It's not that I'm lazy... I just want to sleep later
March 7, 2008 7:29 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I want to work from home. Know any good companies?

My wife and I, at the ripe old ages of 25 and 27, have decided that we're tired of working. Unfortunately, we're neither independently wealthy nor lucky enough to know anyone who is that we could mooch off of. I think we'd both be happy enough if we could find a job we could work from home. I'm more than a little scared, however, to try my hand at finding something we can do from home that isn't actually some scam, as 9/10's of what I'm finding out there seems to be. So I'm hoping some good mefite has an idea of a company that offers good money for... whatever. Both my wife and I work in finance right now (collections, specifically), but we're both very IT-savvy, we're both quick learners, and we're not looking to make millions. We're happy with the way our lives are now, we just don't want to work so much anymore. Any ideas?
posted by Bageena to Work & Money (28 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Working from home does not mean working less. It just means that you'll be working from your house.

If it's a job you love, chances are you'll work a little more than you used to.

/works from home.
posted by unixrat at 7:40 AM on March 7, 2008

Bageena said: "My wife and I, at the ripe old ages of 25 and 27, have decided that we're tired of working. ...Unfortunately, we're neither independently wealthy nor lucky enough to know anyone who is that we could mooch off of. ...We're happy with the way our lives are now, we just don't want to work so much anymore. Any ideas?"

I think you might be confused by what it means to work from home. Working from home is still work. You still have to be at your desk by a certain time, still have to be logged into the company intranet or VPN by a certain time, still have to be available for calls and meetings first thing in the morning, expected to be available all the way through to the close of business.

In fact, a lot of people who work from home report that they actually work more than they did when they worked 9-to-5 in an office (as unixrat just pointed out) -- when you are away from the corporate environment, it's often harder to take the same breaks for lunch, coffee, stretch your legs, etc. You think, "Eh, I'll just press through on this one piece, and break later" -- then you look up and it's 4 pm and you haven't been away from the computer since you sat down at 8 am.

So if you're looking for a way to mooch off the Man while lounging around and catching Oprah and the View, in your bathrobes, I'm not sure that you're bringing the right perspective to successful telecommuting.

And I say this not to judge or criticize, but because employers realize that working from home is not right for everyone (i.e. not everyone can do it productively and in a way that adds value for the company), and that it can be an expensive mistake to make (such as providing equipment, access, supplies, training, and so on, to someone who doesn't work out). Therefore, they often look very, very carefully at the personal skills and motivations of someone who is asking to telecommute. It is often internal candidates who get that perk opportunity first -- someone who is already familiar with the corporate culture, already knows the ropes. I happened to get a position as an external candidate where I office from home, but I'm truly the only person I know to whom that's happened; most people I know who get to work from home were long-time desk jockeys first, and had already proven themselves to the management as able to self-supervise, meet deadlines without hand-holding, take loads of initiative, and work well in the isolated environment of not having managers or a team nearby.

A company who wants to pay you a full-time salary for working from home is going to expect to see an inordinate amount of work ethic, dedication, and also very unique experience in the field. If you can't offer that, then why would they bother with hiring someone brand new? So, rather than cast about for any company that might have you, I'd look closely within first -- at what skills you already have that you can polish into a unique HR asset.
posted by pineapple at 7:49 AM on March 7, 2008

As a college senior who's looking at IT jobs right now, I've seen that a lot of the large companies have programs in place where you work at the office for a few months (3, 9, 12, whatever) and after that time you're able to start doing a few days at home.
posted by pete0r at 7:57 AM on March 7, 2008

If you have any savings, now is an excellent time to purchase real estate. You could be landlords. You will have to keep your day jobs at first, but once you build up a successful real estate portfolio at least one of you should be able to devote a greater percentage of time to managing your real estate investments. Note that this is not necessarily "working from home" in the traditional sense - you're going to have to be available to show the property, and you will have to be at the property to perform upgrades and repairs. You will also get calls in the middle of the night about toilets overflowing and such.

Working from home actually entails working MORE, not less in most cases. You have to be extremely disciplined and focused with a strong work ethic.
posted by Ostara at 8:08 AM on March 7, 2008

Ditto on the above, working from home usually means at least 50/hrs a week, you just have a teensy bit more flexibility. Sleeping in late isn't usually one of them, unless you just stayed up til 1am working and got permission. You might want to look for a job with flex-time or option to work from home one or two days. Usually it starts with that before moving to telecommuting in my experience, at least in more skilled fields. (Note: Also look up the many other threads on this topic.)
posted by ejaned8 at 8:09 AM on March 7, 2008

Are you super-introverted people who dislike a lot of human contact? Because working at home might be perfect for you, but if you're even the slightest bit extroverted, you are going to go crazy. My husband is one of those people who thrives on human contact, and he works from home about 75 percent of the time. He hates it. He's on the phone a lot, but it just doesn't make up for face-to-face interaction with co-workers.

