Common Work-From-Home Options Explained

Consulting Freelancing

Posted by Enrico on Oct 17, 2017

Many people dream of working from home, and it is a dream that is becoming a reality for more and more people each year. In the US, 68% of workers say they expect to work remotely in the future, and 53% of non-independent workers expect to become independent workers in the next 5 years.

But there are various terms used for work-from-home opportunities. And sometimes they are confused with each other, and used interchangeably. So in this article I want to look at some of the more common work-from-home options, and explain how they are different from each other. As with any work opportunity, there are advantages and disadvantages, and I will also explore some of these.

Freelancing

In the opening paragraph I refer to independent workers, which is a somewhat obscure way of describing freelancers, or contractors. This is a work-from-home option that most people are familiar with, and one that offers the most freedom. Or independence.

As a freelancer you get paid for each task or project you are involved with, while as a contractor you will sometimes work on a full-time or part-time basis for a fixed period of time. As a contractor you are not an employee, since you aren't afforded any company benefits, and are only paid for the period stipulated in your contract.

Advantages of Freelancing

  • Flexibility - You are in full control of your working hours, and your work load. Want to take a spontaneous vacation? You can.
  • No commute - You avoid the drudgery of a daily commute to and from a workplace. Your office is wherever you want it to be.
  • Work/Life balance - The demands of some professions - and the impact of long commutes - easily influence a full-time employees ability to manage their personal life.

Disadvantages of Freelancing

  • Life/Work balance - Yes, for some freelancers, balancing life and work can be just as challenging as for full-time employees. Friends and family who mistake you being at home as being available all the time. Or getting side-tracked by household chores.
  • Loneliness - Something else that some freelancers are never prepared for is the solitude of working from home. Outside of the occasional phone call or email, there aren't many conversations when you're working alone.
  • Feast & Famine Cycle - While many freelancers report earning more than full-time employees, there is always a risk of long periods between assignments. And when you aren't working, you aren't earning.

Home-Based Business

As with freelancing, running a business from home sees you as being self-employed. But the distinction between the two is that a home-based business is often entrepreneurial in nature, and may be governed by licensing and zoning regulations. The primary office is home-based, but this does not mean that all business is carried out at home, nor is it always a one-man operation. Brands such as Google and Amazon all started out as home-based businesses, so it also doesn't mean that the business will always be small.

Advantages of a Home-Based Business

  • Lower overheads - Because the primary office is based at home, you don't have to worry about the cost of renting office space. The cost of some utilities can also be offset, not forgetting the cost of traveling back and forth between home and an office.
  • Tax benefits - In many countries, operating a home-based business brings with it some tax benefits for business expenses and personal income tax.
  • Your own rules - You're the boss, so you can manage the business the way you want to, including establishing your own processes for getting things done.

Disadvantages of a Home-Based Business

  • No guaranteed income - As with freelancing, the flow of customers will fluctuate, so you are never guaranteed a fixed income each month.
  • Sink or swim - The success of the business rests on you, and depends on the amount of effort you put in. And whenever there is an ebb in the flow of customers, you need to work harder to ensure you're able to cover all your monthly expenses.
  • Many responsibilities - You're not only boss, you're also the accountant, the receptionist, the sales department, marketing, etc. Until your business is stable and big enough to employ additional staff, you're solely responsible for all tasks.

Remote Worker

Remote worker is a new term for an old job: telecommuter. The term telecommuter was first used in the early 70s and traditionally referred to someone who spent part of the work week working from home, or some other location. The rest of the time they would have worked in a regular office. Nowadays it is more common for telecommuters, or remote workers, to exclusively work offsite. And in many instances, remote workers aren't even based in the same location as the company they work for. Automattic, the company behind WordPress, has an entirely distributed workforce, with their 548 employees all working remotely in more than 50 countries around the world.

Advantages of Remote Work

  • Stable income - Unlike the other two options listed here, as a remote worker you are usually considered an employee. So you are guaranteed a fixed income each month.
  • Less stress - Aside from avoiding the stress of a daily commute, you also have less stress than a freelancer or home-based business owner. This is because you don't need to go out looking for work.

Disadvantages of Remote Work

  • Less flexibility -Although you are working from home (or location of your choosing), you won't have the same flexibility as freelancers, etc. Your employer will often require you to work fixed hours each day, and you can't take breaks whenever you want to.
  • Odd hours - Unless you are fortunate enough to be based in the same country as your employer, you may find yourself working outside of traditional office hours to accommodate the time difference.

Conclusion

If you're thinking of switching to working from home, it helps if you first know what the primary options are. It also helps to know what each involves, and there are more pros and/or cons than the ones I have listed here. It shouldn't be a spur-of-the-moment decision, but one that you reach after doing proper research. And if you do decide to go the freelance route, it helps to know that finding regular work is easier thanks to marketplaces that connect freelancers with clients in highly skilled fields.

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    Enrico Tam

    MBA, Ph.D, tech entrepreneur, consultant and advisor

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