When Working at Home is Your Main Income

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Pros and Cons Of Working At Home

I started our website www.LivingOnADime.com in 1999 after we self-published our first book Not Just Beans (now called the Dining On A Dime Cookbook).

For many years, Living On A Dime was a hobby for my mom and me. My husband worked on it in the evenings and on weekends. We had hoped to eventually turn it into a second income producer for our family.

Mom and I both have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and I have Fibromyalgia so we weren’t able to work as many hours as we needed to really get the business and website going.

Five years ago, after several years of working at a not so great job, we felt like it was time for my husband to quit his job and start working for our website. Up to that point the business had not made a profit, but each year we did grow bigger.

We thought we would share some of the pros and cons of working at home as your main income. At first it does seem like an “ideal” dream job but it is a lot of work and does have its own problems. We would like to share some of our experiences and things we have noticed along the way.

Here are some pros and cons of having a web business:

Pro: You can take a vacation whenever you want. When I was on bed rest with my 4th pregnancy, it was a lifesaver for Mike to be able to watch the kids or run me to the hospital for emergency hospital visits at a moment’s notice, which happened several times.

Con: You don’t get paid for that vacation plus you will have to work overtime before and/or after the vacation to get all the business stuff done. For us, the work that we have to do before going away is getting all the posts written and ready to go ahead of time, which means working several very late nights before we leave for our trip or before the baby was born.

Pro: You can take off to go on school field trips, doctor visits and other things that are harder for most people.

Con: Your friends and family think you don’t have a job and if you’re not careful, you can end up spending too much time NOT working.

Pro: You can take your work with you on vacation if you need to.

Con: You can take your work with you on vacation so it’s not all vacation. (Mike: Especially if you’re having a big sale and your web host accidentally breaks your ordering system when you’re in another state…)

Pro: You can stay home with the kids.

Con: You can’t get any work done while the kids are awake so you will either have to get up early, work late or work during nap time. For us we have noticed that the older the kids get, the harder it is to get work done. Mike has found that it’s easier for him to take his work to the library (which means you aren’t really at home with the kids).

Pro: You control the amount of income you have. If your septic tank fails and you have to come up with $9,000 cash fast, you can have a big fire sale or two to pay for it.

Con: There is always the pressure of wondering, “Will we sell enough to pay our bills?” If you don’t work, you are not going to have an income.

Pro: You’re not just “checking in” to a daily grind at a job where you don’t like your boss and you don’t agree with the way the company runs. You can do the things you think are best to make your business succeed and, if you improve your business, you get paid more because of the extra effort you made.

Con: You are responsible for figuring out how to operate your business efficiently, adapting to address issues that come up that you hadn’t expected and learning how to market your product. Just having a good idea doesn’t guarantee you will sell it. If you don’t figure out how to connect your product or service with the people who need it or if you spend too much time on Facebook, you don’t get paid.

Pro: When your spouse works at home you can always collaborate and think of new ideas and new ways to do things.

Con: If you’re not careful, the business will consume your life and that will be all you talk about.

Pro: You don’t have to worry about a nasty, rude and discouraging work environment.

Con: If you’re a people person, working by yourself at home can get lonely. If you work with your spouse there are days you will drive each other nuts and wish you could leave for work! :-) Then there are always rude and nasty customers. Most customers are reasonable, but there will always be some unpleasant ones no matter what you do.

Pro: You can set your own hours.

Con: If you aren’t careful, your 8 hour work day can turn into 5 or 6 hours doing “one more thing” around the house. (Mike: There’s also the danger of working the 8 hours but also finding yourself unable to resist the temptation to check your e-mail every hour in the evening, on Sunday or on a holiday, which gets you focused on work (stressing about work) when you should be spending time with your family.) You also don’t always get to choose your hours, like when the website crashes at 11 p.m. and you have to stay up to fix it.

These pros and cons aren’t meant to discourage you but to help you evaluate if you are ready to work at home as your sole income. Hopefully they will help give you a few more ideas before you take the big leap.

       -Mike and Tawra


  1. Tanya says

    Good pro and con list; overall, are you happy with your choice? I’d love to know what you like best about working from home and how it’s changed your life for the better!

