Russia Ball anyone?

Today, I taught my oldest child and one of her friends one of my favorite childhood games, Russia Ball. Why it’s called that, I have no idea, as there’s nothing inherently Russian about it. Basically, the game involves tossing the ball into the air and catching, with variations. It can be played with one or more people, which makes it a great solitary game as well as a fun group game.

I practiced Russia Ball for hours on my own as a kid. And, years later, I can still do it very well, if I do say so myself. So I got to thinking, does working from home and my childhood experience with Russia Ball have anything in common?

First, Russia Ball and working from home takes practice. Sometimes we catch the ball right away and sometimes we have to lunge to make the catch, only to miss the ball completely. Don’t be discouraged when you make a mistake related to your at-home work. Maybe you lost a client or maybe you had to put in extra hours on a project because something went wrong. You can do it, you might just have to go about it a different way than you had originally thought.

Second, Russia Ball and working from home takes patience. I had to develop patience with myself as I learned how to perform the routines necessary to perfect Russia Ball. Sometimes, we need a lot of patience when performing our at-home jobs. Be persistence and patient, especially when starting your business.

Third, Russia Ball and working from home takes persistence. Doing the same routines over and over again until I had mastered the skills necessary to play the game well took persistence. I spent many a summer’s eve outside banging the ball against the sidewalk in an attempt to “win” the game. That persistence is what’s necessary to be successful with your at-home work, too.

So when you’re feeling discouraged with your home-based business, take a minute to recall your favorite childhood game and the practice, patience and persistence you needed to perfect that game. Then use that memory as a way to encourage you to get right back into the swing of things.

Until next time,

Sarah

PS: If you’re interested in finding out how to play Russia Ball, send me an e-mail through my contacts page and I’ll send the instructions.

25 Million Freelancers and Counting

As a freelance writer and editor, I’m always interested in reading about how freelancing is growing in the United States. For instance, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that there are around 25 million freelancers in the country. Another recent survey finds that approximately 20 percent of employed Americans (one in five) work as freelancers or for themselves.

A recent blog on The New Entrepreneur (on Business Week’s Web site) talks about the “rise of the freelancer,” and how “freelancing is a permanent condition of our economy, not a temporary condition caused by the most recent economic crisis. … Freelancing has been on the rise for decades.”

The blogger writes that “these new freelancers have been celebrated for their independence and entrepreneurial spirit. They are the living example of Adam Smith’s economic actor. They live in the neo-liberal land of our new economy, beholden to no one and rising only by pluck and luck. There is no safety net, most labor laws do not cover them, and they have no benefits–only opportunities. They survive and thrive by their own wits.

“But freelancing is risky. The average freelancer takes no vacations, is scared of the future, and is always frantic to find the next gig. Freelancers do not balance work and family, instead they blend the two into a hybrid lifestyle. Much of the economic risk has been shifted to them and they feel it.”

I can personally attest to the difficulty in keeping my work life separate from my home life—and being a stay-at-home mother of four young children makes that a feat worthy of any circus some days! There’s the inevitable business calls around the lunch or dinner hour, especially since I often talk with article sources who live in different time zones. Nothing like a screaming toddler in the background to make you feel like a not-so-professional person!

But I’ve found most people have been very understanding of my work-from-home limitations, that sometimes there is that childish laughter or screaming when I pick up the phone (usually that starts after I answer, otherwise, I let the voice-mail pick up for me!). To me, this type of article is very encouraging, as it seems to point out the many opportunities there are for freelancers of every ilk and also how commonplace it is for a freelancer to call his office home, too.

Until next time,

Sarah

Health Care and Self-Employed Taxes

Recently, I came across this Business Week article (“The New EntrepreneurThe Self-Employment Tax: Into the Swamp”) that talked about how the current health-care reform bills would impact self-employed workers who purchase health care. While I am covered under my husband’s employer-provided plan, it was enlightening to read about the percentage the self-employed are taxed on healthcare premiums.

