Monday, December 1, 2008

Multiple Income Streams through Virtual Employment

My husband and I have always been fans of "not putting all your eggs in one basket." Since he graduated from college and got his first "real" job, we have tried to have multiple streams of income. For example, he has always had a regular job and done contract work on the side. Virtual employment lends itself to this philosophy and helps even out the bumps in one's personal economy.

I am a virtual assistant. I have more than one client. If one client goes under (or heaven forbid - fires me), I have another to fall back on. I'm not saying it wouldn't hurt, just that I wouldn't be without income. If more people in America had multiple income streams, for example from virtual employment, think of how resilient we would be. We would save fossil fuels, we would decrease congestion on our roads, our children would have their parents at home more. Time previously spent commuting would be time spent with family. Virtual employees come with less overhead for companies too.

Virtual employment is not without its problems and potential abuses. However, it could improve our standard of living, not only on an economic level, but in terms of personal fulfillment as well. I hope the silver lining of this economic downturn is that more employers start using virtual employees.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Off the subject

It's been a long time since I posted. Things have been quite busy and a lot has changed in the world. I had a cousin leave to fight in Iraq, the economy took a further nose dive, and we have a new president elect and although none of those things are on point with this blog, I will get to each of them.

First, my cousin leaving for Iraq. I don't believe that we should be there any more and I think how we got here or why is a moot point. Right now, what is rubbing me the wrong way is how we treat our departing soldiers.

I found out a couple of days before Rick was due to leave that he was shipping out to Iraq. I am the only family member that lives close enough to Fort Benning to say "Goodbye, we'll miss you, please don't die!" Now, they didn't give him a definite day, location or time of departure until the day before he left. Ok, I can understand that. If I were a terrorist, I suppose I would want to keep us from sending additional soldiers to Iraq. So, I was on alert all week so I could be there when he left.

Rick made sure with the powers that be that I could see him off. My mother called and checked with two others to verify where, when and that I could be there. When I showed up, a full half hour before Rick said to be there, but a half hour after I wanted to be there, I was told if I had just shown up a little earlier I could have seen him long enough for hug. Only two other women and I showed up to see these soldiers off (that by itself, is sad). One was a soldier's wife, the second was her friend. The wife had been on post ALL DAY and she was under the impression that she would get to see her husband of only a year and half before he got on the plane. I had brought treats for everyone leaving. I brought Halloween treats, my cell phone (with extra minutes to use up), my laptop for emails and some birthday cards for the soldiers to fill out that I would mail to family when appropriate. These ladies and I offered to go through security, we offered to do whatever it took to be allowed to visit for a little bit. Now, I do not mean any offense to these ladies at all, but it was obvious that they were both amputees. So these ladies and I (the "soccer mom") were the big threats to national security on Halloween this year. Are you frightened? The Army certainly was.

We did stick around in hopes of at least seeing Rick and this lady's husband. We were told by some kind soldiers (THANK YOU, THANK YOU) that there would be a smoke break before getting on the plane. We were able to get a message to them that although they don't smoke, they needed a smoke break. As the soldiers were coming out for their smoke break, we not so politely moved across the street. So we did get to see them, but we had to yell across the street. After about five minutes, we were even less politely, but not exactly forcibly, asked to leave.

My brother in law, who was in the Army, put it best: If the Army had wanted soldiers to have a family, it would have issued them one. It doesn't matter what you think about the war. These soldiers are going off to fight and possibly sacrifice their lives. Their families are having to sit, wait, hope and pray that their loved one is ok. And this is how we treat departing soldiers and their families? It is beyond shameful.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What to do, what to do

I'm having one of those months, where there is lots to do but not much is urgent. It's hard to prioritize. Right now I have about 30 things I could work on, about half of which are personal. None of the things on my plate is really urgent, although some will be if I don't get them done in the next few days or so. I find that working from I have a lot more to prioritize. If I don't have anything urgent for my clients, my mind wondering to the things I could/should be doing for the house. Sometimes the number of things I have to chose from is overwhelming.