    • says

      Tanya I am answering for both Tawra and I. I have worked from home and run my own business now for about 35 years plus. To be honest I don’t know if we are that happy with our choice or that it is what we always dreamed of doing but it is more that we don’t have many choices and working from home is the lesser of two evils.

      We are sick and we just can’t hold down a regular 9-5 job. Just getting dressed and ready for a regular job would wear us out. By working at home we can work around not feeling good and we can cover for each other.

      I have worked at home and away from home so has Tawra and the bottom line is like everything else it has it’s ups and downs just like we mentioned in the article. One place you will have employers and co workers who are upset with you or causing stress but at the other you have customers and suppliers driving you crazy. Yes I can go to my kids activities during the day but that means I had to work at 10:00 at night to make up the time.

      As far as being there for my kids and all there are pros and cons to that too. People sometimes in-vision baking cookies with their kids all day and playing games if they work from home but the reality is if you have to make money and do a good job, you have to actually work just like any away job. Which means I have to give my work my undivided attention and my kids don’t get it which is almost as bad as not being there. Especially because what happens, to even the most saintly parent, is when you are frantically trying to get something done or meet a deadline and the kids keep interrupting you you get stressed, frustrated, angry or all of the above. Even in a business like ours we have dead lines to meet.

      What do I like about working at home. I don’t have to deal with rush hour traffic and if there is a blizzard or my car won’t start I don’t have to panic about how am I going to get to work. The other is what I mentioned earlier about working around being sick. But see even with that the con is you have to pay a lot or have no medical insurance.

      How has it changed my life for the better? It really hasn’t changed me for the better at all but then a job whether it is at home or away has only been a means of putting food on the table for me and nothing more. No job has ever made me a better person except for maybe the new skills I learn but those are easier to learn when working away from home because you have someone else to teach you where when I work at home I have to learn the hard way by trial and error.

      I don’t get my self confidence, self worth or anything like that from my job. I could scrub toilets all day and still feel good about myself or be a president of a company (which I have been) (I don’t mean that in a prideful way either just to explain my point) so my job doesn’t really make or break me or make me a better person.

  2. says

    I find that working at home has its benefits and challenges, but I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

    The independence is really nice– being able to flex your schedule any way necessary is great. I like being available for kids’ school events, family get-togethers, etc. The drawback that goes with it is that you still have to do the work sometime so if you flex your schedule, you still have to give up something to get the work done.

    I like the fact that if you’re self employed when you do work that improves the business, you can see the financial benefit of your work. Since you’re not on salary, you can problem solve and try to improve things and, if you’re successful at improving some aspect of the business, the business will make more money, which you may decide to pay yourself or put back into further improving the business. It’s almost like the excitement you get when successfully playing a game.

    When you’re salaried, you may decide to work harder or smarter, but there is no financial benefit for doing that and it’s easy to get frustrated when you do a good job with no greater benefit than the other guy who plays on the Internet all day. In my experience, if you’re a person who likes to get things done, you can succeed in your own business but if you just want a paycheck, you’d be better off in a salaried job.

    On the flip side, if you’re salaried, you always know how much money you’re going to make. If you have a problem at a job, there are often other people who can help you figure it out. If you’re self employed, you have to figure it out yourself or pay someone to do it (which can be expensive if you have to use too many professional services).

    I think that a lot of people see working at home as an opportunity to get paid to watch TV, play on the Internet or just relax (which is why so many people get sucked into “Make $50,000 a week in your spare time” scams), but it requires much more actual work than that. If you neglect the work, you will see the financial punishment that results.

    The biggest negative IMO is that it is difficult to “turn off” the work at the end of the day… The temptation to check your e-mail in the evening leads to answering customer questions and the next thing you know you’re working or thinking about your work all the time.

    Another big negative is that if you’re easily distracted, you’ll get nothing done. I often have to go work at the library or somewhere away from home to avoid getting off task too much.

    Overall, I personally like working at home better but it’s definitely not for everyone.

    • says

      One thing you might note that Michael said and that is he goes to the library to work most of the time which is almost like going to work each day because even with the kids not there a person can get easily distracted – stopping to get a snack, seeing something in the house needs worked on, talking to someone at home etc. You do need a certain personality too. If you are a people person you will go crazy working alone.

