Business End of ArtWoodshop News

If You work From Home You Still Need to Commute

A Furniture Makers Commute I shared the same dream as many woodworkers: to turn my woodworking hobby into a business. As I worked towards that goal and talked to and read many woodworkers’ blogs and forum posts, there was a recurring concern. If I did this for a living, would I still enjoy it?

Five years ago, when I flipped that preverbal switch to make my woodworking hobby my job, I told myself that I would not allow that to happen. I cited that old adage, “If you make what you love to do your profession, you will never work another day in your life.” Well, I did just that, and I have discovered that that adage is certainly misleading.

When working with my first client, I told her I would have their project done within 6-8 weeks, which is a reasonable period to build a dresser. At the time, I had not yet learned to work fast and efficiently; the need to think ahead to prevent me from having to reset a tool eluded me. To keep my promise to the customer of a delivery date, I worked the last five weeks of the project without taking a day off. By the time I started to apply the finish, I was rushing, not only to complete the project on time but also because, mentally, I was ready to be done with the project. The result was a less-than-stellar finish, and I ended up stripping it off and refinishing it.

You would think I would have learned my lesson, but as I grew my business, I became more stressed about delivery dates and the quality of work. If I messed something up or something I built wasn’t up to the quality I wanted to be, I would lay awake at night stressing about it. I am wondering if the customer would notice it if I left the mistake. Did I want to take that chance, or should I just fix it? In the end, I would always fix it, but it would come at a cost to my enjoyment of the craft. Since I worked from home, it was easy to just go out into the shop at 2 am and go back to work if I was stressing out about a project.

I was losing my enjoyment of the craft, the very thing I told myself I would not do. As entrepreneurs and creatives, our minds are always going. We are always trying to figure out what to create next and how to turn a profit better, and we have a long list of things we need to get done but never have the time to do them. This is a curse of working from home. It is easy to slip off to our workspaces and work nonstop. Something needed to change if I was going to keep myself motivated and keep my business alive.

Then, one day, my wife called me on her way home from work. She was clearly upset, and as I tried to talk to her to calm her down, she stopped me and said, “I don’t feel like talking about it; I just want to drive, listen to the radio, and decompress on my way home.”

That’s when it hit me: I was not taking time to decompress at the end of the day. I no longer had to drive home from work, giving me time to decompress and let my mind know it was the end of the workday. When I started my business, I always thought that I would be saving an hour and a half of my day by not having to drive. Now, I realize that the commute home was a necessary part of letting the stress of the day go. It is a time to reflect on what happened that day and plan what I was going to do tomorrow to get back on track with whatever went off the rails that day. The drive-in was a time to remind myself of the to-do list of things I needed to get done.

Now, at the end of my workday, I sit down and write out a to-do list of what I need to do the next day. To keep on track and keep the stress of finishing a project on time, I start each project by marking out completion goals on my calendar. These are project milestones that I should have completed by this date to be sure the project stays on track and is finished on time. I now have a way to re-plan my workdays if something goes wrong without stressing over it. Just taking a few minutes to reflect on my day and plan for the next allows me to decompress as if it is my commute home. I make sure I take regular days off, and I am back to enjoying my craft again.

Even if you don’t actually sit in a car and drive to and from work, take a few minutes before you start your day and after to plan for what you want to accomplish that day and the next. Sit in your favorite chair and relax for a few minutes. You will be surprised what it will do for your state of mind.

I’m the owner of Benham Design Concepts, a mixed media art studio where I design and build custom furniture and other works of art using wood, glass, stone, and various metals.
In this blog, I talk about the art I create, my journey, and the things I learn along the way.

1 comment

  1. Being your own boss is not a job for everyone. You have to be very concentrated and disciplined.

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