A work-at-home marketer complained that he gained 30 pounds in the last few years when his home-run online marketing business became successful. In fact, his wife stopped working, he was doing so well. He published an e-book on how he made it and he moved his family to a bigger house. He loves riding bikes with his kids and happily juggles his work hours and a new 11-month-old baby. A great success story, except that he just can’t lose that 30 pounds.
He does have a small office out of the house for the crunch times but also relishes the weekends when he can be with his family full time. He employs little tricks to keep his mind on his work, even getting up and dressing for work just to go downstairs and fire up his computer.
The trouble with being an affiliate marketer or any telecommuter is that working from a home office can be a strain on your health, family life and pocketbook if you don’t know the strategies and tricks to keep everything in order.
The last U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report stated that more than 25 million people now work from home. That’s about 15 percent of nonagricultural workers. It further breaks down to as many as 30 percent of management and professional workers (work-from-home employees were defined as those working at least one day per week from their home). That number is sure to grow by the end of 2007 and is the norm for affiliate marketers.
Many affiliates will say that business comes first, but keeping yourself and your family sane and healthy seems to fall by the wayside unless you have a set plan. It’s not just about getting to the gym. Affiliates have said it’s more a way of life – when you have a successful business, it gets harder and harder to balance work and sanity. There seem to be no clear strategies.
“My office was set up by trial and error,” says Wendy Piersall of eMoms. com. “It took months and even years to get it right. I tell people up front: Get your own office space.” Piersall is on her third home business, has kids and a husband with a full-time job outside the home. “The only way to figure how to balance things,” she says, “is when you are out of balance.”
Jeremy Palmer of QuitYourDayJob.com rents a small office but tries to use it only if he needs to have phone meetings. The rest of the time – if he has lots of computer work – he will stay at the home office, which is centrally located in his house. “We considered an office detached from the house,” Palmer says. “I was in a basement before with one little window, but then an office with no window killed my productivity. Having a window is important.”
Productivity as a Priority
Issues of productivity are not to be discounted. A BurstMedia.com survey indicates that employees are doing more of their personal business on work time. The survey said that 25.5 percent of workers said work hours were the “best time to conduct their personal online activities” and that 23.2 percent said faster connections to the Internet than at home were why they use the office connection for personal tasks while at work.
Some affiliates set down hard and fast rules to get them to be productive. Linda Buquet of 5StarAffiliatePrograms.com keeps a list of “reminders” of things to do to remain successful. She bought a watch that would remind her to say “thanks” to someone every time she looked at it. She believes in the “pay it forward” form of karma, where she will help out fellow affiliates just to help – without fee or commission. She keeps a “to do” list on paper and actually checks it off when things are completed. And she tries to blog about only the things she thinks will be helpful for readers in the industry and not just because the blog needs an update.
Shawn Collins of Shawn Collins Consulting also has a list of “daily habits” that keep him on track. He’s big on structure and relies on his Microsoft Outlook to prompt him about things he needs to do. He works only from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and stops immediately at the assigned hour to be with his family. He answers the phone right away and answers email as soon as he gets one to avoid falling behind. He portions his day so that he does email and research in the morning, meetings in the afternoon and uses the last hour of his day for tying up loose communication ends. He tries to keep a clean desk and clean email inbox.
For QuitYourDayJob’s Palmer, part of working healthy means streamlining your work processes. He has all the same equipment in his home office and his small satellite office so that he can just get in the car and go if the home walls are closing in on him. He uses GoToMyPC.com for remote access to his primary computer from any Internet-connected PC. He uses primarily Web-based applications – such as Gmail and Google Docs and Spreadsheets – so that everything he needs is virtual.
A Healthy Outlook
Apart from making lists, staying healthy doesn’t begin at the gym but at your desk. Having the right equipment to work healthy means being aware of what is right ergonomically. eMoms’ Piersall admits her ergonomics are not perfect. She says she began to have “major back problems.” She says, “For some reason working from home makes it hard to get away from the computer.” She went to the local store and tried every chair in the place until she found one that suited her. She says she may have read an article about choosing the right ergonomic chair but relied on intuition instead. The result was an “instantaneous difference.”
