From the July 2000 issue of Startups

William C. Nicholson, founder of SOHOLobby.com, an online activist community for SOHO professionals, will likely be poolside this summer at his Raleigh, North Carolina, condominium, with business calls forwarded to his cell phone and his personal digital assistant and reading materials in hand.

Cathy Sperrazzo, a partner with Eye-To-Eye Communications Inc., a San Diego-based high-tech public relations firm, has a batch of family passes to local attractions like LegoLand, Sea World and the San Diego Zoo, and plans to spend some afternoons out with her husband and business partner, John, and their two young children. Maybe they'll swim in the neighborhood's community pool or hit San Diego's Seaport Village, with its quaint shops, ice cream parlors and family entertainment.

When business calls, Sperrazzo plans to hold client meetings at the local Chuck E. Cheese kids' restaurant and arcade, or at the beach. After all, three of her company's six subcontractors have children, she enthuses. "This is why parents want to work from home, isn't it?" she asks.

While a thriving economy has many entrepreneurs working overtime, summer for many is a time to chill out. Whether it's time with the family, more relaxed settings for business or meetings, or just a chance to get out and about, the slower pace and mood of summer has some looking for alternatives to the daily grind.

Eclectic? Certainly. A luxury? For some, maybe. Part of the unique opportunity that working from home affords? You bet, says Sperrazzo, who moved to San Diego from Boulder, Colorado, last year to take advantage of California's warmer weather and be closer to extended family. Unfortunately, bustling business forced the Sperrazzo family to miss out on San Diego's mild winter this year. Not again, Sperrazzo says. She and her husband have taken on several employees to lighten their workload.

"That spurred us to develop a plan to ensure that my husband and I could enjoy the longer days this summer," she says. "I believe our ability to create this infrastructure and delegate more will allow us to work different hours-not less, just different-so we can take turns actually leaving the office by 3 p.m. a few days a week."

For his part, Nicholson moved his home office to a new community in part so he could enjoy the setting and mild Raleigh summers, he says. As a single, at-home entrepreneur, Nicholson wanted to enjoy the freedom that comes with working from home. Besides, come winter, he'll likely be chased back indoors again. "I moved so I could make a lifestyle change for my SOHO lifestyle," he says.

Want to live the work-at-home lifestyle? There's no better time than summer. Here are a few ideas:

  • Spend time with your spouse and kids. All year long, we rush from one project to the next. From September to June, the kids are in school. Take some time to re-energize your relationship with your family. If you don't have kids, visit your parents and siblings, borrow some nieces and nephews for a trip to the zoo, or socialize with friends.
  • Plan to break. If you don't make plans to take some breaks, they won't come on their own. Pick one afternoon each week to get out of the office-whether alone or with the family, a business partner or friend. Just leave the work behind.
  • Relocate the office. Sun-brew some iced tea, don the shorts and T-shirt, slip on the flip-flops and hit the hammock or lounge chair. Bring the laptop, some light reading and the portable or cell phone, and take your business outdoors.
  • Take mini vacations. Depending on where you live, accommodations might cost less in the summer than in another more busy and expensive season. Take a long weekend. And leave the pager and cell phone behind; business will be OK until Monday.
  • Throw a shrimp on the barbie. Plan a barbecue with clients, allies, family or other important and significant people. Spread out a feast, and leave the business chatter behind. A barbecue is a fun, loose, informal way to entertain and get to know people better.
  • Take your meetings to a funky new location. Actually, this works any time of year (depending on your climate). If the kids are in tow, visit a local family restaurant/arcade, or pack a lunch and hit a park. If you're free of the kids, hit a funky pub or bar-and-grill.

Brainstorm some of your own ideas with your peers, family and friends, then get out and enjoy the summer. Before you know it, the mad rush of fall will be upon us-and summer will be but a fond, distant memory.


Journalist and author Jeff Zbar has worked from home since the 1980s. He writes about home business, teleworking, marketing, communications and other SOHO issues.