This series of posts is about working from home and especially having businesses from home as being Good Things To Do.
But even though there are millions of people working from home, whether as teleworkers or running their own businesses, my experience is that there are still people who look down on the home based worker or business owner as not having a “real” job or a “real” business.
What makes a job real?
Does getting dressed up in city clothes, commuting by train or bus or car, working in an air-conditioned office, being on a time clock, make a job more “real” than what someone else does who works from their own home? Not in my book.
I remember years ago when “teleworking” was a relatively new phenomenon, a manager at a large company being asked how the company could be sure that its teleworkers were really working. His priceless answer, which has stuck in my mind since, was by way of another question: “How can we be sure that the ones here in the office are working?” If you’ve been a manager – or just an observer of workplace behavior – you’ll relate to that.
In short, it seems to me pretty obvious that if there are people working from home, all the time or part of the time, and they are drawing a regular paycheck like their office/factory bound colleagues, or even if they are paid on commission, they have real jobs.
What is perhaps not generally so clear in the public mind is whether those of us who run businesses from home have “real” businesses.
What makes a business real?
It’s normal to want others to approve of and support what we do for a career or a job or a business. And in my personal experience it can be the people we would most like to approve of what we do who can be most lacking in confidence that we know what we are doing in, say, establishing a home based business. Or even openly questioning or critical.
And that condescending or even critical attitude – whether from family, friends or clients – can seriously undermine your confidence, whether you are conscious of it or not.
Even when you know it’s not a sneaky way of taking it easy, going surfing and hoping for the best financially.
The weirdness of it all is that the negative or critical attitudes and behaviors have no serious grounding in reality. They are prejudices, pure and simple.
Now obviously not every home based business is going to be a success.
But apart from what I have experienced personally and observed directly, there are several reference points that I could use if I was ever inclined to doubt that a home based business was not a “real” business.
- statistics over a number of years
- the provision of government support and guidance
- success story case studies
As long as sixteen years ago, the then ground-breaking report Homebased Business: the Hidden Economy showed that home businesses could no longer be characterized as simply secondary or supplementary income generators but had taken their place for many people as their primary business. And the implications for the US economy were pretty impressive: for example the report found that at that time home-based businesses represented 52 percent of all firms and provided 10 percent of the total receipts of the economy, about $314 billion in 1992.
As a former public servant, I am only too well aware that governments do some dumb things sometimes – ok, often – but when governments in several countries provide online resources to help home based business, that says to me that there is a very clear recognition that home based businesses are real enough. Examples are: the US site Business.gov – “The Official Business Link to the US Government” – and its Home-based Businesses section (starting a home-based business, marketing, tax…) and the Australian Government’s business gateway site, business.gov.au, which includes a section on home-based business, with extensive advice and resources.
There are numerous links to be found online for home-based business success stories, for example, from About.com, from WomenHomeBusiness.com, and from the West Australian Government’s Home Business Network.
Upcoming posts in this series
In the next two posts on the topic of Working from Home and Loving It I will be looking at and hopefully demolishing a couple more myths about home based business, the myth of isolation and the myth of financial insecurity.
Are there other myths I haven’t thought of? Do you have a different take on perceptions that hold people back or undermine their efforts in home based business? I hope you will share so we can all learn.