Balancing life while working from home

With the introduction of digital audio recording, working on audio from a home studio has become a reality for a solid group of engineers and enthusiasts. Top that off with the cost of equipment getting lower and lower, and you have a recipe for lots of home based businesses. Any one you talk to that knows business will tell you that bricks and mortar (having a building) is expensive. Because of this, more and more people are opting for home studios. But this comes with some consequences that most don't ever consider until their neck deep.

Every home business has some of the same challenges, and a lot of the struggles consist of time. The temptation to be able to work on things "whenever I want" is a beautiful looking snare. But what most people eventually find out, is that it is one of the most devastating decisions you can make. When the lines between personal time, family time, and business time start to blur, everything suffers. This is especially true if you have a family.

Having 2 kids has made this fact abundantly clear to me. I had to finally put my foot down and be firm with my clients that I have set office hours. My kids deserve and need regular family time for help with homework, activities, and simply to know they are loved and important. I was afraid this decision would cost me clients. I was already finding it difficult to explain to customers that I had a studio built into my home, not a home studio. Those who know audio equipment, know there's a big difference. But try explaining that to people who don't know anything about this stuff. Let me tell you, not only did I NOT lose clients when I started being firm with my time, but it was easier to sell clients that I was a professional. Businesses run for certain hours, fly-by-nighters work 24/7. Little did I know that trying to be everything to every client was making me look bad.

I want to give you a glimpse of what a day in my home and studio looks like for me.

I'm up at 6am to get ready for the day. By 7am I'm in the studio pounding through voice over auditions or voice work that needs that extra deep "morning voice." At 7:40am I get the kids to the bus stop, then I'm either out running errands, in meetings, working with a client out, or back in the studio doing whatever work I have lined up for the day. That work also includes marketing, book keeping, taxes, and all the behind the scenes work that every business has. I'm back at the bus stop at 2:50pm to get the kids. I get them snacks and find out about their day for 10-15 minutes, including giving them any homework help they already know they need. Then I'm back in the studio doing auditions, mixing, mastering, marketing, or whatever I have left to work on for the day. At 5 o'clock, I'm off. I won't work later than 5:30, and even that's rare. 5-9 is family time, and that's too valuable to waste... even my top clients can't afford that price. If there's still work to be done that day, it waits until after the kids are in bed and I'm up late working before I start the day again.

Another thing I do that's counter intuitive, is I am closed on Sundays. Period. I will not work on Sunday. I'm available on Saturday's by appointment, but Sunday is sacred to me. It's God's day and my family day. We do church, yes I help out (but that's not work, even though it's what I do for a living), then it's family time. Completely unavailable to clients. I don't even answer my phone if I don't know the number and know it's not a work call or text. It can wait.

The main concept to remember is being firm with your separation of family/personal time and work time. My kids know that I'm on the clock until 5, and after that I'm all theirs. And both sides of that is important. If I worked away from home, they wouldn't see me until after work anyway so they need to respect work time too. They like to eat so I need to work. I'm pretty sure they're tired of hearing that line. But they also know and like that I'm home if they need me, and I like that too. A secondary thing that I'd like to point out here is to not under value your time. It's very easy to think that because you don't have as much overhead cost (because you're not paying rent) that you're time is less valuable. You'd be amazed how little paying for rent affects your price and value. Do your math and think in percentages. At the end of the day, it really shouldn't be more that about a 10% difference. Undercutting the competition by large amounts hurts the industry and you. There's a reason that your competition charges so much. Might be a good idea to have a mentor that you can bounce the pricing ideas off of. But don't undersell yourself because you work form home.

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