Last week I had some people disagreeing with or at least questioning the underlying argument of my post on the “myth of isolation”, one of a series on working from home and loving it.

In response to one of those comments, I explained that I had been using “myth” not in the sense in which it is often used these days, that is of a fable, or a story that is simply untrue, but rather in the sense (from MS Encarta no less) of “a narrative that through many retellings has become an accepted tradition in a society”.

But while I am happy sticking to my guns about the myth of isolation, I know too that I have been putting off writing this next post in the series, on the myth of financial insecurity.

The little voice in my ear was saying “How can you seriously claim that, for people working from home, financial insecurity is a ‘myth’? Surely if you have your own business from home you are going to have less financial security than your next door neighbor who heads off each day to her well-paid job, with health and other benefits, in a major corporation.”

No doubt.

But we know that that picture can change. And is changing for many, at a much faster rate than any of us can afford to be complacent about.

The trouble is, we humans often take time to adjust to changes in our circumstances. When we apply that to the job market, we know that in some economies in relatively recent history there used to be what amounted to being “jobs for life“. As long as you showed up each day, kept your head down and did your job, you could expect to be there till it came time to retire. It can be hard to get over that mental conditioning.

So let me be very clear here. I’m not saying there is no financial insecurity involved in having a home based business. There is financial insecurity in any business.

I am saying that the level of financial insecurity inherent in having a home based business needs to be put in perspective and weighed against the financial insecurity – in the contemporary economic climate – of what used to be called “a steady job”.

Yes, part of us might still be yearning for the return of those “good old days”. But our conscious mind knows that, right now, you don’t have to look far, whether in mainstream media or online, to see that whatever field you are in that idea of a job for life is as dead as the dodo.

Under the heading Huge job losses signal a shrinking economy, the Christian Science Monitor Global Credit Crisis Blog this weekend spelled out some of what the deepening recession means in terms of the US job market:

The latest evidence of the intensifying economic storm came on Friday when the Labor Department reported that the economy shed 240,000 jobs in October, the second worst month of the year – after a revised loss of 284,000 jobs in September. The nation’s unemployment rate looked even more dire, skyrocketing to 6.5 percent in October, up from 6.1 percent in September and the highest level since February 1994.

It’s worldwide. For example, as the BBC reported last week – China job losses prompt exodus – tens of thousands of migrant workers are crowding the rail system as they leave the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou after losing their jobs.

And it’s not just jobs that have gone or are at risk. Home ownership, life savings and investments have been either put at great risk or even swept away in the tsunami of the global credit crisis.

No doubt, in certain industries and with certain skill sets, some people can estimate that, on the balance of probabilities, they will be safe in their jobs for the foreseeable future and as a corollary will be able to meet mortgage payments and other expenses without undue stress. For many others, the future must look somewhat cloudy at best.

It’s in relation to that broader economic environment and in the sense of “relative to the financial security of a regular job in an office or factory” that I refer to the “myth of financial insecurity” in working from home.

And, given the times, given the headlines, might it not be a kind of insurance to test one’s aptitude for business by establishing some form of part-time business from home while still having a “regular” job?

Developing a business from home in this way, however modestly, can help us develop our business skills and make us more self-reliant, less dependent for our long-term livelihood on the goodwill of others, such as employers, less dependent on the concept, now regarded in some circles as – at best – quaint, of company loyalty to staff. If down the track you really want or need to have a full time business from home you will have better skills than if you had to start cold. You will also have the benefit of starting to learn an essential mindset or skill for long-term business success, that of thinking like a business owner, not like an employee.

For anyone is attracted to the idea of working from home but troubled by the financial risk aspect of having a home based business, I recommend reading Tim Ferriss’ book “The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. Even if you don’t want to follow everything he suggests, the book is a marvellous challenge to a number of commonly held views and attitudes which may not serve us well in terms of the future of workand business.

And on the flip side of the financial security issue, there can be some quantifiable financial benefits in having your own business, working from home. For example, considering the Benjamin Franklin principle, “a penny saved is a penny earned”, think of how much more money you can earn by:

  • no gasoline or bus or train fare needed for the 30 second commute to your home office/desk
  • getting lunch from the fridge, not the local diner (tip: we regularly cook more for dinner so we can heat some up for lunch the next day)
  • not having to put in for special occasion presents for staff members (including the ones you have hardly met and may not even like)
  • not going for drinks after work (plus the added benefit of not saying things you may later regret!)
  • serious reduction in the need for an elaborate work wardrobe
  • tax benefits (don’t guess about these or rely on web research – consult your accountant, please!)

I know that as a long-term home business owner, a lifer so to speak, I am biased. Whether you agree or disagree with my views, I hope you will take the opportunity to share with us in the comments your point of view, your story, your tips on the issue of financial security/insecurity in having a home based business.

In the next post on this series I’ll be looking at some of the pleasures of working from home.

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