I find that the longer I work from home (and the messier my desk is) the harder it is to chose what to do first, unless there is a fire to extinguish. If I worked in an office, there would be no question. Personal stuff would wait until personal time, but my work doesn't stick to business hours so I don't feel obligated to keep personal stuff out of business hours. All this wonderful flexibility makes it hard to decide who gets what and when.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I recently joined Facebook. It was simply because I was curious but it has had an unexpected side benefit. One of the things I miss about working in an office is the camaraderie. It can be quite lonely at home, even with my husband here. Facebook has been like a virtual watercooler. I can see what my friends are up to, see the latest pictures of their kids, chat or share a joke.

Working from home is a somewhat isolating. There are days where my husband and I never leave the house. There are days where we don't talk to anyone but family or business contacts and the business phone calls are all business. And there is no one to go to lunch with other than each other, but we rarely have lunch away from our desks anyway. Facebook has filled some of that void. It is a little extra peer contact. In some ways it is better than "real" coworkers. With Facebook, I can pay attention or not. I can log in or not. It does not interrupt my work and I can even turn off email notifications if they are so numerous as to be bothersome (hasn't happened yet -- but I don't have that many friends). Now, if I could just figure out how to have a virtual lunch date.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Being On-Call

Part of the luxury of working from home is that during lulls I can do things around the house, personal paper pushing and sometimes (gasp!) read a book. There is a downside to this however. Because I work from home and sometimes it is not necessary that I put in all the hours during the work day, I feel obligated to work after hours. Actually, that's not quite true. It just comes with the territory. But I do feel obligated to be on-call to take care of minor emergencies no matter when they crop up.

Today was the second time in a month that I have been awakened in the wee hours of the morning by my cell phone receiving a text message. I use my cell phone as an alarm clock both because it goes with me when I wander during insomniac episodes and because of emergency work calls. The first time I was awakened, it was truly urgent and I was happy I could take care of things without leaving the house. It was also 5:30 am and I was going to get up shortly anyway.

This morning it was 12:30 am and it really wasn't very urgent. It could have waited until a more civilized hour. No one expected me to take care of it then or even expected that I would get the message at that time of night. It was simply me. I could not go back to sleep until I had taken care of it. Actually I couldn't go back to sleep for a while even after I'd taken care of it. The minor urgency was partly something I had overlooked and partly not enough information. I felt responsible and because my computer was just downstairs, I felt I had to take care of it right then. I lost sleep that I didn't have to lose. I'll miss out on time with my husband this evening because I'll fall asleep on the couch earlier than usual.

It is both a wonderful and terrible that when working from home, you are never away from work. In many ways it allows more balance to my life. Occasionally, work creeps in where it has no business being. I hope it stays an infrequent occurrence.

PS - Check out this blog

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Desk is a Mess!

Something I have noticed about working from home is that my desk and office are always much messier than it would be if I worked outside the house. I'm sure that some of it comes from simply working at home and having additional "stuff" to do that is not connected with my jobs. But that can't be all of it. I would say that my desk and office are at least three or four times messier than I would ever allow if I worked in someone else's space, if I allowed it to get messy at all. When I worked outside the home, a messy desk was one of my pet peeves. I would be embarrassed for either of my clients to see the state of my desk. While I don't think they'd fire me on the spot, I do think they would wonder how I ever manage to get their work done.

Every time I clean my office and desk, I say I will never let it get like this again and each time it does. My husband does not seem to have this problem. I have yet to discover how this happens. Is it because the family adds to the pile? Is it really that I have so many personal items to complete? Or could it be, (oh, how I hope not) that I am really a slob as long as the only person it affects is me?

Monday, October 20, 2008

It's my Birthday

Now, I am of the opinion that once you hit 21, birthdays are pretty much like any other day.  What's the point after all?  You have your driver's license, you can legally drink and unless you are looking forward to joining AARP, there isn't really another birthday related milestone.  However, when you work in a "regular" office, they are an excuse to take some time out to have some cake or go for a drink after work.  I miss that about working in an office, not so much for my own birthday but celebrating other birthdays.  I like chatting for a while without guilt and appreciating my fellow co-workers, some of whom have become my best friends.

It's nice working from home too.  My husband has already asked me three times what he can pick up for us for lunch.  But it's not the same as working in an office.  My current co-workers don't know it's my birthday, nor do I know when their birthdays are.  In an office, there's always that one person that takes it upon herself to find out when everyone's birthday is.  I was never that person because someone else always had the job when I arrived.  I guess I can take up the cause.  We can't get together to celebrate, but I can make sure I mention it.  Maybe I'll even send a cake.