Working from home isn’t the picturesque lifestyle so many would lead you to believe.
You’re bound to read pieces about working from home that focus on the positives. The positives of being your own boss or setting your own hours. It’s bundled with images of laptops and beaches, cars and riches, and 4-hour work weeks.
These pieces usually forgo talking about the real ups and downs. The times like being sick and having to meet deadlines with no paid sick days. Instances like a schedule-ruining project mixup which delay payments. Or, clients burning you and not paying.
If one thing is true about working from home it’s this: You need to have a budget.
Expecting the Unexpected
There’s a lot of distracting moments throughout your workday especially when working from home.
You’ve got that voice saying “it’s time to clean up” or “run those errands.” You’re trying to balance work and home life with your S.O. and kids. There’s work creep because you’re compelled to start the moment you’re up until you’re falling asleep at the desk.
There are other troubles that arise:
· Random power/internet outages
· Drop-ins from neighbors or family
· Slow work days (that’ll cause stress)
· Deteriorating health from a sedentary lifestyle
Each of these disruptions pulls from your billable hours.
You can attempt to make up lost time by working late into the night or weekend. But this creates a stress which affects your physical and mental health. The wear and tear of un-ending work deteriorates your well-being to the point it disrupting entire projects (and income).
Working from home also means you’re most likely using the Web to either connect with clients or use it to sell your products and services. Outages happen and when they do – you lose money. It’s the reason why you’ll want to budget for better internet service providers.
The budget is for moments like these.
It allows you to step back and handle the disruptions without becoming a martyr for long, extra hours playing catch up. The budget creates stability in a position where everything has the potential to go haywire.
Budgeting Creates a Buffer
Work is entirely dependent on you so there isn’t a lot of flexibility when you miss those important work days. It’s the reason why you need a financial buffer.
The buffer helps with those lull periods (usually holidays) or when in-between projects.
The budget and buffer also provide the financial resources one needs when starting a new project which may include new software or hardware.
These items include:
Domain and web hosting
An all-too-common pitfall with unstable finances is service disruptions. Work at home individuals relies on these services to do their job. The downed services compound the problems with getting work done — resulting in distressed contracts and clients — which could destroy the business.
The buffer also covers your basic needs you’ll tap into while waiting for new projects to scale.
The 3-Step Budgeting and Buffer Process
Keep a spreadsheet of income/expenses detailing everything (no matter how small). Keep receipts and regularly check accounts to record where money is going.
Do so and you’ll find your true operational expenses when working from home — a number that will give you a daily financial goal that also accounts for extra, unexpected expenses.
With that information:
1. Factor every expense and divide that by days of the month
2. Use this daily average and add 10% (as an incentive)
3. Set a weekly schedule to hit daily financial milestones
This is a basic procedure (one that improves if using accounting software) but it’s good enough for projecting finances. It ultimately dictates how you’ll operate.
Financial Stability Makes it Worthwhile
There’s a thrill about diving off the deep end and going full-time with working from home. That thrill carries you for quite a bit of time because it’s fresh (and it doesn’t hurt that you have some savings from your old job).
Before long, you’re feeling the true wear of the neverending work cycle. The financial stress sets in and it becomes apparent you can’t treat it as a fly-by-night operation.
The challenge is worthwhile as long as you’re ready to cope with the expected (and unexpected) pitfalls that come with the position.
Who knows? Maybe you manage to turn the WAH experience into one where you’re kicked back on the beach with a laptop. One thing’s for sure… take care of your money. Get a budget.