And, as pineapple said, you work a LOT. My husband works a lot, and sometimes feels compelled to work during the weekend because hey... his computer is right there, and his Outlook is open. Whereas I can't even check my work e-mail from anywhere but work.

He gets really clingy sometimes when I get home, because there are some days where I am literally the only person he sees. Are you and your wife prepared to be the only people you see most days?

Have you considered jobs where you're not stuck in the office for 100 percent of the time? I'm a reporter and I'm only in the office about 60 percent of my work week because I'm out doing interviews and going to meetings. It's great - I used to have jobs where I was chained to my desk all day, but I much prefer being in the office sometimes and being outside or in new & different locations other times.

I'm just throwing this out there as an advisory. I think, when you're in an office all day, working at home sounds great - you can work in your pajamas, you can eat whenever you want, you have free coffee. It sounds like every day is Saturday. But the reality is that it's not like that at all. It's hard work and it can be very isolating.
posted by sutel at 8:15 AM on March 7, 2008

We're happy with the way our lives are now, we just don't want to work so much anymore. Any ideas?

Understand the connection between effort and income?

I realize that the two aren't always correlated, but in most cases they are. There's no such thing as "not working so much" and still making a decent income, at least not in my experience.

Today is my last day at a traditional job. From here on out, I'll be working at home. I'll be maintaining a web site that generates enough income to support me. Sounds like a dream, yeah? Except that for the past two years, I've poured nearly every waking hour into the site, and except for the fact that I'll continue to work on the site eight hours a day every day for the foreseeable future.

I know several other people who work from home doing various real jobs. (Not internet-based scams.) You know what? They all work hard. Damn hard. Working from home doesn't mean the easy life. It's just a different life. That's why we choose to do it. Although we're working a lot, we're working at something we love. This time is ours.

If you're really looking for inspiration on things you can do at home, check out The Millionaire Maker. It's not a great book, and it won't give you any specific ideas, but it helped me realize that I could make a go of it on my own. It's inspirational more than anything. (Don't get sucked into the seminars the book tries to sell, either. I hear they're a rip-off.)
posted by jdroth at 8:24 AM on March 7, 2008

Not to burst the bubble of hope ejaned8 offers, but as someone who works from home about 40% of the time? I often work longer and get more done on the days I'm off-site. And I never sleep later. I have this arrangement because my office relocated farther away from my house, not because I wanted to work less. Had that been my goal, I'd be extremely unhappy right now.

If the reason you want to work from home is because you're tired of working, I strongly recommend considering other angles to solve that problem.
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:28 AM on March 7, 2008

Automattic (maker of Wordpress) has no office. Everyone works from home and coordinates on IRC. They have no set office hours, and they fly everyone to two all-hands meetings a year.
posted by mkb at 8:30 AM on March 7, 2008

If you're still working for the man but telecommuting, I think you're still stuck with more or less normal working hours. If you're a freelancer, it's a different story. As a freelancer, you can pick and choose when you want to work. This is true on a micro level and a macro level—you can say "I'm not going to work until noon today" or "I'm not going to work in September." Obviously you're limited by keeping your clients happy, and some might become very unhappy if you took a month off. But the time flexibility can make it feel like you have more time.

The time landscape of freelancing can be very different than office work. I'm convinced there's a lot of unproductive time at offices. With freelancing, if I'm working, I'm generating income (I have a friend who even bills his customers for the time he spends assembling their bills—I don't go quite that far). So all the time you spend in meetings, yakking on the phone, etc, at work is gone (my work involves zero phone calls and maybe 5 minutes/day of e-mail and administrivia). If an 8-hour day really only has 5-6 hours of productive work, and you can do that from home, you win.

There is a third way, and that is freelancing in-office. I've had very little experience with this, but in the office where my wife works, they have contractors on-site that get a very high hourly wage. These people are in-demand enough that they can work when they want and take time off when they want.

All the usual caveats of freelancing apply. You have to pay self-employment tax and you have to pay quarterly income tax—so cut at least 30% off that big fat check, right when you get it. You need the discipline not to spend all day on MeFi (err…). You need to be running your own business, and all that entails. A married couple with two unpredictable incomes can get into some really tight circumstances. Etc.

