Randy Duermyer writes, How Working At Home Found Me. This is a useful blog about working at home - check it out. People email me asking about starting their own home businesses as I did. They’re say they’re tired of showing up when they’re so sick. What does it take, they want to know.
This wasn’t a clearly thought out decision. It evolved.
Fifteen years ago, I left my job as an Assistant Professor of Communications at Boston University. I was very sick with ulcerative colitis — to sick to do a decent job and it showed.
Two years later on disability, I was desperate to get back to paid work. Everyone thought I was nuts given how sick I was. And I couldn’t explain why it mattered so much. I’d already made two careers changes because of bad health. I knew it would take years until I made the salary I’d made - if ever. I was too sick to take a full time job out of the house.
But I couldn’t see not working for having a paying job for the remainder of my life and I wasn’t sure it was going to get any easier for me.
I’d always wanted to be a lawyer but law school required being able to consistently show up for classes — and it cost too much money. So with 48 hours of training, I became a certified mediator.
I volunteered to get experience. And after I had surgery to “cure” the colitis, I got a part time job running an urban high school mediation program. But I was still too sick (now it was the MS) for a school schedule. I had to leave again. I was disappointed but I had an idea.
I figured the only thing left was to start my own business since I couldn’t work on someone else’s schedule. I’d met other mediators who worked for themselves. With a partner with a geriatric social work background, we created a business in elder mediation.
Elder mediation wasn’t a hot field — no one even knew what we were talking about. But I figured I had nothing to lose. It cost next to nothing to launch — and soon we were making enough to pay expenses.
In the beginning, I thought I’d work 15 hours a week. But I soon realized nothing could happen in that amount of time. And working at home, I could do a lot during off business hours - evenings and weekends - which gave me more flexibility.
I had everything to learn. I talked to people who had built their own home businesses, read books, joined professional associations and found mentors. I learned to network, market and run a business. We had several great elder mediation cases but, after a year, it was clear, we’d need to offer other services to make a living.
One opportunity led to another. Soon I was talking to leaders of companies, not just about the conflict in their companies, but about their challenges. This was 1995 - and executive coaching was just catching on.
Over the next 6 years, I built a thriving business as an executive coach. I learned how to market on the internet. I created a newsletter. And after 2001, when the economy started to slide down, my business slowed with it.
I saw another opportunity. Working with my own coach, I realized that I had an expertise that people needed. I knew a lot - more than most — about working while living with chronic illness.
I changed the company name, created a new website, started writing and getting all over the web. And I got clients.
This business works for me because:
I love what I do.
I had financial support (my husband’s salary) in the years while I was business building.
I like working on my own (even though I miss seeing people and being part of a team) and am motivated and disciplined.
I like being able to make decisions for myself and living with the results without answering to others.