      Their situation is different too. For example in Tawra and Mike’s case often (not always) if one or the other of them are trying to meet a dead line the other person watches the kids so one of them can get something done. If you are working on your own you may not have this.

      One other thing I never see addressed and that is when I worked away from home I would pick up the house and clean the kitchen in the morning when I left for work and when I got home it was in the same shape I had left it in. When you work at home you and/or the kids are using the bathroom getting it dirty, fixing snacks and lunch in the kitchen messing it up, kids will have toys all over with the house is being used and getting dirty all day. This means you have to keep cleaning up after yourself and the kids on top of trying to work.At a job away from home you have a janitor who comes in each evening and cleans.

      I once heard a woman on a national TV show say women should really try and stay at home and work. After several minutes of expounding why and how wonderful it was she was asked how did she manage herself. She, looking very sheepish, said “Well I do have a nanny, a cook and a cleaning lady come in.”

      It’s not that I am saying you shouldn’t work at home but often people paint only the rosy picture of things, so others try it, then see the other side which can cause them to stumble and get very discouraged.

  3. Dawn says

    Oh my! I just had to laugh at this one:

    “Pro: You can stay home with the kids.

    Con: You can’t get any work done while the kids are awake so…”

    I’m a stay at home mom with 3 boys (age 17, 3, and 1) and have just transitioned out of the workforce last year (worked full time my entire adult life) and I can SO relate to this! I thought by staying home with the kids I would have all this free time and gets lots of things accomplished. HA!! The joke was on me. It seems like I’m so much MORE busy getting nothing done except chasing my kids around. This has been a real eye opening experience.

    • Carol says

      There will come a day Dawn when you will think back and realize how very important and gratifying it was to stay home with your kids. I was a stay at home mom with my kids till they started school full time. My husband was at sea most of the time and someone had to be there for the kids. I then worked at a middle school so my hours pretty much coincided with theirs. It is something I will never regret. I was always busy with one thing or another, but what fun it was. You miss out on so much when you are a working mom (or dad) when your children are in daycare. I know my grandson loves going to “school” but I think of all the fun little things that happen when kids are growing up that my daughter is missing out on. I know it’s her choice but believe me, money won’t replace those special moments. If like my mother who was widowed and had to go to work to support us, that is survival, not just wanting or thinking you have to have all the latest and greatest. I know there are lots of people out there that have to have two incomes to give their family just the bare necessities.
      I praise you for the effort you are making by staying home with your children.

  4. donna b says

    Hi Jill —

    what a good article! I work in an office setting currently, but with an inner ear disorder (I get bouts of “fluctuating hearing” and vertigo — it’s no fun). I also don’t know when these attacks are coming so someday I may not be able to do this job, so I’m always trying to think of things I could do at home after retirement.

    Mike’s comments and yours were right on target. I’m sure I’ll miss seeing the public someday, but being a non-hearing person is also a definite possibility.
    You all have given many of us great ideas on businesses to start and a reminder to keep your eyes wide open. Being self-employed takes a great deal of commitment, work and sacrifice. It’s not for the timid, that’s for certain!

    Good luck on the household move, and best wishes for Tawra and Mike and family in their new home!


  5. Danielle R says

    I really love how you weigh things out.
    I work in the childcare industry with families who work from home, and while it can seem ideal there’s an entire list of cons, along with the pros. Can’t-escape-work syndrome can set in easy when you’re not working a set schedule, and over time seems to be a daily routine for most in home business and/or work from home people. Just an observation – and yes, i’ve noticed people get antsy to have social interactions. What a wonderful list. I’d love to work from home, and hope to accomplish it one day – even after all the negative things I said, my personality would do great with it.

  6. Carmen says

    Tawra, I noticed you said you have fibro. My sister also has it and has a tough time keeping a full-time job. A work-from-home job would be ideal for her, but I’m wondering how you deal with the pain and work at the same time? When she’s having flare-ups, her arms hurt so much that she won’t go online at all.

