of progress report at night or at the end of my work day.  If all goes well, those emails are being answered first thing in the morning by clients and co-workers and waiting in my inbox by 10:30.  I plow through my list of chores and get something back to them around the time that they would be wrapping up their lunches and heading back to work.

In addition to these perks, I can set my own pace for jobs.  I work binge.  If I have a project that requires a few hours of my time, I would rather do it all in one sitting and put it to bed.  When I worked in an office with set hours, I hated having to clock out because it was “quitting” time and have to wait until morning to complete something.  That said, I also get to take days off in the middle of the week because I took a two day job and crammed it into one day.

Some people ask if my work day has an actual end?  The answer is sometimes.  Around 6:30 I will probably avoid answering my phone or responding to new business emails.  If I happen to be working after “normal” hours, I may continue responding to “old business” via email.

Working from home DOES NOT work for everyone.  If you have a problem budgeting your time, you should probably avoid this type of work, or you should split your time working in an office vs working remotely.   If you have a hard time working for long hours without supervision, working from home is not for you.  You should also avoid working in coffee shops and co-working spaces, they are full of distraction.

Confessions,  I don’t usually get dressed for work in the traditional sense.  Often I am in my pjs or a t-shirt and shorts.   If it’s a video conference day, I would make sure to be dressed appropriately, but those don’t happen often.  Sometimes when I get stuck on a client problem, I clock out and do some stuff around the house.  I cook, I clean, I might do some laundry.  Since I am not on a work restricted network, sometimes I take a break and chat with a friend on instant messenger.

More confessions…  I used to work from home with a kid.  I was a nanny at the time.    I just scheduled anything phone or video related during nap time or on the days that I didn’t have the kid.

How to change things when change is hard

I just finished “Switch: How to change things when change is hard”, by Chip and Dan Heath.  I loved their first book “Made to Stick” and decided why not spend my mini break (and sadly the month after) reading their book on change.

I am that girl who writes notes in books.  Now that I have switched to ebooks, I am trying to find a good way to store my notes and highlights (is there an app that moves them to a safe place?).   I’ve had two library books stashed in my kindle app for over a month Switch and Steal Like an Artist (I just posted about that on my other blog).  Syncing would wipe out my notes.  The time has come to share my thoughts so I can upload new books.

  • “For anything to change, someone has to start acting differently”
  • “For individuals’ behavior to change, you’ve got to influence not only their environment but their hearts and minds.  The problem is this, Often the heart and mind disagree, Fervently.”
  • “Change is hard because people wear themselves out”
  • The brothers Heath had an interesting visual on change.  You have an elephant, a rider, and a path.  They took the concept from Jonathan Haidt’s book “The Happiness Hypotheses”“You’ll direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant, and Shape the Path.”
  • Bright-spot philosophy,”What’s working and how can we do more of it?”
  • Don’t get hung up on understanding the past to make change.
  • Create “Big Hairy Audacious Goals… 10 to 30 year goal(s) to progress towards an envisioned future.
  • “When you’re at the beginning, don’t obsess about the middle, because the middle si going to look different once you get there, just look for a strong beginning and a strong ending and get moving.”
  • “Checklists simply make big screwups less likely”
  • “When you’re leading an Elephant on an unfamiliar path, chances are it’s going to follow the herd.  So how do you create a herd?”

Lemonade Stand

So, you have a great product idea.  You decide you want to make your millions on this product. Can you really make millions on this product?

My last post was about planning with the end in mind.  I’ve recently sat down with a freelancer, and two small businesses to discuss job costing.  I know that finance is scary, but think about your first entrepreneurial venture, the lemonade stand.  You borrow money from your parents, you mix up your lemonade, you set up a table in the front yard and then you get to work in the hopes that you can pay mom back, and buy yourself a new toy.

So, your end goal is that new toy.  It’s $10.  You borrowed $10 from your parents to buy supplies (they wanted you to earn the toy, rather than give you money for the toy directly).  It’s pretty simple math.  You need to sell enough lemonade to pay your parent’s back and buy the toy.  End goal, clear $20. Simple enough.

Other things to factor in.  Other lemonade stands in the area.  You need to price your goods competitively.  Then there is the actual cost of goods sold.  Ingredients, cups, a sign, and maybe some decorations for your front yard set up.  If you are lucky,  You can scavenge around for the decorations, and make the sign yourself.  You are down to cups and ingredients, and you have $10.

Around the corner, your neighbor is selling lemonade for $0.50 a cup and they are making it from a mix.  If you go with a mix,  You can’t really sell your lemonade for more. You could use better ingredients (although more costly) to raise the price.

Most small businesses, end up running right out to the store with $10 and buy the ingredients for their lemonade.  They get the nice cups, they get the organic ingredients, they make a glorious signage, they sit out at the curb, and sell lemonade until they have exhausted their supplies and themselves.  If they are disciplined, they spend their earnings from the day on more supplies and they show up the next day with more lemonade.

Does that define success?  Not really.  Your goal was to make money.  At some point you have to make money off the cups of lemonade, not just get more supplies for lemonade.  You want to make enough money to pay off what ever start up costs you had.  You want to pay off any loans you took out to open your lemonade stand.  You want to pay yourself for your time spent running the lemonade stand (at least minimum wage).