Is Your Dream to Work from Home?

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Whilst working as an employee most of the time you have little say in where you work and for some professions and roles you can only ever work in one specific environment, for example, within a classroom of a school or on a ward within a hospital. In some professions there is the provision to work from home for some of the time, but the nature of public sector roles does not lend themselves to working from home full time.

One of the reasons why people start their own business is the freedom to dictate where you will work from. This is especially true if you have children and one of your motivating factors for making this kind of change is to be able to spend more time with them or so that you can be flexible with hours to tie into school runs etc. For me, a critical factor in being able to work from home was that we could have dogs again. Previously when we were both working full time, the hours we worked each day would have been too long for young dogs. Though there was a moment when we welcomed two springer pups into our home that we questioned our sanity at the decision to have dogs again.

If you're thinking of looking at opportunities where you can work from home, I thought in today's blog I'd explore the benefits and challenges of doing so.

Benefits

  • You have far greater flexibility. Maybe you are one of those people that works better at certain times of the day than others. Sometimes you might want to double up your time so that you can give yourself some time off another day. If you only want to work a set number of days, you can swap the days you work around to suit you when needed. It's also handy if you are internet shopper and you get Amazon deliveries just about every day.
  • There are no managers, colleagues, people ringing all the time etc, distracting you.
  • You can be more efficient and effective, often you can do more work in less time, especially as you have got rid of the annoying distractions.
  • No more Air Con Wars. No more listening to people whining they are too cold whilst hogging the window seat. No more fighting to maintain a constant temperature when people are turning the heater up to 30'C. You control the temperature of your domain.
  • You can play music, watch tv, make as many drinks as you like or work in your PJs if you want (I found I was less productive if did this, so for some it might be a challenge.) If you don’t want to get up at the crack of dawn you don’t have to.
  • Gone is the morning commute and all the stress and hassle that comes with that. Gone is going to and from work in the dark.
  • You don't have to work a 9-5 job so you're no longer a wage slave, and that is quite liberating.
  • It allows you to have better balance with home and family life.

Challenges

  • When you are just starting out, the worry about money if there is no regular income can be an issue. Though you soon realise that you don’t need as much money as before as you don’t eat out a lunch time any more and gone are your travelling costs.
  • It can get lonely working from home. You can go all day not talking to someone and you can't have office banter with the cat or dog. They just don't get it. Factor in time for meeting up with people for a coffee, attend network meetings or form your own small business network. You can bet that if you are feeling lonely from time to time, other people are as well.
  • Be strict with your time or schedule. Some days it can be easy to get stuck in a Netflix binge or watching day time TV, especially if you are procrastinating.
  • Other people don't think you have a "proper" job. They don't see what you do as work. So, you could be working longer hours than before, earning more money than in your previous employment but because you aren't physically leaving the house in the morning and coming home at night, it's not work.
  • Sometimes it is hard to separate work life and home life. If you do plan to work from home, try to have a separate room to act as your office space, this creates some demarcation between work and everyday life.

Hopefully if you are thinking of working from home on a permanent basis, today's blog has given you a bit of insight into the benefits and challenges of working from home.

What's the Worst That Can Happen?

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Sometimes, when it comes to making a change, to take a chance, we hold back. Many people are risk averse, fearing failure, rejection, sometimes fearing success because of that might bring. In some instances, we don't enjoy or celebrate our successes because we expect something bad will follow.

We are hard wired to see negatives. From an evolutionary perspective our brains have not evolved in line with the shifting landscape. The brain's perception of risk goes back to the dawn of time when man was not the top predator and there were tigers and other beasties hiding in the bushes. Danger lurked around every corner and the dangers were life threatening. Now those dangers aren't present, but the brain doesn't know that. It reacts to situations which it perceives to be risky as there is an immediate threat.

Perceived risks in the modern world are telling someone you love them for the first time and waiting for their response. Handing your notice in after 25 years of working in the same industry and going off to travel the world before it’s too late. Attending your first trade show to sell the products you have made from your hobby, going beyond just selling them to family and friends. Doing your first ever Facebook Live, opening yourself up to criticism and judgement whilst also connecting with your tribe and potential future customers. Finishing off the book you have been writing, letting others read it and sending it off to a publisher.

Moments like these can generate fear and anxiety that our brain is trying to protect us from. But, if we're wanting something to change then we must overcome these fears, we must get the primitive part of the brain to calm down and focus on reality. We need to ask ourselves, what's the worst that's going to happen? It's time to get your thinking, rational brain into gear.

What IS the worst that can happen? If you change careers, you might not like it? There are other jobs to apply for. Set up your own business and you make a loss? You're not going to be a success straight away and if it doesn't work out, you close it down knowing that at least you tried. Ask someone out on a date and they say no? Not every connection you make is going to end the way you want. Yes, it might hurt but when you find the next person you like, this moment will be forgotten.