  7. Tanya says

    Thanks! I appreciate all your great feedback. It interests me because I work for a company that recently produced a great book on how to start a business – business plan, hiring the right professionals, handling your finances and files, marketing, etc. The behind-the-scenes reality of what it’s like to work at home is not something we touched on in the first edition, but now that I read all your comments, maybe it’s something we should address when we reprint the book.

  8. rose says

    i work at home and i am so thankful for this opportunity ..
    and yes its feast or famine .. some months are better than others but that is the main pro/con issues i have with it ..
    i love it ..
    thanks for posting this .. ;D

  9. Marcia says

    I have thought of working at home but I’m not sure what I would do…I don’t like the idea of being scammed and that’s about all I see for opportunities out there in my area. If I did work at home I know perfectly well that people would think I don’t really work, which is precisely the problem I have now even being a stay at home wife in my fifties ( I have worked an outside job before now by the way.) I have a friend who thinks women at home don’t do a thing all day which irritates me no end. She is always after me because I finally decided after years of doing it and hating it plus being in pain from arthritis for days after taking care of her disabled daughter (who is like a baby at 38 years old and needs 24/7 care) that I no longer wanted to go through that and it has not gone over well. So yes I can easily see how people can assume you’re not working even if you work at home.

    • says

      That is one thing I stopped doing years ago and that is worrying about what others will think. My husband and I ran a large business out of our home for years. We never got to go on a paid vacation, could often work 12-16 hour days, 6 days a week and no holidays off but friends and family members always said it must be nice not to have to work so much just because we were working at home. It bothered me at first but now I have learned I only have so much energy and time and I am not going to waste on worrying about what others think. The thing is if they weren’t shaking their finger at me for that it would be something else. They are the ones with the problem not me. I have nothing to be guilty over and don’t have to prove myself to anyone. I have more important things to think about then them and their attitudes.

  10. Michele says

    Hi Tawra & Mike,

    I would love to work from home – but I don’t know how to do that. Any suggestions? Thanks!!

    • says

      I don’t know if you are a single mom or what but if you have one income already coming it is often easier to try and just live on one income then to try to work from home and juggle the kids at the same time. It is really harder working from home because many working moms have someone babysit the kids while they work where moms that work at home have to do both. It is like trying to do 2 jobs at one time. So unless you are the only income I would suggest to try and just live off of one income.

      Now if you are the sole income then you need to start by figuring out what you can do. I did ironing, I sold Mary Kay, I worked on piano parts, I took in sewing, got paid for doing once a month cooking for people. I have known people who had babies who got them up early in the morning so they would put the baby in the car and do a couple of paper routes.

      If your kids are in school then part time work away from home can be good too. I have a baker close by me and the owner said I could choose how many hours I wanted to work and which hours I wanted to work. All I did was see a help wanted sign she had out and went in and asked. I drove by a shoe repair place a couple of days ago and thought “That might be an interesting place to work because maybe they need someone to come in for just a couple hours a day to shine the shoes they had repaired.” Keep your eyes and ears open and go in and ask.

      If you are married there are things like working for a caterer. Some of these places need people to serve and set tables once or twice a week in the evening and you could do that while hubby watches the kids.

      Tawra at one point had a green house which she grew veggies and sold some to the restaurant in town and the rest we put on a stand in front of the house with a box for people to put the money in for what they took. I could go on and on but you need to look at what you are interested in or talented at then try to figure how you can be of use to others.

  11. George Taylor says

    Mike and Tawra: Thank you for writing about this topic. Is WordPress a viable alternative to having a website? They call it a blog. Locally, there is a way to learn over the internet in 6 weeks through the county adult educations efforts.

    while I may not be very ‘young’ at least I’m wiser! LMHO So I can learn new tricks, when someone takes the time to show me twice.