Full disclosure: I've been a freelancer almost all my working life.
posted by adamrice at 9:08 AM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Cut the soles out of your shoes, climb a tree, and learn to play the flute.

Seriously, if you want a not-work-so-much lifestyle with new cars and DVDs and eating out five times a week, you need to be independently wealthy... or sell dope. If you're okay with a slacker lifestyle with home-made music, hanging out with friends, and beans and vegetables from your own garden -- a garden in a rural, depressed area -- you can get by with not much money at all. You could buy an old VW microbus and travel from art fair to art fair, selling hand made trinkets and have lots and lots of fun and adventures.

It's all about managing expectations. What do you want from life?

I'd be happy earning less money but I have support payments to make for five more years, so I'm stuck keeping a foot in the rat race.

Good on you for considering alternatives.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:15 AM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm only 21 and I'm a freelancer/work-at-hom-er. I have two companies (IT and writing/editing) and I love it.

My experience was graduating from school, working for the man for a few months, then getting out and doing my own thing. I went against nearly every piece of advice (in terms of money, length of time at the job, etc). I didn't have six to nine months of money saved up when I quit. I had one month's worth. I wasn't going to be instantly making enough money to be paying for everything, but with what I was making from clients and a big contract I got when I quit, I had enough to make the bare necessity ends meet. Right now I'm working on a proposal that I'm 90% sure I'm going to get to do SEO work for a local company which will finally enable me to treat myself to some pleasures and save some money. It can be stressful, but I'm loving every minute of my day sitting in front of my desk at my apartment. Sometimes I'll go to my fiance's family's house and work there all day, and it's equally enjoyable and productive.

My point is that working from home is what you make of it. I wouldn't recommend that everyone do it, because it does take a lot of discipline, and like everyone else has said, a LOT more work than working in a cube farm. Thankfully, I saw my father working for himself since I was about 12, so that gave me a lot of inspiration to be motivated. (What motivated me the most was to get out of a @*$%ing cubicle, but that's another story.)

I'd recommend writing and editing, since that's where I got my huge break. Try sites that have a good reputation, scour Craigslist all over the nation (that's where I get most of my small jobs from) and never give up. It took about 3 months of working every spare minute I wasn't at my 8-5 before I had enough stuff built up that I could quit. All of the circumstances weren't perfect, but if you wait until everything's perfect, you'll probably never get out.

My 2c, FWIW. MeMail me for some good sites that I've gotten a large chunk of money out of for writing ($4000+), and for some advice on how to search all of Craigslist at once.
posted by omnipotentq at 9:22 AM on March 7, 2008 [7 favorites]

It's not that I'm trying to go against what almost everybody else is saying, and I don't want to make working at home sound like utopia. But for me, working at home means working much less. (Don't hit me!) It depends on what you mean by "working at home." You're asking about companies that will allow you to work at home, which is different than working for yourself. And if you work for yourself, you can actually decide how much you want to work.

My situation is that, as a freelancer, my hourly rate is three times what it was when I worked as a salaried employee. Some things cost more now (health insurance, taxes) and some things cost less (commute, dry cleaning). I used to work 40+ hours/week, and now I work 20-30.

Of course, if I wanted to make more money, I'd have to actually work more. But my motivation to freelance was to have more time off. So everyone's results may vary.

I'd have no idea how to find a company to work for from my home. That would be nice: stability plus sleeping an extra hour or so.
posted by iguanapolitico at 9:28 AM on March 7, 2008

I had job where I worked at home a few days and went in to an office some days. While I did not work less I think I can say I didn't work more either. I did have more flexibility with exactly what chunks of the day I did work, which was nice.

You are in IT so at least you have some skills that work well remotely. I don't think you should look for "work from home" jobs but rather look up companies who would value your skills, then check out their job situations and see what their policies are on remote working. You might want to start by checking off-beat job sites (like the one here, 37signals job board, etc.).

