Homework that means business
People are doing their dream job from their spare rooms and garages. Here’s how to pursue a passion project and make a living
When you are in a job you don’t want to retire from, you are obviously happy. I can’t see myself retiring from this,’ says Jane Tilley of Wiry Works, the wire sculpture-making business she currently runs from the corner of her lounge (etsy.com/ uk/shop/janetilleywire). After years spent in the print and design industry, Jane, driven by a desire to create, started turning her sketches into a 3D reality made out of florist’s wire – twisted, bent and shaped into anything from birds in flight to cameras to bottles of Jack Daniel’s. A desk in the living room of her family’s house in Rugby is her workshop/office, while an upstairs cupboard is her supply room.
Though the concept of remote working from home really came in with laptops, good Wifi connections and a desire for a better work/life balance, the practice of running a business where you live goes back centuries. The term cottage industry was coined before the Industrial Revolution, when families would try to earn income through the small-scale production of something that was later to be mass produced in factories. It might have been anything from dainty lace and clothing, to pots, pans, nails and even guns.
These days, running a business from home is more of a way to pursue a passion and turn it into something profitable, without the worry of having to rent space to do it in. The virtual world, with
online stores like Etsy, Folksy, and Redbubble, is your shop front.
From such humble starts, global businesses can grow. Shaun Pulfrey, of Tangle Teezer brushes, used to pack them in his flat while watching TV with his mum. Julie Deane and her mum, Freda, first ran Cambridge Satchel Company from Julie’s home in Cambridge, just trying to make enough money to send her children to a better school. Computer giants Apple and Hewlett Packard began in garages attached to their founders’ homes.
In 2016, research showed that one in two businesses in the UK were actually registered as being based in their owners’ houses. And though the premises might have been small in size, the money they were contributing to the UK economy was not; they collectively generated about £94 billion.
But it’s not (all) about the money for many home workers. It is about doing something they love, and discovering customers who appreciate their products as much as they enjoyed making them. ‘Working in an office, you barely get a thank you if you’re doing a good job,’ says Jane Tilley. ‘But the positive comments you get doing something like this are fantastic, and every sale is an appreciation.
‘Being at home lifts a lot of stress from your shoulders. You can make your own decisions, have your music playing, create a relaxed atmosphere. It isn’t always ideal that it’s in the lounge, and the kids complain when they find wires. But working from home, for me, it’s the best place.’