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The Pros And Cons About Working From Home That No One Will Tell You, So I Will

The Pros And Cons About Working From Home That No One Will Tell You, So I Will

It’s nice to be able to work from home while wearing comfortable pajamas, but it’s also awfully easy to get lonely. If you’re thinking about becoming a freelancer (or already are one), you might enjoy these stories that illustrate the pros and cons of working from home.

Opening a business is one of the most challenging, fulfilling, and nerve-wracking things I’ve ever done. I worked as a banker (“financial services representative,” was my fancy official job title) in a credit union for almost five years before suddenly finding myself job-less. Since I was a bit put off by the monotony of having an 8 to 5 day job and I had a decent amount of savings stock-piled away (read: enough to support myself for several months despite making some bone-headed business decisions), I decided to pursue self-employment as a blogger and personal trainer.

1. My first paying client (pro: nothing boosts confidence like helping a person change their life).

The scariest thing about working from home is not having a set income; even worse, it is just plain petrifying to actively seek your first paying client. In a typical sales job, you’ll be provided with scripts that help you communicate effectively, financial incentives that motivate you to deliver, and managers to keep you accountable; but if you’re a freelancer working from home, you’re the only one with the power to make the sale.

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I’ll never forget how happy and excited I was when I got a message from a friend that said something like, “Hey! I’ve been loving these fitness and motivation tips you’ve been posting on Facebook, and I know you’re training people now, right? Let me know how to sign-up, because I’m ready to make some changes!” That single client, a busy mom who ended up losing quite a bit of weight and developing a whole lot of strength, became a cheerleader who not only encouraged me to keep going, but also attracted the attention of more people who became clients in the future.

2. The devastating break-up (con: don’t expect everyone to support you, especially if you get obsessed).

When I first started a business, I became so consumed with wanting it to be successful that it was all I could think about. Add in the fact that I have an addictive personality (get obsessed with things very easily), and you can see how this might have spelled trouble for my relationship. My ex-girlfriend quickly became exhausted by how I never talked about anything but business stuff, and we ended up having several nasty fights about it. I was upset, because she seemed to be disinterested in what I was passionate about, and I accused her of not being supportive. She was upset, because I seemed to be disinterested in our relationship, and she accused me of being self-centered. I don’t think either one of us was completely “right” or “wrong.” I think she could have been more understanding and patient with me, since my life had radically changed in a short period of time; but I also could have been more considerate of her feelings, since a relationship can’t flourish without proper care and attention.

3. My smash-hit Kindle release (pro: if you hustle consistently, you will be rewarded for your effort).

With the help of a mentor, I plotted to release a Kindle book called, “The Busy Woman’s Guide to Getting Fit, Fierce, and Fabulous.” I have to confess I can be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to putting out a book with my name attached, so it took me a (long) while to finish this project, but the result was so very worth it. I launched the book with a, “Get it free for five days!” promo, which helped it land in the #1 positions in the Amazon categories of women’s health, health/fitness/dieting, self-help, and happiness. This book has been read by over 25,000 people since its release, which boggles my mind.

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4. The bout of depression that followed (con: you better not get cocky, because success doesn’t happen overnight; it is an every day struggle).

The point of that Kindle release (other than helping people like you get fit and fabulous, of course!) was to direct traffic to a sign-up page for my online coaching program. Since I was selling the book for 99 cents at the time (it is now $2.99, but also better), I didn’t expect to get rich from it. I thought I might be able to get enough readers interested in my paid service to become financially stable. While I did pick up a few clients, the actual result didn’t come close to mirroring the expectations I had set for myself, and I found myself in the middle of an existential crisis where I wondered if there was any reason to bother trying anymore.

5. My first paid writing gig at Lifehack (pro: it’s nice to have freedom to express yourself and create your own schedule).