Your biggest concern whether working remotely for another company or working freelance is likely to be health insurance.
posted by mikepop at 9:53 AM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Are you handy at all? There are lots of couples hired to manage properties--small hotels, apartment buildings, etc. One usually handles the paperwork, the other the maintanence issues. It gives you some flexibility but also ties you down, if that makes sense. Think carefully before you decide because you are quite literally living at your job and sometimes it can eat you alive if you aren't good at setting boundaries with people. When I did it I had people knocking on my door at midnight because they saw the light on. If it wasn't an emergency those people got chopped off at the knees. You must be able to be reasonable yet protect your own privacy and down time. If you have the type of personality, it can work out quite well-- I recently saw an ad for a couple to manage an ocean front motel and attached restaurant and it paid over $50,000 for the couple plus free housing. Keep in mind it would also be a lot of work.
posted by 45moore45 at 9:53 AM on March 7, 2008

Seems like you are asking two different questions:

1) How can we work from home and make decent money?
2) How can we work less hours and make decent money?

You may be able to do both, but you should probably figure out which is most important to you. You are explicitly asking 1) but it sounds like you're implicitly asking 2). Or maybe you think they're somehow the same thing. (As everyone's said, they're not; in fact I'm not sure they're even correlated at all.) But if you haven't already, you should seriously think about whether an outside-the-home part-time job would fit your needs and preferences.

If 2) is really your priority, then your question is really "What are some part-time jobs (or self-employment opportunities that usually require only part-time committment) that pay decently well and aren't a scam? Preferably but not necessarily from home." I'd suggest checking out the AskMes tagged part-time (here or here, depending on your spelling) and maybe resubmitting your question if you don't find what you're looking for there.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 9:56 AM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

My husband works for Microsoft and in his building, there aren't enough offices, so people who are willing to give up having an office are assigned to work from home. They do have to come in occasionally (once a week?) and when they do, work in a communal office.

But you can't just apply at Microsoft and say "I want one o' them work-from-home jobs." You need to establish yourself as someone they want and trust, generally by working there, in the office, for a few years. But once you do, it's a company that's very flexible and giving about telecommuting, in many jobs.
posted by GaelFC at 10:15 AM on March 7, 2008

more often than not, if you are freelancing or contracting—i.e. working for yourself, you are often working more not less than in an office environment. this is because in addition to doing your actual work, you are also taking care of all the work involved in running a business: acquiring business/clients, billing/invoicing, collecting, etc, etc. also, it is up to you to motivate yourself because you don't have a boss sitting around the corner doing that for you.

as for trying to find a gig where a company pays you a salary but allows you to work at home—those are very few and far between. most of the people i know who have this set up (read: two) have previously worked for the company in-house and a situation arose (i.e. a spouse got a job in another city) and they were able to negotiate with the company to keep their job, check in every month or so by flying back, but work from home.
posted by violetk at 10:18 AM on March 7, 2008

Many, many companies will let you work from home, at least some of the time -- have you asked your current company?

Then, there is working for yourself, consulting (higher hourly rates) or being a massage therapist or something else you can't physically do 40 hours/week so hourly pay is higher. Before you think about any of those, you should try calculating what your take-home will be after paying for your health insurance and self employment tax (after deducting your home office space). There are two reasons: those significantly cut into your take-home pay; and if all that tax paperwork seems too much to deal with, you're not ready to be a consultant.
posted by salvia at 10:25 AM on March 7, 2008

Bageena: I'm more than a little scared, however, to try my hand at finding something we can do from home that isn't actually some scam, as 9/10's of what I'm finding out there seems to be.

Here's a good guideline for all of these pie-in-the-sky questions that crop up on AskMe- if there were a way to get more by doing less, we'd all be doing it.

There are certainly exceptions to this, but the general rule of thumb is that people who can earn good money working fewer hours from home are skilled enough in their specific area that they can charge high enough rates to cover when they're not working. You need to identify that skill for yourself or acquire one- typically, though, that comes at the tail end of several years working on-site.
posted by mkultra at 10:58 AM on March 7, 2008

Here, I'll summarize the premise of "work at home" part of that book for you- become an intermediary. Identify a business, outsource all of your labor, and live off the markup.

Here's the wrinkle- Ferriss is very smart and motivated, and had capital to start with. It's certainly possible to achieve the goals he outlines, but it takes a lot of up-front work, and you won't see the lifestyle or financial rewards for a long time, if ever.

I'll say it again- if get rich quick/work less strategies really worked, we'd all be doing them.
posted by mkultra at 11:25 AM on March 7, 2008

to clarify the above -- you don't get to sleep in late. usually you start earlier. the hours just vary more, so if you're a nightowl you may be able to get permission for a slight variation. e.g., you might work 9-5 one day. 8am-11pm another day to meet a deadline. then 10am-6pm the next day.
posted by ejaned8 at 11:53 AM on March 7, 2008

I'm part of one of two remote Tech Support teams at my company. I love my job and the company and I never want to leave it. They fly us out to the office a couple of times a year and we, like Automattic, chill out in IRC as a team the rest of the time. It's fantastic. That said, I work more and harder now than I ever have at a 9-5 in an office. The work is here and I'm here, and there are things to be done - since I'm a perfectionist, I stay up to do it.

