In the first post in this series Working From Home and Loving It we looked at and hopefully demolished the myth that a home based business was not a “real” business.

The isolation myth

Our next target in the myth department is that having a home based business means you will have to contend with isolation.

I have to say that in my twenty years of working from home I have never felt the slightest bit isolated and I can say, hand on heart, that in mixing over those years, online and offline, with others who work from home I have never heard anyone complain about isolation.

But I have to acknowledge that it would be an understandable perception by people who are used to working in physical proximity to a number of other people.

I have to acknowledge too that I have often read that isolation is a challenge for people in home based business and I have noticed specific examples of where people working from home mentioned that they felt isolated.

Here are some examples, from a Google search just now, with what I feel are fairly typical observations on the subject of “challenge of home based business isolation”:

AllBusiness – “Feeling isolated and alone can be one of the greatest challenges of working from home. There’s no companionship at the water cooler, and most of the time the radio and the TV will be your only company. It’s no secret that the quiet can get to you.”

Advisor Garage – “One of the most unexpected challenges for many home business owners is the feeling of isolation.”

SCORE – “A major challenge in operating a home-based business is isolation from distributors, merchants, clients and interested parties.”

New South Wales, Australia, State Government department site – “We know that home-based business operators may face special problems, such as isolation…”

You might want to check out the other 335,000 returns on the search, but I think the point is made: there is a view abroad that one of the biggest challenges in having a business you run from home is isolation. But all the statements above are generalizations, not supported – as far as I can see – by statistically based evidence.

I’m not saying there is no statistical evidence, just that I haven’t seen it.

Other issues more important

I did check one research-based source on home based business, Home Based Business: the Hidden Economy the study I mentioned in the previous post in this series, to see whether isolation featured there as a key challenge for home based business.Β  Other issues seemed to be more important.

There continue to be problems faced by small, home-based businesses. These problems include: access to credit for those owners wishing to expand; difficulties on how to establish a presence on the Internet; the burdens of local zoning and use restrictions in residential neighborhoods; and the challenge of how to expand their customer base without leaving the home for a commercial location.

I’ll accept that some people might have felt isolated, having a home based business in, say, 1978 or even 1988, especially if they lived in a small town or village.

Communication tools

But hey! Anybody noticed we have the Internet now? And have had, for quite a few years. In fact, even if a sense of isolation was a problem in the past, I would hazard a guess that these days, what with Facebook and FriendFeed and Twitter and Skype and the rest of the panoply of communication tools, one of the biggest challenges for a lot of people running home based businesses is that they are plugged into a 24/7/365 stream of connectivity with others around the world.

In 2008, as home based business owners, we might well feel at times that we could do with a bit of isolation so we can get on with our work!

So in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, I feel absolutely confident in declaring that for any home based business owner in 2008 and going forward, any continuing sense of being isolated is not warranted.

For those of a contrary view

But what of those who do not relate well to the online networking experience?

My first response is, as kindly as I can say it and with the intention of being truly helpful, that you need to get over that and learn how to communicate more effectively online. More and more business is being done online. To use the jargon, join in the conversation.

The Cluetrain Manifesto is still a great read in this respect, all these years on.

Then I would say, to complement the benefits of joining the online conversation, why not either find or create your own networks to enable you to meet people offline. There are groups such as BNI.

Or, as I say, you could set up your own network: you might be surprised to find how willing people are to get together to talk and learn about business.

I have done this myself. I live in a country town where there is not the same plethora of offline networking opportunities I had in the city, so with another local businessman I founded a group which meets from time to time over a breakfast coffee: we get other local business owners to speak and share their expertise. To be able to mingle with people more focused on social media issues, I have been instrumental in founding, with help from other social media enthusiasts there, a local chapter of Social Media Club in the city of Brisbane, about an hour and a half from where I live.

I’m sure others have good suggestions about how to deal with any sense of isolation or loneliness in our home based businesses.

If, even with these suggestions, you still experience a sense of isolation in your home based business, I do sympathize. Running a business from home is, in my view, not for everyone.

One more possibility, if you want your own business but want to work in proximity to others of compatible disposition and interest, you could check to see if in your city there is one of the coworking centers where you can have your own space or desk but without the full cost of setting up your own office.

Summing up and invitation

I do believe the isolation bogy is a myth and I hate the idea that it could discourage people from setting up a home based business. But If you disagree and feel of a mind to offer some push back, that would be very welcome too.

If you agree with me, then let’s label the Isolation Myth clearly for what it is, a myth, and a counter-productive one at that, so we can all get on with enjoying our home based businesses, building and enjoying the incredible, global networks of colleagues, suppliers, advisors, customers and potential customers the Web now makes available to us for the asking.

And if you have other suggestions as to how home based business owners can deal with any feelings of isolation, I hope you will share.

Next in the series

Given the current parlous state of the world’s economies, my choice of theme for the next in this series, the myth of financial insecurity, may seem at best Quixotic. But I shall press on! Watch this space.

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