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This eBook is about living life to its fullest. It's about having your cake and eating it, too--about having the best of all possible worlds.
It's a book for everyone who's tired of the daily commute and the pressures of the nine-to-five routine. It's for everyone who dreams of economic security, more free time, a healthier or more productive lifestyle, and a chance to be closer to family and friends. It's for people who want to take charge of their day-to-day lives and their futures.
This book took root at a time in our lives when our days were full and exciting. Paul was a chief executive officer for a corporation; Sarah was an administrator for a government agency. But we both spent too many hours flying across the country, keeping tight schedules, and waving good-bye to each other in airports. We were smoking too much, sleeping too little, and leading the ulcer-prone lives that have come to characterize what our society calls success.
I didn't feel I had many choices as a working mother. Juggling a successful career and motherhood meant being dead tired most of the time and not being able to do either job with the dedication I wanted. I was determined, however, to have both a career and a family, so I did my best in a difficult situation. I ended up in the hospital with what the doctor pronounced a stress-related illness. "You almost died here and if you don't change your lifestyle you will be back here again," he told me before discharging me.
That was my wake-up call. I knew I was stressed, but I didn't see any options without giving up my dream for both a career and a family. One day, I visited the office of one of our outsideconsultants. He was doing what, at the time, seemed like a most unusual thing: operating his business from his home. I took one look at his arrangement and knew with certainty: "This is for me!"
My parents grew up during the Great Depression, so I'd been raised to think that nothing in the world was better than the security of a government job. Still, two years, one master's degree, and a first-time-ever home mortgage later, I left my secure government position and opened a private psychotherapy practice in our new house.
Most people I knew predicted I would miss the benefits of a government career and regret my decision. They were wrong. I haven't regretted my decision for one day in the twenty-five years since I left the hallowed gray halls of the Federal Building.
Working from home was like having flowers delivered to me every day. I felt healthier immediately. For the first time in my son's young life, I could be a real mother and still pursue my career. I was more relaxed, and I relished working in an environment with windows and trees and the out-of-doors just a few steps away.
Initially I was hesitant about working from home. I had concerns about the image it might create and worried that I wouldn't get my work done. So when I started my own consulting firm, I opened a downtown office and hired a secretary.
I found I'd start working at home in the morning and go into the office later and later in the day. Many days I'd see no reason to drive in at all. Eventually I closed that downtown office and set up a work space in our basement recreation room for my secretary. At first she was a bit uncomfortable with the idea of working in someone's home, but after thinking about it, she decided it was a wonderful opportunity. She could work within two miles of her own house and be closer to her children.
To me, working at home meant having all my files and books in one place. It meant saving a lot of time that used to be wasted commuting and a great deal of money that used to be spent on overhead. It meant being free to put those resources into making my home as pleasant as I wanted it to be. After all, I was working there! Most important, the saving on overhead has meant I can afford to pursue the kind of work I want to do instead of taking business just to pay the overhead.
When we were first married, we were both in college and spent most of every day together. On graduating, we discovered that "growing up" and going out into the work world meant seeing very little of the ones we loved. How nice to find there's another way! We've been working from home for twenty-five years, and we see more of each other than ever before.
When we first began working from home it seemed somewhat unusual to our friends and neighbors. In fact, the neighbors thought Paul was unemployed! But soon the novelty turned to curiosity. People began asking us many questions about how we did it and how they might do it, too. As the tempo of the questions intensified, curiosity about working from home became the makings of a major social trend. Through our books (of which this was the first), our columns in newspapers distributed by the Los Angeles Times and Entrepreneur's Home Office magazine, our radio show of over ten years on the Business News Network, our television show that ran for four years on Home and Garden TV, seminars and speeches, our Web site (www.paulandsarah.com), and the other forums we serve, we've been able to reach millions of people from all over the world with our message: Working from home is a good life, and you can do it too.
Working from Home
Working from Home is a reference book that will help you at every stage of having a home office, from the time you first begin considering it to the day you wonder if maybe you're outgrowing your home office. This book is a basic reference you can turn to any time a question arises or a problem develops.
