Working from home has its pros and cons. Conveyancer Jennifer Everingham shares how she makes it work.
Jennifer Everingham of Everingham Conveyancing shares her insights on working from home.
Prior to working from home, I worked for the Blue Mountains City Council for 15 years. Part of the role involved having to undertake study in a relevant field, so I enrolled in a conveyancing course. Once I attained my licence, I decided to leave council and work for myself.
When I started my conveyancing business, I wanted to keep my overheads to a minimum so I started working from home. That was 17 years ago and I've learnt a lot along the way.
Enjoying the freedom of working from home
Personally, working from home has had huge advantages, the most significant of which was being able to be with my partner when she was ill.
I was able to divert the office phone to the mobile and be at the hospital for half the day. There were some days I would even take my computer in and work from there.
I kept the business ticking along and my clients stuck by me because I was honest and still able to do the work for them.
Tackling the challenges of working from home
When you work from home, it’s crucial that you discipline yourself and dedicate the time required to get the job done. Make sure you’re actually getting dressed in the morning and going to the office.
Quite simply, if you don't do the work, you don't get paid. You learn very quickly how to use the hours you have effectively. And you need to recognise that there may be some days when you’re working from 6am until 8pm.
Challenge #1: Creating an office environment
For me, the biggest challenge at first was trying to create a suitable office environment in my home. Initially, the layout meant people were walking through the house to get to my office.
In my current home, a generously sized office is right inside the front door of the house. This means clients can come straight into the office and I can close the door. When I finish up at night, I can really differentiate the office space from the home space.
Clients are aware that they're coming into your house, but it must look as professional as possible. If you can't change the layout of your house, it may be worth investing in a physical barrier, even some movable screens, to make this distinction.
Challenge #2: Relying on yourself
As a sole practitioner working from home, there are no other employees to have your back.
This means taking a break can be quite a challenge. You have to figure out how to accommodate your clients' requirements and still make sure you get some time out.
Sometimes that involves finding a locum and paying them. It can be expensive, but I've found it's a good solution.
Challenge #3: Being able to switch off
You may have some clients who think because you work from home, you’re available 24 hours, seven days a week. They’ll try calling at all hours of the day or even on weekends.
The solution here is to set up the expectation from the outset. For example, be disciplined about not responding out of hours. Even if you see an email on your phone, resist the temptation to shoot off a quick reply. Just reply in the morning. Don't give people the wrong impression about your availability.
Working from home can be ideal for some people, but it can be difficult for others. If you're thinking about making the switch, consider your individual circumstances and whether you think you can make it work for you.