Working from home is often cited as one of the distinct advantages of running an online business like eBay sales. After all, you get to set your own schedule, work in your slippers, eliminate the daily work commute, and so on.
That account can be a bit simplistic, though, as anyone that's ever worked at home can explain. There are any number of drawbacks to working from home, beyond the difficulty and expense involved in outfitting and maintaining a home office, that only become apparent to anyone that's ever tried to do it:
- Loneliness and unhappiness. Unless you have a stay-at-home family, working from
home can be a decidedly lonely affair. There are no co-workers to socialize
with, no regular lunch crowd, and no anecdotes about your wacky co-workers'
antics to tell your spouse once they home home from their day job.
- Distractions and discipline. If you do have a stay-at-home
family, working from home can be difficult, if not impossible. Family members (particularly spouses or children)
often struggle to understand that work is, well, work and that you
shouldn't be disturbed. Disciplining yourself to stay at a desk and work
can also be a problem if everyone else
is in the yard having cake and playing badminton, or going on a day trip to
your favorite destination without you.
- Lack of resources. At home there's no legal department, no
customer service department, no shipping room, no maintenance crew. All of
these are you. If an errand needs to be run, it's entirely up to you to run
it—instead of doing something else.
- Self-image and professional persona. Anyone that has ever worked from home knows that friends, family, neighbors, or other acquaintances can have trouble taking what you do seriously (after all, you aren't working a "real" job), problems that can become much more pronounced during a difficult sales season. These issues can also affect your own image of yourself as a professional if you're not careful, or your future job or professional prospects.
Together and over the long term, these issues can gradually and imperceptibly add up to a serious case of the "work at home blues" of the sort that affect all kinds of independent and self-employed workers, from writers and real estate brokers to craftspeople and, yes, online sellers.
The key is to plan well and address each of these risks from day one. Here are some of the most common and effective ways to do so in each case.