In addition, she tries to exercise because she says, “The healthier I feel, the more productive I feel.”
Palmer says part of his health regime – when he can’t get to the gym – is to ride a bike when he can, take the stairs whenever possible and to park in the farthest end of the lot and walk to his destination. His gym is very close to his satellite office and he sets a goal to go there at least twice a week.
But the gym isn’t for everyone.
Scott Hazard, founder and president of Cooperative Affiliates, says, “I really would rather go to the dentist than to the gym. I’m just not a gym person.” So instead, Hazard finds lots of small ways to incorporate exercise into his day.
“I make excuses to get out and do stuff,” he says. “Like right now, it’s the middle of the day and it’s hot as blazes but I’m going out to mow the lawn. I’m forcing myself to do stuff that takes me away from the computer.”
Hazard was doing a lot of walking, but recently moved and started to do a lot more yard work to get him out of his chair and moving. “I’m looking at a pile of dirt, a wheelbarrow, a shovel and yard full of holes. I could hire someone to take care of this in one day, but instead I’m doing it myself,” he says. “You really get a workout moving, loading and smoothing out 15 or more large wheelbarrows full of dirt.”
A Family Affair
Mostly unspoken but equally important is the way working at home affects a marriage or relationship. Oftentimes work-at-home online marketers end up doing so well they bring in their significant others to help share the load and profits. That means being together 24/7 and that can inevitably lead to some tension.
QuitYourDayJob’s Palmer also employs his wife in his business but says they are not working side by side most of the time. “She’s more of a passive employee for the business,” he says, “and more of a quality assurance person for my sites.”
Experts say it’s important to have a clear division of duties and respect each other’s jobs.
Then there’s the issue of young children at home during the workday that often crops up with families. Palmer says that he and his wife huddle in the morning to work out their schedules so they know who will take care of the kids. The two older kids are easier to handle, but they also have an infant, which means someone has to be with the baby all the time. He says, at first, the newborn was hospitalized for a week – something that Palmer says had an impact on his productivity. But where family is concerned, that takes priority over work, especially in emergency situations. “It was worth the hit.”
eMoms’ Piersall says that even though she’s lately been clocking in 50-hour weeks, she keeps evening time for family and clears her weekends. “Marriage issues,” she says, “are also a trial-and-error endeavor. Like all marriages, there were rough spots” and at seven years of being an affiliate, her husband, she says, is really good about it. “We find a good balance.”
For Miami-based consultant Andy Rodriguez, his business is a family affair. Rodriguez runs his affiliate consulting business out of his converted two-car garage and employs his 21-year-old son, Andy Jr.; his cousin’s husband Emilio Yepez (operations manager); and Emilio’s brother is now doing an internship with the company.
“There are challenges to working with family, but it’s really about trust,” Rodriguez says. “They have access to the books and know everything about the business. But I trust them completely and that is the benefit of working with family. There is a level of trust already built in.”
Andy Jr. admits that having your boss also be your dad has its moments. However, he says that since they both “know how to negotiate with each other” that’s not a big problem. And usually, any issues between father and son revolve around “differences of opinion,” which are typically quickly resolved.
“The Web doesn’t sleep, so this job permeates into our personal lives, but there are times when we just stop talking shop,” Rodriguez says. “We had a family gathering over the weekend and we didn’t talk about work. Emilio said, ‘I just don’t want to talk business,’ so we didn’t that day.”
Cooperative Affiliates’ Hazard finds that having a work routine helps keep things on track in balancing work and personal life. He wakes, takes the dogs out for a walk, has some coffee, hangs out and talks with his significant other, then goes off to his home office.
“She understands that when I’m in my office I’m working. I don’t even have to close the door. I have a work session in the morning and another in the afternoon and that’s my work time,” says Hazard. “Of course, she knows that if she needs me or needs to ask me an important question that I’m available to her.”
That said, Hazard loves that being an affiliate means being able to break your routine and live a very flexible lifestyle. “If I don’t have any calls to make or anything pressing to do, then we may go out shopping or for a drive. I have my routine when I’m working but it can be broken fairly easily when there isn’t a whole lot to be done.”