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Business/Working from home.

Like a lot of IT people, my brain is always percolating ideas for a startup.  I think I have a reasonable one at the moment, so I'm going into R&D mode...but I also have a family and my two year old always wants to play when she sees me at home.

Do you have any suggestions for people in my position?

Billy Boy
Sunday, January 4, 2004

Yes. Unless your wife can support the whole family, including day care (and you're okay w/ day care), don't do it.

Seriously, starting a company is more than a 40-hour a week kind of a thing. While you'll be working at home, you'll need an isolated space (some people rent an office almost right away, because that kind of space isn't easy to come by at their house). And even if you work at home, you'll see your family a lot less than you do now.

It's one thing to do this when you're wealthy and can get away with taking the risk. It's quite another when you try to shoe-string a company while risking the home and health of your wife and very young child. It's very risky.

My advice would, obviously, be very different if you were single and kid-less.

Brad Wilson (
Sunday, January 4, 2004

Oddly enough, my wife could support the family, but after we had children we decided that she should work part time instead as we did not want our children raised by day care.  This means that I would have to keep my day job while working on my business project nights and weekends.  I am more interested in knowing how to delineate the business world from the home world.

Billy Boy
Sunday, January 4, 2004

You keep the door closed.

You keep the door closed when you aren't working so you aren't tempted into it.

You keep the door closed when you are working so other people aren't tempted into it.

This necessarily assumes that you have a separate room to work in.  If you don't have a separate room then on the whole I'd say don't do it.

Simon Lucy
Monday, January 5, 2004

Hey I am sort of going through this at the moment too.

No children but a 6-month old marriage. We both work full-time (paying off the wedding among other things!!), so I have to do my project on weeknights, weekends and by taking holidays from work.

Sometimes I get jealous that my husband can sit in the office behind me playing computer games while I am working, I tried to encourage him to get involved ( ie research, marketing, debugging!!) but he isn't interested, and I don't blame him. The thing I love about him is that when he comes home from work he knows how to relax, I have never been able to, I have to have a project going.

We reach compromises though, he is starting to understand that certain things he does makes it harder for me to work, and I am starting to get used to him being around while I work. Plus he cooks, cleans etc and I don't feel like I am not pulling my weight, he believes in me, believes this will be a goer, and that is worth its weight...

I never work on a Sunday, okay well sometimes I do, but if I make a sunday a 'guilt-free' no work day, it makes it heaps easier. I wake earlier and put in an hour before I go to *real* work.

But I would still love an office, I think this is mostly because of the hot summer at the moment, but even today I was thinking about advertising in the paper and trying to rent an office with a few other 'like-minded'[ peoples.
Truthfully it would take half the fun away. It is excellent to set your own hours, really, if you want to work this very second then you can, in your pyjamas (or singlet and undies) as the case may be. You can pause and go make a coffee, have a shower, watch some stargate, hang out with your husband.
i think your child will quickly learn that 'daddy is working when he is in the office' or 'daddy is working when he has his laptop, despite the fact he is on the back deck in the cool breeze' working from home is excellent. (well the little that I do of it is!!)

Aussie Chick
Monday, January 5, 2004

I found it really difficult even though my wife is quite understanding and my children a bit older than yours. Eventually I decided to find a shared office and found that my productivity improved significantly.

I wouldn't take too much notice of the negative comments about doing this when you have a young family, if you have a passion for it then go for it.

Tony Edgecombe

Tony Edgecombe
Monday, January 5, 2004

Don't have a kid, so I don't know how difficult that would be.  I imagine the standard advice would be to make sure you give your family the time they need & deserve.

You may only be able to work an hour a day or every other day, and maybe only every other weekend, but it's possible.

The guy I work for right now was able to pull it off.

Monday, January 5, 2004

Oh, & he has 2 kids.

Monday, January 5, 2004

I second the recommendation for having your own office if at all possible. Like many developers, I need my "cave". I need a place where I can close the door and focus, free from distractions. Secondly, I need a place to make phone calls to clients.

I'm married and have a two year old so the balancing act between family and work is never easy. My wife stays at home with our son, so that means that unless I am at a client, I am at home with them during the day.

This is where having an office comes into play...My wife knows that when I'm in my office then I'm working and not to be bothered unless it's emergency. For my part, I make it a practice not to stay holed up all day. I take a couple of hours during the day to eat lunch with my wife and play with my son. I work until dinner and then spend the evening with my family. Then it's back to work after my son goes to bed.

It's always a challenge, but working from the house can be such a wonderful thing. It frees you up from the distractions of an office, and gives you more quality time with your family. You just have to be certain that you and your wife have an "understanding" about your time is spent.

Good luck!

Mark Hoffman
Monday, January 5, 2004

I grew up in an entrepreneurial family.  My father started two companies; in between did a ton of consulting from home.  The first company failed and resulted in having our house repossessed.  We were foreigners and business failures not being kindly looked upon were kicked out of the country (at least from my child's perspective).

Rather traumatic experience, although I survived and am on excellent terms with him now.  I even run my own company, although I am rather shy about personal guarantees...

So that's point one.

My point two is more relevant - his first company was run out of a real office.  As kids, we were often pressed into service to come and help do the filing, feed the shredder, wrap client gifts (around Christmas) etc.  We were paid too.  This was fun (this was when I was 7-10 years old).

Later, when I was in my mid-teens, my father started a second company, running out of our home.  I was encouraged to get involved (as was my early-teens brother).  We both got interested in the company and occasionally took part-time jobs doing things (eg basic book keeping, computer administration etc).  As we learned more things, we were entrusted with more responsibilities. 

