Working from home may be a new experience for many, but it’s business as usual for me.
I’ve been churning out my ramblings from home for 15 years now, since leaving my last office job back in 2005. It wasn’t entirely by choice – I’d been thinking about going freelance, but probably wouldn’t have taken the leap of faith at that time, until my hand was forced by the magazine closing down.
It was a bit scary when I first found out – especially as OH and I were in the process of buying our first property – but it turned out to be an absolute Godsend. Being self employed suited me so perfectly; I’m a natural introvert, so loved working from home (I’ve actually kinda sorta found lockdown a positive experience), and pre-kids I had a classic night owl existence – working until the wee hours and stretching awake around 10am.
I adored being my own boss and setting my own hours (I’m punctuality impaired and have a pathological fear of having to be somewhere at the same time time, every day). I loved the thrill of chasing work and was way more productive – there’s nothing like a looming mortgage payment to get you up and moving in the morning.
But it’s not all roses; there are definitely downsides to working for yourself, here’s what to bear in mind if you’re considering making this a long term thing – some essential information for working from home, based on 15 years of doing exactly that.
Essential information for working from home:
First and foremost, if you’re making to leap into self employment (rather than working remotely for your employer) you’ll have to register as such, and start filing tax returns each year. It’s actually simpler than it looks, and there’s loads of self assessment help on the GOV.UK website – although avoid phoning at the end of the tax year, or at the end of January (when payments are due) unless you enjoy spending hours on hold.
Say goodbye to sick days – when you’re self employed, if you don’t work you don’t get paid! Keep a slush fund separate to your savings account, a small pool of money you can dip into for unexpected business expenses, like when your printer decides to pack up, or you have to catch an expensive taxi ride to a meeting, or illness forces you to miss a day or two. Like a reverse overdraft (an underdraft?) this will enable to you to cover unforseen costs without getting yourself in debt.
No more handing your expenses to accounts to get them reimbursed, everything comes out of your own pocket now. Yes, you can claim them off your taxes (check the GOV.UK website for the list of allowed expenses), but this doesn’t actually mean you get all the money back, it means you can subtract the total cost of all your expenses from the income you have to pay tax on, so (in a roundabout way) you’re clawing back 20, 40 or 45 percent (depending on which tax rate you pay) of that total amount you paid out.
Because you’re paying for all your own supplies, it’s really important to make sure you’re not forking out any more than you have to. Office essentials can be a real money drain when you don’t have a fully stocked stationery cupboard to pilfer.
Look for cheap printer paper – unless you’re using it for physical letters (does anyone even do this anymore?) it doesn’t have to be particularly thick (the higher the ‘gsm’, the more expensive it is) and set your printer to print both sides, which is better for your pocket and the planet. You’ll find great promotions on pens in the lead up to the new school year, particularly multipacks. It’s definitely more cost effective to buy in bulk – you’ll be surprised how quickly those pens disappear into thin air.
When I first started out I couldn’t believe how much my laser printer cartridges set me back, and quickly learned to shop around, as prices varied massively between different retailers. One way to ensure you get the cheapest price is to buy through Cartridge Save, who sell their range of laser printers and genuine cartridge refills with a lowest online price guarantee. That means if you find it cheaper online anywhere else in the UK within seven days of your purchase, they’ll refund 100% of the difference (some additional T&C’s apply, check their website for full details).
Being self employed and working from home also means having to get your head around all those things you’d usually ask IT to come and fix. This can mean many MANY frustrating hours spent on the phone getting websites back up and running and wifi services reconnected, but you’ll pick up a lot of useful skills along the way.
If you love a good office party, you could feel a bit like Cinderella at Christmas time. Luckily, there are lots of freelance groups you can join (Facebook groups are a good place to start) where you can share advice and moral support with other sole traders and remote workers, and join in with group social events.
While it may sound daunting, in my opinion, the benefits of working from home far outweigh the inconveniences. Being your own boss means setting your own hours, cherrypicking the jobs you love, avoiding public transport, working in your comfiest clothes, and – if you’re up-to-date with your workload – taking the day off, simply because it’s gorgeous outside and you feel like it.
The freedom and job satisfaction is unbeatable, and I can’t even imagine working in an office again.
That’s it – my essential information for working from home; what would you add (you can also read my Top 5 Tips to Working from Home)?