What Working From Home Really Looks Like

You know those Facebook memes that go something like “This is what my friends think I do. This is what society thinks I do. This is what I think I do. This is what I really do” and then they have cute little pictures that describe each of these sentences? Well, that’s what I feel like when I think about the realities of working from home.

Don’t get me wrong…the things I’m about to say in this post don’t mean that I don’t like working for myself. They just mean that working from home isn’t exactly what it seems to those who don’t work from home.

Some common misconceptions:

1. I can do whatever I want. Well yes, theoretically, I can do whatever I want. I can work or I can not work if I choose to. But if I don’t work, then I don’t get paid.

2. My schedule is flexible. Again, yes and no. Parts of my schedule are flexible, but my groups happen when they happen because the times have to also work with the facility or with my piano students’ schedules. However, the planning and documentation parts of my job are flexible and I can choose to do them whenever I want, but I can tell you it’s a heck of a lot easier to do them during the day while I have childcare than to try to do them while everyone is home. Also, if I don’t do those things, they just pile up until I do them anyway. In my situation, no one else is picking up my slack if I take a day off, so I just plan for the week before and the week after a vacation to be really busy. Oh, and if I’m sick, I usually lay on the couch and try really hard not to think about all the work piling up while I’m too sick to do anything about it.

3. I make lots of money because I get to keep all of it. Ha. This is absolutely not true in my case. I am a music therapist and a travel agent. There is nothing about my jobs that make me a lot of money. Yes, I get to keep all of it before taxes, but I don’t get paid that much to begin with, regardless of the ridiculous amount of education I have, and I also have to pay more taxes than everyone else. See below… Also, I don’t get yearly evaluations or raises. In fact, the only way I get a raise is if I raise my rates, which is difficult to do when everyone is trying to save money.

4. Since you’re home…People sometimes think that since I’m home, I can just keep the kids because you can work while the kids are there, right? WRONG! I can’t take them to my groups most of the time, and if they’re here, the amount of other work I get done is “not a lot.” One perk is that I can have laundry going or the dishwasher going but I don’t always have time to just stop what I’m doing to fold laundry or get other chores done around the house. I actually do have to work.

The realities….

1. I pay more taxes than people who are employed. I get to pay the other half of the FICA tax that other people’s employers pay for them, because I am both the employee and the employer in my businesses. On the other hand, I do get to write of any expenses to my business and not pay taxes on those things, but I also have to use the money I make on my business for those expenses, so it kind of evens out in the end.

2. I don’t get paid for sick days or vacation days. There are no PTO days for me. If I’m sick, I can take that day iff, but I am not paid for any of it. Some of it I can reschedule and some I cannot, so I do lose money when I’m sick. Also, when I take vacation, I am not paid. In fact, my last maternity leave with my son was completely unpaid (yikes!). On a side note, anytime I take a vacation, I have to notify everyone I would normally be working with during those times and let them know I won’t be there at the normal time. And when I’m sick, I don’t just call in to one place and then go back to bed. When I was sick a month or so ago, it took me over 30 minutes to get ahold of everyone I was supposed to have an appointment with that day and I had about 5 phone calls to make. Not fun when you’re already feeling bad.

3. I don’t get benefits. I don’t have insurance or short-term disability options through a company because I work for myself. Luckily, my husband has good insurance options where he works but I just keep my fingers cross that I never seriously injure myself in a way that would make it impossible for me to work.

4. There are a ton of things I just have to do but don’t get paid for. This list is ridiculously long but they include things like:

  • Calling facilities when they haven’t paid to find out why they haven’t paid and when they plan on paying, which is never fun.
  • Filing documentation, which I try to do at the end of each month.
  • Keeping track of my income and expenses so that when tax time rolls around, I have some idea of what is going on in that department. I try to work on this at the end of each month and make sure I’m keeping up with paying quarterly taxes so I don’t owe a huge amount at the end of the year.
  • Rescheduling every time I want to take a day off or someone needs to reschedule with me. I feel like I’m constantly scheduling things.

5. I am always working. If I went to an office and clocked in and out every day, it would be much easier to stop working when I got home. But when you work from home, you start to feel like you are always at work, but then you are also always at home, too, except for when I’m out doing groups. So that means while I’m working, I feel like I need to have laundry going or get the dishes put away if I actually have the chance to take a break. And when I’m “not working” in the evenings, I still feel the need to take phone calls and texts about trips or rescheduling a lesson even though they’re after “business hours.” It is SO hard to separate the two when they are one and the same for you.

Ultimately, this style works for me. I bore easily, and between two businesses with a different schedule every single day, I always have something different to look forward to. Sometimes, I am frustrated by the extras I just have to do but it’s all part of it.

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