    Many blessings,
    George Taylor

  12. rose says

    tawra, mike and jill ..
    i couldnt have said it better myself with this article ..
    when hubby was alive .. his social security check paid all the bills . i worked part time online in my own little business .. but i had the freedom of knowing in the back of my mind that if i didnt make a lot of money our bills would be paid .. i mainly worked for food, car expenses and savings for rainy days ..
    now that he is gone .. i cant work this little job that i spend alot of hours on thephones making pennies on the dollar .. well .. its like that every so often . but its basically sales and that means feast or famine ..
    summer months are my slow season .. so i normally have worked outside of the home to bring in extra money .. to keep up with my quota of what i needed for us to survive ..
    now that he is gone .. i need to work a reg job to secure that monthly income i need to survive ..
    so i decided to go back to school to become a cna . and still work part time on the phones .. just to keep myself secured .. just in case ..
    its scary for sure working for yourself .. all the pro’s and con’s listed are right on the money .. the only other thing i would suggest is that if u needed to get an outside job for a very short time for just in case times (llike me in the summer months) .. u could and should ..
    but yes, make sure to make time for family .. live by the philosophy of mary kay (the lady who created the cosmetics and her company) ..
    GOD first, family second, business third .. by doing that u will be successful ..
    awsome article .. thanks for sharing .. i know i thoroughly enjoyed reading it ..
    i hope all is well with everyone .. we are ok .. its hard dealing with hubby’s passing .. but the last 5 weeks of his life he really suffered .. he is in a better place and we know he is fine now .. we miss him alot but we are all changing our lives for the better .. and that is a good thing ..
    i got the cookbooks from the sale that i ordered … that was really exciting too .. i am 90 % done with xmas shopping .. my theme this yr is cooking/kitchen .. i went to the flea market and got the cutest aprons for $1 each .. and nearer to the holidays i will go to the dollar store and get 2014 calendars and with the cookbooks i bought from the awesome sale u all had, i am done! .. i have even cut my list way way way down too ..
    i want to put up a tree this yr too .. its been about 10 yrs since we had one up .. we lost all of our xmas stuff when we lost our home in 2004 bc of the hurricanes in florida .. and havent replaced anything ..
    i would also like to get a doberman too (and name her daisy) but thats a dif story .. ehhee 😀 ..
    i hope all is ok with everyone ..
    keeping everyone in my prayers ..
    rose ..

  13. Marcia says

    Thanks for the little pep talk Jill. I know that I often worry too much about what other people think. This same person I referred to with the disabled daughter lectured me once about not having a job and it occurred to me that she was conveniently forgetting that if I had a job I would not be available to take care of her daughter. I think sometimes she is the type of person who thinks if people do not live exactly the way she lives there is something wrong with them. I know what you mean about people shaking their finger at you about one thing or another. This lady seems to do it to me all the time.

  14. Carol says

    I work from home as a writer in a full-time paid position. I cover a territory and am on the road three to four days a week doing interviews and am home the rest of the time writing. I was a freelance writer before that and am edging towards freelancing again. the main thing about working on your own is you don’t have the office politics. Even though I am in a remote location, I still have to deal with office politics. But before I go solo, I have to get enough work lined up to pay the bills. You can’t be starry eyed and think the work will just automatically come to you…think about something you love to do and then go out and get your customers…regular customers. There will be times of feast or famine, but if you budget and are careful with your funds, I think you will find the pros vastly outweigh the cons. by the way, I went into a full time position for healthcare for our family. Now they are grown and I am looking into self employed insurance…

    • says

      You don’t have to deal with office politics when you are self employed but you have hundreds more customer politics you have to deal with. It is always something I’m afraid. We have to just choose the lesser of two evils.

  15. getforfree says

    I love to work by myself, so work-at-home business would be perfect for me. I would rater email or call people than see them in person, or just not to deal with them at all if possible.

    I love to sell stuff on ebay. But right now I am very busy with my garden, kids, chickens. I also got little chicks and have eggs in the incubator hatching in a few days.

    Raising chickens, and selling baby chicks and eggs can possibly turn into a business later when I will learn more about it and have more experience.

    I don’t make a lot of money, but I save a ton as opposed to working for a company, especially if you would consider the childcare costs, gas, taxes, and higher income bracket. And we get fresh organic eggs, meat, vegetables and fruits from our backyard. I would also like to learn how to make pillows and comforters from chicken feathers. This should be fun.