If you're held back by fear of what might happen, keep asking yourself, what's the worst that can happen? You won't be able to come up with many things that you don't have the skills or strength to be able to deal with. That's the thing, we don't have to believe all the negative things. It is easy to lose sight that we are more than capable and adaptable to deal with what life throws at us. If something doesn't work out how we want, the sky won't fall in, it's not the end of the world. You have the ability and the skills to create a new path. Be flexible and keep at it. When you were a child learning to walk, you didn't give up the first time you fell, or the second, third... Why would you do it now as an adult? Even if aiming high, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is scary, do it anyway. If you don’t try, what will it cost you in the long run?

We no longer live in an era where there are life threatening risks everywhere. Whilst life choices can be uncomfortable at times, you're not in immediate danger with the decisions you make. You choose what to or not to believe so pick something which will serve you and move you forward in life. Don't choose to believe something which isn't real, and which will hold you back. Take the risk of living the life you want and enjoy it.

Anyone Can Create a Business

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When you think of a business owner who springs to mind? Richard Branson, the panel members of Dragon's Den, Alan Sugar? We live in an age where it has never been so easy to start your own business. The opportunities are immense from turning a hobby craft into an artisan business, up-cycling and restoring furniture, becoming a dog trainer, a writer, photographer, getting involved with affiliate marketing, e-commerce, consultancy, training provider; the list is endless.

Whilst some people sell their services solely online, others attend craft fairs/markets or set up the traditional bricks and mortar businesses. If you feel there is a need for something, then you can probably create a business in relation to it.

You can run your business whilst still working full time. Start a business whilst on maternity/paternity leave. There are toddlers with their own You Tube channels generating incomes for their future through testing and reviewing toys, their parents utilising the power of social media. Teenagers creating their own fashion labels, online estate agency, e-commerce retailing, and all this happening whilst they are still at school.  At the other end of the spectrum many pensioners have their own property portfolio, doing public speaking or have an e-commerce business. They use the businesses as ways to supplement, or in many cases, outstrip their pensions. Then there is everyone in between. Age, ethnicity, gender, social class are not barriers to creating your own business.

Taking the opportunity to start your own business comes down to your why? Why are you wanting to create a business and be your own boss? Would you like more money? If so, what for? Supplement your existing income, wanting to go part time in your every day job but not wanting to drop to a part time wage? Maybe you want to save for your children's future or be able to give up traditional work in order to be able to spend more time with your family, watching your children grow up, doing the things you love? Having your own business has the potential to give you the freedom to create the lifestyle you want.

One of the things we use to talk ourselves out of starting a business is that you don't have the money for start-up costs. You get it into your head that it's going to cost you tens of thousands, money that you don't have. That might have been the traditional way to start a business, but there are so many more ways in today’s world. You can make money by selling stuff you no longer use on eBay and build from there. There are over 1000 UK millionaires selling on eBay, with many of them being small businesses. There are so many different platforms to sell your products and services via the internet. When we started our e-commerce business, we had no intention of going beyond what we could afford so set a budget for training and getting the know-how and an investment budget to spend on stock. In the beginning, all profit made was reinvested back into the company.

There are businesses you can create with low budgets, investing only in what you can afford. There are even business opportunities that exist where you don't need any initial money but the majority you do, even if it is just a small amount of money for advertising to do something like consultancy or offering virtual assistant services.

In a world where everything is the same and mass produced, there is now a demand for bespoke, unique or handmade items. From wedding planner to beekeeping, Instagram guru to fitness instructor, there are countless business opportunities out there which utilises your everyday skills or gives you a chance to expand and showcase your hobbies, interests and newly acquired skills and knowledge, and make money in the process.

What stops people from creating their own business? Well for many, they don't think they know enough to do it or that they will fail. If there is one thing that is certain, it is you can't fail if you don't even try in the first place. That is sometimes the difference when it comes down to success. Some people are prepared to try and see what happens, others aren't prepared to try at all. When it comes to having knowledge, if there is something you don't know about then you can always learn it. You don't have to know everything beforehand. There were lots of things we didn't know before we started, somethings we had never even thought of, they came up as we were building the business. Don't wait for things to be perfect, they're never going to be, just get started.

If you want inspiration about what's possible then use the power of the internet, go to networking events, and look for people just like you who are building their own businesses and their brands. If you have an idea for a business, what's stopping you from starting?

Creating a business is not always easy, they'll be set backs along the way, people criticising you, your products or services, you'll get stuck, there'll be tears and laughter and you may change direction from time to time. Anyone can create a business but it's not for everyone. There are no get rich quick schemes in business. You need to have courage, commitment, dedication and a willingness to work hard. But when you are successful, the pay off in how it can change your life is worth it.

If you’re looking to create your own business but don’t know where to start, check out my programme, Smart Business Creation, and see if the support that comes from business coaching is first step for you.

Too Late for a Career Change at 50?

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It’s almost Friday night, I'm looking at the weekend ahead. Next year will be my 50th birthday and I am thinking this will be my last career change. My business might evolve but fundamentally what I do will remain the same. I feel as though I have reached a point where being a coach is a culmination of everything that has gone before, and this is a role in which I do truly feel alive at work. Though perhaps, work is the wrong word when you enjoy it so much, as John Williams says in his book ‘Screw Work, Let’s Play’, this very much on the play side.

