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Working from home – the real dream

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning. Most women are enjoying a much-deserved lie in after a week in the office, or are out roaming the countryside with their family. Weekends are to rest, to catch up with family, to rejuvenate.  I am sat staring at my computer screen willing my brain to switch on and my fourth cup of tea is getting cold. I have a pile of order forms growling at me and a blog to write but all I want to do is crawl back into bed and snooze.Being your own boss and working from home sounds like a dream when you first start toying with the idea. Flexible hours, tea-breaks whenever you desire, no one to tell you what to do.  The reality is a tad different. A skewed version of that tantalising advert that calls to you from your magazine, the woman (being her own boss) is smiling, happy and roaming the countryside on her weekend off.

I am an artist running my own business selling word art, papercuts and digital fine art prints. Working from my desk in the corner of the living room my workspace frequently spreads and recently engulfed the dining room table. I have boxes of materials, frames and packaging stuffed under coffee tables and rolls of bubble wrap fill my spare wardrobe. Orders haven’t picked up since the post-Christmas slump so most of my work at the moment is producing little income. Still, I have to work six days a week to ensure the future of my business.

Recently I accidentally fell into blog writing. Thankfully this requires much less space but even more will power. Part of being a blogger is reading other people’s blogs. I see an endless sea of beautiful instagram-filtered women on my computer screen. Their perfect hair and seamless make-up accents the latest fashion they are wearing. These women look like this while they are sat typing their blogs, the photos of them at their desks show them hard at work, just like me. At least that’s what they want you to think. In reality, I am typing this article while wearing a pair of holey leggings, yesterday’s t-shirt and my fluffy ‘lazyday’ jumper. I didn’t have time to shower because of the amount of work I need to catch up on today so my greasy hair is scraped back into a pony tail, my natural curls producing alien antennae at my hairline at an attempt at a fringe. Scratching my unwashed and itchy head, I realise I forgot to put on a bra.

Some days, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t produce anything, arty or wordy. Today is one of those days. I am worn out from a busy week and lack of sleep and I have a long list of non-work chores that desperately need doing. I could quite easily give up for today, crack on with the laundry folding and settle in front of the tv to catch-up on Call the Midwife. However, I know if I do that I won’t be able to settle. Knowing I have work to do is like having a little demon on my shoulder poking me with his pitchfork. Any day off is like that. It’s hard to enjoy any free-time when you know your inbox is slowly filling up and you have an order that is half finished on your desk. When I worked at a solicitor’s office I knew once I stepped outside that door on a Friday evening and headed to the bus stop it was ‘my time’ and I could forget about work altogether until the following Monday. Being self-employed and working from home, there is no door to close and no such thing as a ‘shift’.

I follow all the advice and golden rules other self-employed women have passed on to me. My planner is filled in, the tv is off, my partner (who is an author and also works from home) is two rooms away with the doors closed, all distractions are eradicated. But the doorbell goes, it’s someone selling something useless. The phone rings, I’ve won yet another cruise/PPI claim/holiday for my non-existent family of four. A friend turns up on the doorstep for an unplanned visit. By the time I sit back at my desk my mojo is almost depleted. At 3pm I will have answered two emails, drank thirteen cups of tea, torn up my latest papercut design in frustration and have three half-written blog posts I hate. At least I can tick off seven hours worked from this week’s thirty-five, but I have now doubled my workload for Monday.

Not all days go like this. Most of the time I get a lot done. I sell work, design a beautiful commission piece for a new customer, network and discover new resources and produce a good library of articles to fall back on to when the words dry up.

Working from home is hard, much harder than the dream lifestyle wants you to think. You work twice as many hours for half of the pay (if you are lucky). No matter how good you think you will be at avoiding distraction, it will be ten times harder in reality. Finally, other people will not understand how hard you work, you will receive very little credit or praise from friends who work 9-5 and think you just sit around watching Jeremy Kyle all day.

However, the pros far outweigh the cons. Everything I produce is 100% mine. I know I put everything into that art piece or blog article. Every ounce of determination to fight the distraction, to work to my own set deadline I did knowing that I didn’t do it for money, but for the love of what I do.

So to all you determined, yet stressed women working hard this beautiful Saturday morning – keep going, don’t give up. Remember, it doesn’t matter if you forgot to brush your teeth and you put your leggings on backwards, you can have as much tea as you want while you work today and no one can tell you otherwise.

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