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So you want to work from home. Good luck with that.

So you want to work from home. Good luck with that.

It’s Friday afternoon better known as panic time. You haven’t shaved in a week and you’re still in the same sweats and T-shirt you were wearing two days ago. You don’t give it a second thought though because right now you’re only focused on the the fact that your deadline is due in 2 hours and 47 minutes which is totally doable except you’ve been working 16 hours days for the past week, the dog still needs to go out, you have to pick your kid up in 1/2 an hour from school and you have an online meeting in 15 minutes. Don’t worry though you’ve got this. Working from home is a piece of cake. You’ve got this.

The work at home challenge

Everybody wants to work from home until they work from home. I’ve been doing this since I first started my business 30 years ago. I love it but I know it’s not for everybody. The challenge of balancing home-life and work-life takes a lot of practice. It’s become much more practical over the years with a more reliable internet, hour tracking programs and online meeting capabilities but forming boundaries is still the biggest challenge. Here are five nonnegotiable rules of advice er …survival for anyone who is thinking, “Oh hey, this might be fun.”

1-Maintain the illusion as long as possible.

Tell no one you work from home. No one. There are two reasons for this. The first is you will immediately become the car-pool-number-one-go-to-driver. The second is anyone who wears a suit and sits in a corner office will think of you as a slacker “who couldn’t make it” in the real business world.

As soon as it’s known you work from home people automatically assume you’re job is unimportant and you spend your days eating bon-bons and watching Saved by the Bell reruns. Both of which are probably true but neither of which they need to know. They have no idea you easily double their monthly billable hours in the first three days of your week. So while they are taking a 3 martini business lunch at the 13th Hole Shady Acres Country Club you are sweating out the finishing touches on your proposal while sitting in your mobile office changing diapers in the after-school marching band car pool lane.

Tell no one. Quietly eat your bon-bons and tell no one.

2-Regardless of what you have been lead to believe you will not have all the spare time you think people who work at home do.

It is an illusion perpetrated by romantic comedies and misinformed online newspaper columnists. Your neighbor who runs every day at lunch worked her ass off to gain enough space in her day just to make that happen. In order to have spare time, you will need to craftily plot and plan for weeks then guard it like your life depends on it or at least your sanity because it does. If you doubt me please go back and reread rule number 1.

3-Do your best to maintain a schedule.

Most days you will work longer hours than your counterparts in the full-time business world. Those lucky stiffs get to go home at 5 and forget about their jobs until the following morning. Not you. You will be working late into the wee hours of the morning because you were balancing your work-life and your personal life all afternoon (see rule one). I know, I know, You tell yourself this is just a one-time thing you’ll never allow yourself to work this late again but deep down you know that’s not true. This is the new norm for you. These are your new hours… forever. Welcome to hell.

4- Kids they are great.

Kids are great until they are your only friends. If you’re not careful working from home will quickly isolate you from the rest of society with the exception of your children who are only forced to be with you only because there’s nowhere for them to run. Once confined to conversations with young children you will eventually lose touch with the outside world until you find yourself living in a cocoon of sugary breakfast cereals and afternoon public television programming. It begins slowly at first but eventually, you will gradually lose all cognitive functioning until you are no longer be able to carry on adult conversations even if you wanted to.

Have at least one or two self-employed friends you can meet up with or talk to without the kids around. This is where you will reclaim your sanity so you can function for another day. Kids are great but they are not a substitute for adult interaction.

5- There is no dress code for the self-employed home office worker.

Most days you will show up to work in sweats and a coffee stained t-shirt that you found rumpled in a corner. 90% of the time you will think this is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to any human ever. No more monkey suits for you, from here on in you wear whatever you want. Comfort is your only guideline.

All of which is great and good until one day you have to take a business meeting in person with a big client. No problem, you think as you walk into your closet flick on the light and to your horror suddenly realize all you own are the torn sweatpants you’re wearing, a few other stained T-shirt’s and a couple of old outfits from your office days that are completely out of style and no longer fit even if they weren’t made in the early 90s. You will discover this 45 minutes before your meeting which according to google maps is a 38-minute drive from your house (not counting the late afternoon traffic and highway construction).

Always maintain at least one outfit you can wear to an important business meeting or event. Do not try to buy a new outfit any time within 72 hours of a scheduled meeting. Hours convert to minutes as soon as the 72-hour countdown clock begins. If by some Christmas miracle you are able to get to a clothing store do yourself a favor and leave the kids at home… do not delude yourself into thinking of your children as mini fashion consultants. Kids are terrible at picking out adult clothing. They will trick you into buying things you think are cool but will just leave you looking like a sad confused cartoon character in your next business meeting. Love your kids but leave them at home for this one.

Welp, that’s it. I hope I’ve totally discouraged those of you who are considering leaving the safety of cushy office lives for the insanity that is working from home (mostly because those of us who work from home love the fact that it’s easy to get around town while you’re all in the office) but for those of you who I haven’t shaken loose good luck and welcome to the greatest adventure you’ll ever love.