If you're trying to decide whether working at home is for you, part 1 should be helpful. In it we address the questions of who's doing it and why, what work is being done at home, the benefits and problems you can anticipate, and how you can tell whether it will be difficult or easy for you. If you think you'd like to work at home but need to figure out how you can earn a living doing it, you'll find concrete ideas in part 1 for setting up your own home business or finding a job that enables you to work at home.
If you already know what you're going to do and are ready to set up your work at home, or if you're already working from home, turn to part 2. Here you'll find detailed suggestions about where to put your office, how to keep your work and personal life separate, what equipment you'll need, and how to arrange the most efficient work space.
Another aspect of getting under way, but one on which we find many new or established home-business people also need guidance, is protecting yourself from legal regulations, tax authorities, and calamities. So in part 3, you'll find the information you need on legal issues, tax matters, and insurance.
With the ever-increasing amount of information in our lives and demands on our time, working efficiently and keeping our home and office clear of all kinds of clutter can be a considerable challenge. In part 4 we provide specific guidelines for such practical matters as managing your time, your money, your information, and your paperwork.
Dealing with people and personnel is the subject of part 5. Because you may be working solo, you'll find solutions for problems like loneliness and staying out of the refrigerator. You'll discover strategies for dealing with children and family, and making sure your marriage not only survives but also thrives now that you're at home more. You'll also learn how to find employees and support services.
For home-business people, setting prices and finding customers or clients are key concerns. You'll find solutions to these challenges in part 6 along what to do if you start to outgrow your home office but want to retain the benefits of working from home while you expand or move up the professional ladder.
You'll find that many of the topics we cover--such as interior design, time management, home-office technology, and marketing--have been the subject of entire books, so we provide you with the basics for handling the core issues and refer you to additional resources if you should need them. There's a Resources list at the end of each chapter that includes recommendations for books, software, Web sites, and much more.
You'll notice that our book is called Working from Home--not Working at Home. We chose to use the preposition from for two important reasons: first, because from embraces not only those whose work is done in their home but also many others for whom home is their base of operations while much of their actual work is performed on others' premises. For example, home-based salespeople, contractors, consultants, and trainers do most of their work away from home. In fact, however, four out of five home workers work from home.
The second reason we chose this broader definition is to communicate the importance of getting out of your home office, and reaching out to get business and participate in the broader professional and business community. Having your office in your home doesn't mean withdrawing from life. On the contrary, it's a way to become more involved in living because you're in charge of your life, released from the fatigue of being trapped for hours in a car or bus. Freed of the limits placed on your entrepreneurial spirit by traditional office structures, you become the creator of each and every day of your work life, shaping it instead of reacting to it. You can have a fuller sense of being your own person.
Sometimes we look at the days in our lives and marvel that we are living them. They are rich and varied and always full. For many years they were brightened by the sound of our son's feet as he ran in the door after school around four o'clock. Some afternoons were punctuated by a family trip to watch him play soccer. Now that he's graduated from college and off on his own, we're thankful that working from home provided us with the flexibility to enjoy his childhood. Otherwise we'd be looking back now and marveling at how quickly the time has flown by and how much we missed.
For us, having the flexibility and variety to savor each phase of our lives as it unfolds is what makes life interesting and keeps us feeling young and vital. Over the past twenty-five years, we've enjoyed three different homes in three different cities, each with its own unique home-office arrangements. There we've lived and loved and worked and played through three separate careers apiece. We've lived in the heart of a midwestern city, the suburbs of a large megalopolis, and in a seaside community just blocks from the ocean. Now, as of this writing, we're preparing to move our home office once again--this time to the mountains and a new home that overlooks a pond in small community in the midst of a national forest.
This move will herald yet another phase of our lives, but one thing remains constant and that's our sense that by living and working from home we can mold and shape the quality of our lives from the rich variety of experiences life presents to us. Our goal in writing Working from Home is that you, too, can feel like this when each day is done. Whatever the nature of your ideal workday, this book is dedicated to helping you create it.