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TAKING THE PLUNGE: The women who walked out on office life

Thinking of giving up your stuffy office job? These women did.

TAKING THE PLUNGE: The women who walked out on office life

EVER dreamed of walking out of the office permanently?

From the perspective of an employee contending with office politics, set hours and a long commute, working from home can sound like paid retirement.

Four women who took the plunge and started businesses from their homes tell Weekend how they made the transition and share tips for those thinking of embracing the same change.

A model workplace:

DON'T wear your pyjamas all day.

That's the advice from Brisbane mother of two, author and top model Carolyn Donovan, who has forged a lucrative career working from home and out of a suitcase for three decades.

Carolyn said she set simple rules to keep work and family life separate at home after realising problems could arise when the lines between the two were blurred.

"You can't get ahead in a home-based business unless you run it like a business," she said.

Brisbane model Carolyn Donovan. Not for reuse after March 2017's Home office article.
Brisbane model Carolyn Donovan. Not for reuse after March 2017's Home office article. Supplied

"As a model working for corporate clients, you don't want to lose sight that there are people and businesses with large budgets relying on you, and a high level of professionalism is required."

Carolyn starts each working day by dressing for the office.

"I dress in clothes I would wear to a meeting and I work in a dedicated office space with access to the gadgets and connections I require."

Carolyn requires high-speed internet and reliable devices to access casting photos, show reels, author notes and ebooks so has invested in mobile devices to help her meet deadlines.

"If you can, seek out mobile IT equipment for your role so that you are not tied to your home PC and can work anywhere, in Australia or across the globe."

Working from home usually requires extra space for an office, workshop, studio or in Carolyn's situation, a large wardrobe.

"When I go to modelling castings I wear clothes for many roles, whether it's a corporate position or mother of four, and it all comes with a different wardrobe so I need to have dozens of outfits and shoes.

"That requires a spare room in the house just for those clothes."

Carolyn relies on a modelling agency to take care of her bookings and billing.

"Working from home can make you feel invisible and detached from your industry so a good agent ensures your brand stays in the market place," she said.

Cooking up an idea

CATHERINE Finlayson's jam-making business evolved when the Brisbane mum decided to turn adversity into an opportunity.

Two years ago, Catherine was in a work accident that left her with a back injury and unemployable for 12 months.

"The doctors said I would be out of action for a year but I knew I couldn't just sit at home doing nothing," Catherine said.

"So I started making jams and chutney for friends and family and then realised that I could turn it into a small business selling the preserves at markets around southern Queensland."

Running a home-based kitchen business comes with tough regulations which deters many cooking enthusiasts from entering the industry.

But Catherine embraced the challenge and expense of acquiring the necessary licences required to make 120 jars of preserves a week under her brand Catherine's Kitchen.


Catherine Finlayson of Catherine's Kitchen.
Catherine Finlayson of Catherine's Kitchen. SONJA KOREMANS

"To have my home kitchen registered came with some difficulties such as being a renter and having children and pets.

"I would also have been required to install industrial fridges and handwashing areas so I did the sums and decided it would be more economical to hire a commercial kitchen space one day a week."

The rest of the business housekeeping such as the labelling, pricing and administration is done in an office at her home.

Catherine said the home operation suited her lifestyle and disability.

"When I am physically ready I may look to build the business and wholesale the preserves as a commercial product.

"But it's enjoyable to work from home so I would always contain the size of the business to be able to have that option."

A glassy affair

ALLORA glass jeweller Leah Kelly knew it was time for change when she felt swamped with the admin that comes with running a shop in the heart of a city centre.

Lease agreements, rosters, cleaning and paperwork had left Leah bereft of her creative mojo and in need of a hip pocket change.

Leah said there was a sense of freedom that came with shutting the shop in nearby Warwick and working from home.

"Closing the shop freed up a lot of time to be creative just for me," she said.

"It made a huge difference. I got time to learn and teach myself new things and get back to doing some courses."

She began selling her work through social media and markets and utilised the extra time she had honing her business skills.

"Making that transition from shop front to home office gave me the time to enhance my financial acumen to maintain a business plan, attend to bookwork, regularly update social media around the brand and explore new markets for my products."

But working from a home studio has its disadvantages, Leah said.

"Interacting with people on a daily basis in the shop was very motivating," she said.


Jeweller Leah Kelly from Allora.
Jeweller Leah Kelly from Allora.

"To counteract that I have created a strict work schedule and deadlines so I'm never tempted to hide out at home and do housework."

The mother of two urges other home-based workers to outsource administrative work if it's not their forte and let family and friends know your office hours.

"Operate your home studio like a shop, stick to certain business times and let your family and friends know that just because you're at home doesn't mean you aren't at work."

Leah has a designated studio which is off limits to her husband and children.

"Otherwise your work space can become just another space for your kids to dump their stuff."

Leah also encourages home workers to contact their accountant or the ATO to maximise tax deductions such as rent and electricity.

All Wright for hairdresser:

AFTER several years tending to the locks of celebrities and Brisbane's movers and shakers, hairdresser Michelle Wright decided it was time to hang up her scissors at a Stefan salon in the Queen St Mall and move back to her home town of Warwick.

Before long she was married, starting a family and pondering whether to open a salon from home.

That was 24 years ago and Michelle has had a thriving home business ever since.

"Working from home has been a wonderful lifestyle decision. We have been able to raise our children without having to rely on after-school care." Michelle said.

"It does require getting your children into a routine around your work and ensuring they respect your space with clients."

Michelle urges aspiring home workers to research rules and requirements around insurance, health and safety and licences relating to their industry.

"It's a professional workspace, it's just in a home location, and you still have everyone from toddlers to elderly people coming into a studio so it's up to me to ensure they are entering a hygienic, safe, tidy and enjoyable environment.''

Michelle said establishing a salon at home was not a huge expense if you did your research, set aside money for an advertising budget during the launch stage and ensured clients had adequate parking and access to your property.

"Contact your council, visit an accountant and do some pricing around the refurbishment of a dedicated home space and the products and equipment you will need."