My sister (ten years younger) on the other hand, really resented the intrusion.  Because she was younger, she wasn't able to help out in the same way.  Work stuff was something she was excluded from, although not intentionally.  At the same time she was completely surrounded by the work at home.  She is also not interested in the kind of work we all do, so the continuous conversation about work is "boring".  If my dad was working at home (whether door open or not), it just annoyed her, especially outside regular business hours.  She considers that she never had a father growing up because he was always working.  The fact that he was at home much more than during my childhood (not going to an office and not travelling) is irrelevant, because when he is at home he is still at work.

She says that what she remembers is all the time that Dad was at home, but not available.  And because she was first too young to get involved (and then later not interested), she didn't have the experience of being part of the business.  My take is that younger kids don't understand if you fail to draw the line between work and home hours.

Name withheld
Monday, January 5, 2004

I've been renting an outside office for the last several months. Even when I don't have billable work going, the fact is that leaving the house and driving to my office *makes* me feel like I'm "in business", which is an extraordinarily difficult mental attitude to cultivate when you're on your own anyway.

IOW, I keep an outside office not only for insulation from distractions but also for "business self esteem".

Unless you have absolutely no expectations for your own business, I don't recommend trying to work from home - unless your budget absolutely precludes it, or you're single. 

Bored Bystander
Monday, January 5, 2004

Billy Boy - You no doubt want to start your own business because you want to attain success or certain financial freedom in order to be a better provider for your family? Let it wait until your young one is in school (k-12). No matter how much money or success you will have, you can never replace those early years with your young child which are important for them. I don't mean to discourage you, but priorities can be hard to miss.

Monday, January 5, 2004

Several comments, from someone who has been there (and is still there).

1.  "i think your child will quickly learn that 'daddy is working when he is in the office' or 'daddy is working when he has his laptop"

My two 2.6 yr olds don't "get" this.  Granted, they are young, but I have a basement office and they still don't get it. (Although if mom is upstairs, they know not to bang on the door).

2.  Can you start very very small and work at it very slowly?

I think that spending 200 hours over 10 months (5 hrs/week or so) will produce a better product than spending 200 hours over 5 weeks. 

I know that *I* do a lot of background "processing" of ideas. My subconscious works on a lot of problems.

The downsides of working slowly:
a. Maintaining momentum /interest

- although I'd argue that if you can't maintain momentum (and interest in the product) without some visible signs of progress, then you're really not that interested in the product.  (i.e., if you can work at it for 10 months without getting some extrernal validation then it's something you really love and believe in).

b. getting big enough blocks of time

-solution is to break the project down into tiny pieces. Boy do I find this hard to do though. I like to bit off a big pieces, churn it around in my brain, and spit out a simple answer.  But, it's also a good way to choke.

My $.02 worth

The real Entrepreneur
Monday, January 5, 2004

"You keep the door closed."

Simon, I agree this is necessary but how to enforce it? I have explained about geting into the flow and the danger of interruptions and yet if I keep it unlocked, there are still emergencies and interruptions that "can't wait" and questions all day long. I have tried locking the door and then she wants to know "What is going on in there?!" and "Are you mad at me?" and then we have to have a three hour discussion about feelings.

Telecommuter with door
Monday, January 5, 2004

Telecommuter with door

"I have explained about geting into the flow and the danger of interruptions and yet if I keep it unlocked, there are still emergencies and interruptions" ...
"I have tried locking the door and then she wants to know "What is going on in there?!" and "Are you mad at me?" and then we have to have a three hour discussion about feelings"

Sounds like you have another problem, if you've laid it out and 'she' still won't get it then perhaps either 'she' or working from home isn't for you.

Michael Koziarski
Monday, January 5, 2004

Telecommuter with door:  My partner is pretty understanding about this sort of thing.  I do get interrupted if I'm foolish enough to attempt coding when there are chores to be done (fortunately I have good stretches of time home alone -- no kids yet).  But even when that happens, she knows anything she says to me when I'm looking at the screen (and thus not making eye contact) goes straight to /dev/nul.

A little conditioning can be a wonderful thing... ;>

Sam Livingston-Gray
Monday, January 5, 2004

>> I have tried locking the door and then she wants to know "What is going on in there?!" and "Are you mad at me?" and then we have to have a three hour discussion about feelings

Uh.... deja vu! I've had this happen. We actually got past this. Getting the spouse unit to buy-in is possible, it just requires a lot of excellent communication and a precipitating event to make the ground rules stick.

Yet there are still too many other distractions at home. Stereos, hobby magazines, pets, porn links on my Windows desktop :-), shop projects, the home phone, teevee, and so forth.

Bored Bystander
Monday, January 5, 2004

Thanks to all for your comments...the overall consensus seems to be to have a separate office with a door and very clear lines of communication with your spouse.  Each of those is doable for me.  For those suggesting not do it to wait, I am getting tired of working for others.  I don’t think its viable for me to wait for my daughter to be in Kindergarten cause I expect that there will be more (this one is working out OK so far – hitting the terrible twos now).  Besides my daughter sleeps from 7:30 pm to 8:00 am every night which leaves a good chunk of time on week nights.

I plan to start small and continue working my day job.  I think that my idea is good.  I expect that it will take at least 40 hours of programming to create a proof of concept so that I can evaluate if I should go on.  I have resisted the temptation so far to take a week of vacation to just do it.  At the current 5-10 hrs per week I will be completed in February.  Then more decisions...

Billy Boy
Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Hey, go on do it.  I myself have been thinking of doing it along with my FT job.. but has not had the courage to start.  I am going to start tackling it again now.  I am tired of working for somebody else too.

Wednesday, January 7, 2004

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