Work at home companies will often promise you the world. It has been my personal experience that the only promise you can count on maybe 80% of them is that they will indeed keep is to cash your check or deposit your credit card charges.
I am not here today to recommend any particular work at home companies, only to share my experiences in building a business in the basement of my home that, for a time, made my life one of learning what I wanted to learn and dancing in my boxers until late in the night while my modems flashed like Christmas lights all year long. I had at one point 255 US Robotics modems singing all night as they negotiated connections with my customers.
A family member at the time asked me why I did not turn the volume down on the modems since they were noisy. Well, the main reason was that, like the smell of diesel to a truck driver, the sound of those modems to me was my customers spending time and money. With me. Gotta love that.
It was a hell of a good time for a while.
Work at Home Companies
How I started Working At Home, Getting Bitten By the Be Your Own Boss Bug
You would not think of IBM as a work at home company. They may not be but they sure did hire a lot of contractors for the roll out of IBM’s OS/2 Warp 3.0.
Sad to say, I loved OS/2 Warp 3.0 a lot more than IBM did. To that sad, big iron company the PC and its operating systems were like red headed step children born with too little potential and too many warts. While Microsoft was backing up 18 wheelers loaded down with copies of Windows 95 and sticking them as stuffers into folk’s shopping bags IBM was making us sell them at $37.50 a copy. I suppose the reason for that was they were having to pay Microsoft for each copy of Windows that came bundled inside of OS/2 Warp 3.0 in order to run Windows applications.
Warp was very advanced at the time. Not to get too deep into the woods of nerdism it was a flat memory model, 32 bit operating system capable of running Windows apps in either a shared memory space or in individual protected memory spaces. At a time when DOS was still the PC mainstay and folks were loading the file system high in order to eek out another 10 or 20K largest executable it made a big difference in how much work and how many processes you could be working in on your computer.
Anyways, IBM told us that we would moved from being contractors to the promised land of being an IBM employee proper, with the whole benefits package, retirement, stock purchase plan…you know the drill. Get in and work hard and you will have a future. All we had to do was move a certain number of copies of Warp in Alabama. We were limited to Value Added Resellers such as CompUSA and other small box stores and the independents.
Not So Fast There, Tim
My first inclination was to hit the bricks and call on government agencies for Alabama and such. Nope. I was told that government agencies were reserved for those professionals who were trained and had experience in dealing with the particular needs of government agencies.
I don’t know. Maybe the shine on my wingtips was a little lacking. I had purchased a secondhand pair of Johnston Murphys, but they cleaned up really well with the help of the shoe shop there in Homewood I thought. The little fellow that informed me of how I had gotten above myself had to lean way, way back in order to look down his nose at me. While he educated me on my place in the grand scheme of things, which was pretty funny, he still managed to inspire me to hit it out of the park even more than I planned to. I realized while I was listening to him and to his companion from IBM that the both of them were somewhat unhappy that they were having to come to Alabama and push an operating system for consumer desktops.
The both of them never seemed to tire of explaining how IBM sold more in high end mainframe operating systems than Microsoft could even conceive of selling. Things change, don’t they?
Work From Home Spoils You
It really does. Working from home, even when you work for someone else is the bomb. You know what you have to do so you get up, get it done and get home. Sans traffic or a timeclock.
To shorten this up a bit, we moved many multiples of the number of copies of Warp needed for IBM to offer us a permanent position. What I did not know was that IBM, in addition to being an acronym for International Business Machines, it also means I‘ve Been Moved.
Yes, indeed. They would make my position permanent if I were willing to move to Dallas. I almost did, too. In retrospect, though, I made the correct decision. I decided to start my own business right there from my home.
At the time, I had no idea what I was going to do.
Work At Home and the World Wide Web
The World Wide Web, it was said at the time, would change the world. Very few things live up to their hype. The Internet, and the World Wide Web, did. It changed my life and others, creating opportunities for work, prosperity and delivery systems that revolutionized industries, services and products of all types. Thing is, everyone was excited about the thing. When we were thinking about working at home business ideas came fast and furious. Few of them stood up under close examination. I kept looking and finally I found one that kept me up at night thinking on how to make it a reality.
The boom, later called the dotcom boom (and then bust) was just in its infancy. I was spending my nights on Prodigy, which came bundled with the little IBM PS/1 that I was using as my computer.
Loved that little machine. Probably because I knew every single thing there was to know about it. It came with 2MB RAM and a 40MB hard drive and, get this, it came with a 2400 baud modem, not those old slow 1200 baud modems.
Also, when I upgraded the RAM to 6MB, I felt like a big dog in the neighborhood. Sounds funny now, working on a machine with 32GB RAM, but at the time that little upgrade cost around $200.
It made a difference, too.
Anyhow, that machine was the one I used to access the local BBS. At the time, it was called The Matrix. Originally, it was called America Online.
No, not that America Online. The owner of The Matrix BBS sold the name America Online to the folks who went on to found the America Online that you are thinking about. As I recall, the fellow’s name was Rocky. He was running The MajorBBS as his platform and it was a very developed BBS.