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When I started my working life, I could never have imagined the careers I have had. When I was in high school, I had no intention of going to university. As far as I was concerned back then, university was for the elite and clever folk. No one in my family had ever been be to university and yet, here I am, approaching 50, with four degrees from four different universities, 3 of which I did whilst working full time. I am not telling you this to brag about it but to highlight, it doesn't matter what your background, what you have done before, you are more than capable of doing totally different things throughout your life.  For me there was no grand plan, but I have made choices along the way which have worked out for the most part. Though I did work in a Turf Accountants one time, but only lasted three days before I quit. I had no clue how to work out betting odds and didn't realise you had to do them in your head, I thought a machine did them for you.

For the most part I followed the traditional world of work; working 37 hours a week. Then, several years ago, I listened to a webinar about creating an e-commerce business, which led on to a chain of events where I co-founded a company with my husband. This was something totally new for us and having our own business was not something we had ever contemplated for our future.  We utilised our skills, knowledge and passions to create the company. But, neither one of us have any previous business experience. When it came to it, we had to learn, just like everyone does I'm sure and we learned very quickly, that it not as hard as you think it is. Just as I learnt that university is not for the elite, then neither is the world of business. Anyone can create a business so long as they put the work in.

We live in a time where it has never been so easy to start up your own business. You see many people from all backgrounds and ages creating their own companies and being successful. Of course, for every success, there are probably three that don't make it, but the potential is there. Whilst building the business we were both still in full time employment, with the plan being that I would also build the coaching practice. And this is another mind shift that happens, the realisation that you don't just have to have one career, business or role, you can have multiple streams of income; especially when some businesses can be virtually automated. Or you can have one career but that you don't have to do it full time.

I think working in the public sector with high workloads as you get older you begin to question whether working full time is the way to go. In my last 18 months of working within a Probation setting I worked part time. I soon wondered why I had not done this earlier in my working life, feeling the benefits immediately. I realised what I valued more was time over money.

One of the challenges with switching to working part time is the perception and judgements from others. This is especially true from people you know who have worked full time all their life. Whilst it is acceptable to work part time if you have children, doing so when you are child free seems to be a big no-no. Whilst I ignore comments in relation to this aspect, I do wonder what is really behind it; is it jealousy because they didn't choose to do it whilst still working or is it a case that unless you working every hour, flogging yourself to death for your salary, it does not constitute work?

In the last 18 months of public sector life, I also made the switch from front line offender management to a coaching and mentoring role of staff rather than service users. This was more aligned to I wanted my next career shift to be.

Is changing career at 50 scary? Yes, in a way it is because it is yet another change. You're in a set routine, a lifestyle with a set income. You still have family and financial commitments. You know what to expect and what's expected of you. Whilst it is against the law to discriminate, we all know it happens and at 50, it is potentially more difficult to enter certain industries, but this can happen when you're in your 30's!

Potentially the other big barrier to overcome if switching your career at 50, is in relation to your pension. Let's face it, whilst public sector pensions perhaps aren't as good as they were, they are still significantly better than private sector ones. The pension issue can become a self-imposed trap. I am not here to offer any advice about pensions, but I can share my story and my thoughts on my pension situation. The reality of pensions is that they follow the 40:40:40 rule, whereby you effectively work 40 hours a week for 40 years to receive 40% of your income when you retire. As the retirement age continually goes up, I questioned when I would be retiring. I have a friend who thought she would be retiring at 60 some years ago, only for a decision from the government to add 6 years to her official retirement age. For me, this gives you no guarantee of when you can retire in the years ahead. Don't get me wrong having some way to support yourself in the future is of paramount importance but I didn't want the notion of a pension be the thing that anchors me down to a job I was no longer enjoying for the next 20 years. My mindset was, do I want to be miserable for a significant chunk of my life, even if there was a guarantee of a happy retirement at the age of 67 (and that’s if it stays at that age?) I think it's probably different if you've only got a couple of years to go before you retire but 20 years is an awful long time.

My other big question to myself was, can I physically and mentally keep going at the pace I was in the coming years? The workloads are never going to decrease, the pressures and demands aren't magically going to disappear. Going at the pace you do within a public sector environment is something which I believe is unsustainable in the long term and, why should you? Life is too short to spend all your time working and not living.

At the age of 50, we have a long life ahead of us so make sure you are doing something you love. Honestly, it is harder to switch careers within certain industries at 50 but not impossible. And, there are plenty of organisations out there that would snap someone of your skills, talent and experience up. It is challenging to start up your own business but not impossible. And you can build a business while you’re still working. Maybe you fancy studying again; there are people in their 80s and 90s studying for a degree, so why not you at 50?

You don't have to be trapped by your current role if it's no longer meeting all your needs, you choose to remain where you are. If the job is causing you to feel stressed, change it. If the thought of going into work on a morning fills you with nothing but dread, change it. If you are tired and feel ill through work, change it. If you want it to be different, then choose something else; you have the skills, knowledge and strengths to do so. It is never too late for a career change at 50, what are you waiting for?