The article is also a very lucid description of how the self-employed (those who receive 1099 forms as contract workers) pay taxes. I highly recommend reading it–it certainly opened my eyes to exactly how my taxes are figured out and at what rate they are paid.

Check it out at http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/running_small_business/archives/2009/08/the_self-employ.html.

Worker, Beware

Once again, there’s another article about work-from-home scams, this one in a recent Washington Times edition (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/jul/13/ads-for-big-money-can-just-be-scams/). The article beings as follows:

“The ads are everywhere: in your mailbox, online or tacked to telephone poles in your neighborhood.

They all make similar promises. Earn big money! Work at home!

With unemployment at a 25-year high and even people with seemingly secure jobs feeling uneasy, it can be tempting to respond to offers to turn your computer into a cash machine or help you earn big money for doing simple tasks. There are some legitimate work-at-home opportunities, but there are also countless scams that could cost you money — and even get you into trouble.”

Just a friendly reminder to thoroughly check out any job before committing to it–and especially if the company asks for upfront money!

Until next time,

Sarah

Veggie Stories

This growing season, I have the opportunity to blog about my CSA (community-supported agriculture) and the bounty I receive each week for the Washington Post’s food blog. Along with others who are CSA members, we talk about that week’s produce and what we will or will not be doing with it. Check it out at http://voices.washingtonpost.com/all-we-can-eat/csa-scout/csa-scout-when-a-farm-needs-to.html.

Until next time,

Sarah

Is Now a Good Time to be a Contract Worker?

A recent Business Week article (“Now Hiring: Contract Workers?”) seems to indicate that more firms are hiring contract workers instead of permanent employees, which can be great news for those of us who work from home. May employment data shows that businesses are keeping or hiring contract employees while staying wary of hiring full-time workers.

Something to think about if you’re looking for ideas to work from home. I’ll discuss specific ideas relating to contract work in the upcoming July “At Home News” e-newsletter, which you can sign up for free by clicking on the newsletter button at the top of the page.

Until next time,

Sarah

Pain and Misery Love Company

I had a scare last week when the left side of my jaw partially dislocated with a horrendous popping sound! I moved my jaw and another popping sound indicated the jaw was back in place. Both movements causing much pain and when I went to the emergency room (of course, this occurred on a Sunday!), I discovered that I had most likely stretched the ligaments around the jawbone and socket (TMJ). In layman’s terms, that means I had to eat soft foods and pray that the internal swelling would dissipate and my jaw would realign itself.

As I’ve had a week’s worth of soups and other soft foods (let’s just say my 11-month-old is eating crunchier foods than I am—and he has no teeth!), I’ve been reflecting on how the best-laid plans can go to pieces. Now, I should add that on top of my jaw discomfort, my kids have been sick and cranky, so my household hasn’t had the best week.

But what’s even more serious than that is how quickly my attitude goes downhill along with my physical discomfort and with the increasing whininess of my children. I couldn’t accomplish hardly anything on my lengthy to-do list.

It took me a few days to slow down enough to realize that perhaps this was my work this week—the cranky kids and my sore jaw. That I needed to focus not on what I wasn’t accomplishing from my to-do list but on what I could accomplish in relation to my children and myself.

So I tried being grateful for my aching jaw and for my children’s less-than-sunny dispositions. And I did just what needed to be done in regard to my freelance work, not what I wanted to be done.

I’m happy to report that just over a week later, my jaw is doing much better, my kids are finally over their illnesses and life in our home is nearly back to normal. That is, until school gets out next week.

Until next time,

Sarah

Jumping Into Summer

Our neighborhood pool opens tomorrow, and boy, are my kids excited! No matter that the water will be freezing, they can go swimming.

Summer might officially start June 21, but for many of us, Memorial Day heralds the beginning of summer. Summer is a wonderful time to take time to relax and let ourselves play hooky from work more often.

One of my summer goals is to plan some adventures with my children on a regular basis, remembering the adage that no one ever said they wished they had worked more. With careful planning, you can have a delightful summer and still accomplish all that you need to with your at-home business.

Until next time,

Sarah