  16. anitachicquita says

    oh, you missed the biggest con: being close to your friend the refrigerator, 24 hours a day. If you don’t put a chain on that box (either literally or mentally), your butt size goes up as your income does!! Love you guys……

  17. says

    What is the best place to have an online website? I have a blog site, but I’m thinking I need a website where customers can order directly from it. I mainly do all my selling and taking orders from Facebook, so I spend a lot of time there. I have gotten a few orders from my blog, but not enough to make a living from. I don’t really want an Etsy shop, because there’s tremendous competition there, with a lot of people doing the same thing I am.
    If you can give me some information, I would appreciate it.

  18. Lisa says

    One huge thing that I’m surprised you didn’t mention is the high cost of insurance if you must purchase your own. We pay about $3500/mo. for our medical, dental, and long-term disability insurance (that one is on my husband only), and we have no matching fund 401k or pension to look forward to. Those expenses greatly reduce the amount that we have to live on, but it’s what we do, and we make it work. :)

    • getforfree says

      Most jobs I worked, I didn’t have health insurance or vacations or 401k plans. Because someone works for an employer, it doesn’t mean they have all the benefits.

      I only had it with my last job I had, and I didn’t even visit the doctor, because I didn’t want to spend money on copays. I did put some $$ in 401k but only because they were matching it. I figured if I have to pull it back before retirement and pay all the penalties and taxes, I still get more back than I put in from my pocket.

      My husband is self-employed now and I don’t only work at home for no money. We don’t have any health insurance, and our kids have the free Medicaid.

      We are all healthy and don’t need the doctors or pills or the bills. The kids been to dentist a few times and they didn’t need anything to be fixed there, so I just check their teeth like once a week. When I needed dentist, I just walked across the border to Mexico and visited my favorite clinic there, and, no, I don’t speak Spanish, but I want to learn, because their prices for the services are great compared to the US, that I rather visit physician there too if I need it.

  19. says

    Hi I’m a big fan of your newsletter and this is the first time I’ve felt prompted to write a comment.
    Your post about working from home is absolutely spot on! (and may I say, better than a lot of so-called business coaches out there!). You tell it like it is and you have given me a couple of nudges too! So thanks for that and keep up the great work.
    Many Blessings to y’all

  20. Brenda in IL says

    I work from home doing artist management for a company out of NYC. I think that this article is spot on, but I always wanted to say that it is hard to work with the children around so I have had to really set up boundaries for them so they know I am ‘working’ and not just ‘on the computer.’ Also, husbands can be the same way.;-)
    I also have had to really maintain the mindset that while I am home and flexible I am not AS flexible as a sole SAHM and therefore need to prioritize school, Scout, church committments as such.
    It can be done and I can’t imagine going ‘out’ to work anymore! Thanks for the great article and may God continue to bless you!

  21. Tammy from Alabama says

    My thing is finding the right work at home job that isn’t a scam and won’t take a lot of money to start being that I’m on disability, a limited income once a month. I would love to find something that will help balance out in the bills to get us back on track. I have researched but always come up with just a bunch of emails showing up and no sure thing. It is so terribly hard these days to make ends meet. My husband works three jobs which one is a business we started two months ago, a propane refill station, he’s in the Army reserves, and works for the government, which don’t pay well, believe it or not. I feel bad that I’m not able to help as much as I would like due that I am recovering after 4 1/2 years of winning the battle of throat cancer, I’m just now getting close to how I was though I know that I won’t ever to be the same, but maybe better…: ) So see I truly want to find that sure thing to work at home…any suggestions?

    • says

      Unless you are totally home bound I wouldn’t look for anything on the internet at first for work. Even though some have succeeded working on the internet it isn’t as easy or as successful as you would think. Be careful about people saying things like “I made $10,000 a month through the internet.” They will tell you that and it could be true but what they failed to mention was that was for one month a couple of years and all the other months since they have brought in $100 or less.

      Read some of my other comments on this where I list many different types of jobs you can look for. Sometimes we too can get tunnel vision where we think we can only find or the best place to the solution is (like looking only at the internet) and are blinded to other ways and means out there. Since your husband is working and does have 3 jobs is there anyway you can cut your expenses more so that you getting a job isn’t so crucial?

      Be sure to check my other comments because I have listed job ideas in those.

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