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About David Fleming

January 1997
Guest Commentary by Tom Durkin

Don't Try This at Home
Unless You're a Professional


When I worked downtown, commuted two hours a day and made decent money to do work that I could have done faster, better and cheaper at home, I had a sign tacked to the padded wall of my little cell. It read:

My other office has a window.

Not only does my other office have a window, it has a view -- a few rooftops and TV antennas, and then it's nothing but the Sierra Nevada mountains for as far as you can see. And now that it is my full-time office, it's even better equipped, and well, it's ... just like home.


Getting downsized out of my job two years ago and going back to freelance writing (instead of another job) has been an ongoing financial challenge, but the quality of my work life has never been better.


I'm told there is life after paycheck -- but it takes, on average, two to three years to make the transition from employee to independent contractor. The good news is that knowledge workers who do make the transition tend, in the long run, to be happier and make more money than their employed compatriots.


The jury's still out on whether I'll make the transition -- or want to. There are days when a steady paycheck looks real attractive ...


As a journalist specializing in high-tech business and employment trends, I am in the curious position of frequently reporting on what's happening to workers like me. Clearly, as corporations and governments continue their downsizing frenzy, more and more opportunities are opening up for independent contractors, but it's not so clear that there are enough opportunities for everyone who's been laid off.


Besides, not everyone is cut out to be an independent. Personally, I find it much easier to write about best business practices than to actually practice them myself. As exhilarating as it may be to be your own boss, it's a whole other job piled on top of whatever it is you do professionally.


It takes a serious amount of self-discipline to be your own business. Not only do you have to be a self-starter, you have to be a self-stopper. Being a home-based entrepreneur can be a fatal attraction to latent workaholics.

And then there's marketing, billing, bill collectors, taxes, insurance, zoning laws, office expenses and all that other stuff you never had to deal with when you worked for somebody else.


Reality bites. It's enough hassle to make even the most diehard free spirit yearn for a nine-to-five gig again. Fortunately, I am pleased to report that there are increasing prospects for those of us on the bleeding edge of the hybrid high-tech workforce. More and more employers are actively looking for employees and contractors with home offices.


Aside from my own articles for BNA's Employee Relations Weekly and Gil Gordon's Telecommuting Review, the best evidence I have to offer is the advent of such Internet sites as The Telecommuting Jobs Web Page. Having a home office is actually becoming a job requirement.


If I decide to go back to a Real Job, I certainly intend to use my home office as a bargaining chip. It represents both a resource I have to offer a prospective employer -- and a concession I'm willing to make: I'll sacrifice salary (not all of it!) for the privilege of working at home.


Simply put: My other office not only has a window with a view, it has a window of opportunity.


Cheshire Cat

Got a comment? Don't bother David. 
These opinions are strictly my own. 
Copyright 1997



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