Home truths allow you to reclaim freedom
Tired of the hours spent commuting? Carolyn Boyd looks at options for working on your terms.
AFTER she moved to the Blue Mountains, Jodie McLeod was desperate to work from home.
"I commuted for six months … and I couldn't maintain that for very long," says the 30-year-old, who had a full-time job in Sydney.
"It was very intense because I felt like I became bitter. Three-and-a-half to four hours was robbed from me every day.
"Everyone has a pretty hectic life and with a couple of extra hours being taken away from you - there goes your exercise time, there goes your socialising time, there goes everything that makes you a sane person."
The writer and magazine editor had a full-time job with a major publisher for three years and was nervous about going out on her own in case she couldn't rustle up enough work.
McLeod found the perfect compromise - a three-day-a-week contract working from home with micro business website FlyingSolo.com.au, balanced with two days of running a freelance writing and editing business.
"I absolutely love it," says McLeod. "It might not suit some people who find it difficult to work without supervision or without that constant of someone looking over their shoulder, but for me I find that I work best independently."
Among the benefits of running her own show, McLeod lists freedom and flexibility.
"There is a bit of a difference between working for an employer from home and running your own business from home. So if you own your own business you get to dictate exactly when, where and how you work. You can work when you're most productive, whether that's early in the morning or late at night. Also, you can work anywhere you like."
The Council of Small Business Australia estimates as many as 1.5 million individuals make a living while working from home.
Council executive director Peter Strong says: "The rise of technology, the growth of smart devices, the introduction of cloud computing and higher speeds of the internet mean that these businesses can actually grow without leaving home. They can connect to the world."
McLeod admits working from home can get a bit lonely, but says there are plenty of solutions for that.
"When I'm craving a bit of interaction and in need of company, I just go to a cafe or I go to the local library. It's amazing what just having people around can do to stave off … feeling alone."
But most of the time McLeod is happy working alone.
"I find I get a lot more work done when I don't have people interrupting me in an office situation, and I get a lot of interaction through social networking."
The upside of moving to the Blue Mountains and running her own business has been that McLeod and her husband, an assistant principal of a primary school, have been able to afford a large three-bedroom home for the same money they could have bought a one-bedroom apartment in Sydney.
There's even a granny flat above the double garage, which McLeod plans to convert to her full-time office. For now, a 10-second commute to McLeod's desk at the kitchen table leaves plenty of time for other interests.
"We go hiking, rock climbing, canyoning," says McLeod. "I love to go running and there are just so many ways to get rid of stress out here. Sometimes just gazing out over the balcony at the beautiful view helps."
STAY IN THE LOOP
■ Go to a cafe or library to work from time to time. Being among other people creates a feeling of connectedness.
■ Seek out forums of like-minded people online so you have other people to chat to during your workday.
■ Look for meet-up groups or other business networking opportunities in your local area - see flysolo.com.au or contact your local chamber of commerce.
■ Consider hiring desk space in an office so you have somewhere outside of your home to work if you feel you need to.