However, I do have awesome hours in that other than being on for a few hours at a specified time (in my case 9pm-12am EST), I get to make the rest of my hours myself. I work with an excellent, dedicated team and for a manager who takes good care of us. All of this makes working long hours on potentially exhausting things completely worth it.

As others have suggested, check out some IT companies, blogging companies, etc. Most of those require specific technical knowledge (different coding languages, operating systems and blogging platforms, for instance), but more and more of them employ remote teams.

You'll be working at least as much, if not more than you do at the office; you'll just be doing it from your couch.
posted by mewithoutyou at 1:11 PM on March 7, 2008

You don't sound like you want to telecommute. You sound like you'd like a way to make money while working at home and managing your hours. As suggested above, you may want to look into consulting or freelancing. To get started, you should do a personal inventory of your skills ,experience and education, unless you have a definite idea of what you should do. Once you figure out what you're suited to doing, you can start researching the market.

If limiting your hours is important, you want to find something you can do for a high hourly rate. Let's say you have enough experience to do something that pays $50 an hour. If you bill for 10 hours a week and take a couple of weeks for vacation/sick leave, you'll make around $24k a year. If you make $75 an hour and bill 7 hours a week, you would make about the same. Note that these are billable hours. You can expect to work more hours (unpaid) in the beginning as you look for clients and learn the ropes. However, by eliminating your commute and gaining flexibility, you might not mind putting in that initial work. And it doesn't have to be 40 hours a week. In fact, you could start looking for work now and look to transition once you've got 7 regular billable hours a week, for example.

I run a blog on consulting (see profile). I encourage people to start off slow and build up. If you're really extroverted (I am!), you should look at ways to combat home office isolation. Make this part of your plan.
posted by acoutu at 2:29 PM on March 7, 2008

Try corporations, they seem to be more flexibility on this depending on what division you join and what your job title is. It doesn't have to be IT or Tech. In our group, we have PMs, managers, etc., who have the capability of working from home whenever we feel like it. However, usually those people are also the people who travel a lot too, hence, been given the ability to be able to work from anywhere.

It might be a hit-and-miss though, one person from another team was not allowed to work from home despite being a great worker and multiple requests while I was given the capability to work from home on day one without any request on my part.
posted by vocpanda at 4:49 PM on March 7, 2008

Also, working from home does not necessarily mean working less. I cut out 2 hrs of commute time but I'm also less productive, more stressed, and work odd hours when I do work from home. I actually try to work at the office as much as possible these days and only work from home when the workload is light.
posted by vocpanda at 4:52 PM on March 7, 2008

Do you have any sales or training experience/skill? My company is East Coast-based, but has many salespeople located around the country since they're physically closer to their territory. Same goes for me; I'm a software trainer who works from home and most of my clients are west of the Rockies. My coworkers back east are happy they don't have to spend an entire day flying out to visit clients on the west coast anymore, so it works out nicely. I had to put in several years in the physical office and prove myself as a hard working, dependable employee to get this situation. For the most part it's been great, but can be very isolating and difficult to maintain focus at times. I don't think a work at home gig has to involve more hours than a traditional office job, but you have to have really good discipline.
posted by medeine at 6:46 PM on March 7, 2008

I'm 100% work from home for my employer -- my nearest corporate office is 5 hours drive away. I am not the normal WFH employee; I've been working from home almost full time for about 7 years now, and it took a lot of time to determine that it really would be OK.

The thing that made it OK in my case is that nobody I work with is based in the same country as me anyway; so the only benefits of being in an office would be social. You have to be aware, though, that this can be a huge factor. Like many have said above, it can be very isolating. Being able to help out for a few minutes with the kids, zero commute time, and living somewhere that I can see the ocean from my office window count very much on the positive side.

I work much more from home than I would if I were in an office; it's 11:50pm now, and I've just finished checking work email -- on Saturday night. This is not abnormal for me; but I love what I do, and I'm a key player, so I feel that I have a personal stake in what's going on.

This is the nub of successfully working from home: you have to *want* to do the work anyway, enough to keep you in the habit of actually working instead of slacking off.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 4:55 AM on March 8, 2008

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