If nothing else, reader reviews of my Kindle book boosted my confidence as a writer, so I started looking for paid writing positions that might offer a steady income stream, which I hoped would remove the stress of not being sure I would have enough clients to cover my bills. Lifehack was the first place to take a chance on me. I am very thankful for that, because they gave me a creative outlet where I was free to express my fears, frustrations, and feelings in a way that would benefit people like you (yeah, you, over there reading this!). Contributing for Lifehack has also resulted in getting offers to write for other places like the Motivation Alliance, an online health portal and gamified fitness tracking service for corporate wellness plan participants. Now that I have a decent portfolio and track record built-up, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to find more fun writing gigs just like these as long as I’m persistent about it.

6. The lonely days that dominated my life for half a year (con: you will get lonely if you’re used to working with other people).

The “freedom” I discussed above can quickly turn into loneliness if you’re not careful. Remember how I mentioned that I have an addictive personality? I got so consumed in writing Lifehack articles, personal blogs, and my first print book* that my social life (and sanity) suffered as a consequence. I love to hustle, and can keep going and going like the Energizer Bunny for a very long time (months!), but pushing myself too hard for too long inevitably leads to a depressing place where I start to associate work with misery. I was so used to working for hours without end that visiting my family, going on a hike, or enjoying a few drinks with friends started to feel like frivolous things to do. Eventually, the irony dawned on me: I wanted to make enough money through my writing and coaching to have freedom of time, yet I was acting as if I was so chained to my work that I couldn’t even escape for a brief moment to get away from it all.

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*This isn’t released yet; if you want to know when it is, please check out the links in my bio at the end of this article.

7. My “let’s meet in the middle” compromise (pro: you can pursue a part-time gig if you start to miss people and/or could use some extra income).

Given my loneliness (which I feel was a direct consequence of living and working alone for over two years) and the simple fact that some extra income would remove a lot of the pressure I had placed on myself, I started browsing job ads in my area. I hoped to find a gig that didn’t quite demand a full 40-hour work-week, because then I’d still have plenty of time to coach, write, and work on my own business. My search concluded in me accepting a position as an office manager at an area YMCA, which only requires about 30 hours a week (and combines fitness and business, two fields I take a great interest in). It amazes me how working with other people, something I took for granted in the past, all of a sudden felt like a welcome escape from the lonely days I’d grown so accustomed to.

8. The woulda, coulda, shoulda’s (con: you will make some bad decisions you wish you could reverse, no matter what you do).

No matter how hard you try, you will fall short. No matter how much you plan, you will make mistakes. No matter how hopeful you feel, you will experience disappointment. I don’t say these things to discourage you from pursuing self-employment. I say it to prepare you for a harsh reality that a lot of people like to pretend doesn’t exist. I’m happy I pursued my passion, but I wish I could reverse some of my decisions. I know I can’t hop in a time-machine to change the past and make all my problems go away, but I can reflect about it here, which might be helpful for you. Below are the four biggest things I would have done differently.

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1. I would have made more time for my friends and family instead of obsessing about work so much. You do have to say “no” sometimes so you can get things done, but that doesn’t mean you have to become a hermit like I did.

2. I would have kept a part-time job initially instead of diving straight into it, because that would have helped me save money I could invest back into the business (and I might have even avoided those lonely days).

3. I wouldn’t have published my Kindle book until I had a print book to sell, too. Self-publishing on Amazon is great for generating traffic to your blog, but I should have had more offerings than a coaching service.

4. I wouldn’t have waited so long to start pursuing freelance writing jobs. I love to write (so much that I’d do it for free), but I think I could have been getting paid for it a lot sooner than I did.

Make sure you weigh the pros and cons of working from home before pursuing self-employment. If you have any points you’d add to this list or stories you’d like to share, do so in the comments. Please share with anyone you feel would be helped by it.

Featured photo credit: Woman and young girl in kitchen with laptop and paperwork smiling/GSCSNJ via flickr.com

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Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

More Resources About Achieving Business Success

Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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