Oddly, while it was all text based, I sometimes think maybe I enjoyed it more at the time. Probably not true. You know how nostalgia is about ‘the good old days.’ I suspect what I miss is having all the energy a 20 something has more than the text based BBSing that was standard at the time.
Getting My Feet Wet Working At Home
The PS/1 you see to the right was where I started my own BBS. Just fiddling, I went to the library doing a little research on what it would take to get started and what my customers would want and what it would take to deliver it. You cannot have a business unless you have something to sell and a way for folks to buy it, you know.
As luck would have it, I almost fell directly into the perfect book that would answer my questions. It was called ‘Creating Successful Bulletin Board Systems’ by Alan D. Bryant. It even came with a copy of a two line version of TBBS, aka The Breadboard System, a strong contender back in the days of BBSing.
Games, shareware, an interactive admin that liked talking with his users online and off, and badda bing badda boom, you have a business. It was also the time at which anyone with an ISDN line could hook up a couple of phone lines with waiting modems and you were on your way.
As I say, with most folks using a Fax/modem running at 1200 baud, a 128K ISDN connection to this new thing called and Internet and you were signing up college professors and such left and right. Folks were also willing to pay by the hour in those days so, as I say, it was a good time.
The TBBS system was a tad lacking, though. You had to have an internal card for each phone line which kind of limited what a single PC could do. The MajorBBS, though, was leading edge. You could put a smart super serial board like the Major Board or the Equinox SST SuperSerial boards and connect 128 modems to your computer through a single cable. The DSP (Digital Signal Processor) dropped the CPU load on my BBS’ server from 45+% to as low as 3-5% even when I had as many as 60 or so users logged in. This was especially true when those folks were just cruising the web.
Upgrades and Growth
The TBBS system, as I say, was stable but had some flaws I did not want to invest the money to overcome. We rolled with the MajorBBS/WorldGroup platform and made some serious headway in being able to provide entertainment and educational resources for families and helping businesses get into the business of reaching past their geographical restraints.
Before it was over with, I had taken a two line TBBS system running on an IBM PS/1 running 6 megs of Ram, a 40MB hard drive connected to a 128K ISDN line to a 255 license count MajorBBS.
We had the MajorBBS, which we quickly upgraded to WorldGroup so our users would have a graphical experience, and a Novell file server that did the heavy lifting for the MUDs we were running. As you can see in the pic to the right, we were also running a U.S. Robotics Total Control server that supplied us with 56K modems and PRI from WorldCom. Above it you can see the CISCO 2501 that connected us to the rest of the world. We were multihomed to Worldnet and BellSouth with physical locations both in Birmingham, Alabama and Atlanta Georgia.
…and I was still working late into the evenings talking to my customers while in my boxers.
Work At Home Pioneer Days
That is what the late 1990’s were for the work at home folks. I realize there were a lot of folks doing things like Amway and such from home, good businesses but man, the workload was monster compared to what one can do today and make a living. The Internet made it possible to have a store from your home that marketed services and goods in a way that before required tons of capital and the ability to lose money for a while. Even then, there was a ton of risk involved. Now, not so much.
Work At Home Companies: What I Learned the First Time
Working at home does not mean you can be lazy. The temptation to let things slide is strong. You are the boss, after all. What you need to remember is, if you are the boss you need to BE the boss and that means of yourself more than anyone else. You have to be your own drill sergeant if you want to succeed. because no one is going to bail you out. Also, if you are risking your money to build a business, keep in mind how long it took you to accumulate that money.
Things to Consider
Working from home, for yourself, is not for everyone. Jobs are not the boogabear that some shucksters would have you think they are. You exchange your time and effort for a paycheck.
Don’t confuse work at home companies with work at home opportunities. They very often are not the same thing.
Things I would strongly consider are:
- Do you really want to work for yourself or are you just looking for a better job?
- Understand that the capital you begin with has to last you until you start turning a profit. If you find you are unable to manage your household’s finances, it is doubtful you can handle a business’s finances.
- Take a class on bookkeeping. At the very least, get a book and read up on accounting practices for small businesses. It will save you a lot of money, time and trouble with the IRS if you get it wrong.
- Work at home opportunities abound; make sure the opportunity is for you to make money, not for some shyster to con you out of it. Google work at home whatever and you will see what I mean.
What I Am Doing Now
I say all this to make a point. One, I have worked at home for a long enough time to know what it takes, what it feels like to do it right and what can happen when things go wrong. If you have a particular passion, by all means pursue it. If you simply want a better job or hate your current job, use that as motivation to work from home with care. As King Solomon said:
The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labor. -King Solomon, Proverbs 21:25
For us to work at home business has to come first. Once you have it built up, then you can tell yourself little indulgences like ‘I am the boss and I said we’re off to the beach.’ Say it too soon and you are just eating your children (your business.)
Hopefully, my experiences have been helpful. If so, please share this with others.
If you want to see what I am doing now, I am pursuing building a business from home. We have a business wherein we help people build up their gold reserves in a manner that almost all budgets can handle. We have a training program we utilize that brings you along bit by bit until at the end you and your hard work can turn you into a skilled online marketer. Third, we use a method of maximizing your SEO efforts to as often as possible get your and your presence on the first page of Google. Both links are free to get started with and I encourage you to sign up and look around.