The Office of the Self-Employed

By Larry Teren


There is nothing like being self-employed and working from home as long as you can stand the boss, the hours and the lack of benefits. 

Nearly thirty years ago I made a decision to go out on my own and hustle up business. Until ten years ago, I used to spend the working day in an office space I subleased in an accounting office when not out at a client site. I was part of the group dynamic in kidding around with the accountants but not bound to the sensibilities of who was of superior rank to whom. It got me in trouble a few times when I let my emotions get the better and had disagreements with others traipsing through the area.

When the accounting firm moved to another location not that far away and equally as convenient for me to get to, I stopped working in an office and just did my business at home when not going to a client. After all, a majority of my work could be done by remote connecting into computer systems. Often I would wait until after-hours to dial in so that it would not interfere with a client’s daytime processing. The decision was easy and it saved me a few bucks. I still maintain a presence at the accounting firm to pick up and send mail and faxes as well as to visit and disturb those trying to work.

Even though for thirty years I have not been part of an office setting as an employee, I’ve been a part of so many others as a consultant. Each visit to a different client means that I have to remember the rules of protocol at their facility. It is as if being an actor in various stage productions.

On the one hand, I am treated like a regular member of the cast but at the same time I come and go as I please while others must be there earlier in the day and leave at the proper time. And as friendly as the client’s staff may be, it does not ensure that I get paid any quicker once I submit my bill.

I don’t suffer from lack of a daily routine of being able to relate to the same co-workers over and over again. I rather enjoy being the guest star than a regular member of the cast. The body of work is more impressive when it is that much more varied.

In my twenties I went the route of working for a living in one location twice as I had no other choice. There was a sense of security going to the same place every day, dealing with the same head cases, making temporary friendships and getting paid every week on the same day of the week. But it also stifled my aspirations.

Now I deal with issues such as at one client where the controller is regularly asking me to tell- not advise- her staff on how selected procedures are be handled. I am usually telling her that I have no standing to dictate to her staff as I am not part of the chain of command. She feels otherwise. I guess that’s the difference between looking from the inside out rather than outside in.

Excuse me, it’s 11:30am and I think I’ll put aside the keyboard, turn on the television and see if there are any good movies to watch.

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