Wed 2 Apr 2014
Nicola Fern is 19 and lives with her partner and their cats.
Case Study written in 1999/2000
- Q. What do you do?
- A. I'm a web designer. I've been working unofficially for three years, officially since February 1999. Until October 1998 I lived in the USA with my parents and built up experience with my one client.
- Q. Where do you work at home?
- A. We've delegated the second bedroom as an office, out of which roughly a quarter is taken up with my workstation, fax, bookcase, etc.
- Q. Do you manage to keep your work and home life separate?
- A. Hardly. When I run out of inspiration my partner helps me brainstorm new ideas. He's come up with a few crackers himself. If I need some serious programming like cgi or visual basic done he jumps into the fray. Plus since we currently only have one phoneline I invariably end up doing work after hours. I don't mind though. I love my job.
- Q. What is the best thing about working from home?
- A. The ability to choose your own schedule, spend time with the cats (and my partner), and go to work in your pyjamas.
- Q. What are the negative points about working at home?
- A. I don't really think there are any. It does get a bit lonely sometimes since I truly work at home - I rarely see clients as they are scattered over the UK.
- Q. What was the deciding factor to help you to decide to work from home?
- A. Mainly that I had a skillset which wasn't what the recruiters wanted. I went through a few months of trying to find a job in technical support. All the companies were looking for graduates as trainees. Then I looked for jobs in web design houses - again they wanted graduates with more skills than I had. So I decided to do it for myself. I can make money and increase my skillset as and when needed.
- Q. How do you cope with the isolation of working at home?
- A. I do get a bit lonely. Lack of companionship. I talk to myself. And the cat. I find it helps. I actually prefer working alone I get more done and there are fewer distractions.
- Q. Does your homeworking pay the bills?
- A. This month yes. Previously no. But it's getting a lot better - I'm almost there I think.
- Q. How did you manage financially when you first started working at home?
- A. My partner has a good job so we were basically living off that. Anything I brought in was a bonus.
- Q. How do you manage your time?
- A. Up until this month I had loads of time and a small amount of work. It's all changed very suddenly and I'm still trying to get to grips with it. I bill my clients hourly so I have a little timer on my computer which keeps track of how long I spend on a particular project.
- Q. What two pieces of advice would you suggest to someone considering working from home?
- A. Make sure it's really what you want to do. If it isn't you'll find it very difficult to get started like I did. When I started I was being rather halfhearted - still looking for a 'real job' while I was working. Also make sure you have the motivation to succeed - That's the key. Since it's only you doing the work, only you can drive the business forward.
- Q. What else?
- A. Back in March I wanted to get some money to spend on books and other training materials to help raise my skill level. Possibly splash out on some of the more 'cutting edge' software that everyone was talking about in the industry. I chose to go to the chamber of commerce to try and get a business grant. They asked me to fill out a business plan and a cash flow chart for my first year. I took it back to them and they said my idea was terrible and doomed to failure. Particularly since I'd only shown that I'd make about £7000 in the first year. They said I had to make at least £12000 before they considered it to be a proper business and told me to go away.
- I don't think this is any way to encourage new businesses as the government claim to be doing. I know someone local who got the same grant by making all his projected figures up out of thin air. It's really sad that to get funding you have to lie about such things to make the people with money happy.