Author Finds Joy And Balance In Autonomy

James Chan recognizes a new breed in homebased entrepreneurs: The <i>Spare Room Tycoon</i>.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the September 2000 issue of Subscribe »

After 17 years spent working from home-almost two decades dealing with the anxieties of running a , dealing with clients, and wondering where the next account or project was going to come from-James Chan finally realized what being a homebased entrepreneur was all about.

It's about controlling yourself-and your destiny.

Chan, 51, has poured those thoughts and ideas into Spare Room Tycoon: Succeeding Independently: The 70 Lessons of Sane Self-Employment (Nicholas Brealey Publishing, $22), which was released this summer as one man's take on running the show from a home office.

Chan had never considered writing a book on his work-at-home experience. Then one day he found himself venting to a friend about the laments of the homebased professional-difficult clients, unsteady workflow-but also explaining the desire to remain self-employed and not to grow his small business into an employee-laden corporation.

"At the same time I was bemoaning the anxiety, [I was also realizing] how important it was psychologically, emotionally and mentally for me to have autonomy," recalls Chan, whose -based consulting firm, Asia Marketing & Management, works with companies doing business in China and other parts of Asia. "My friend said, 'Don't fight a war with yourself. Write a book.' It was my personal epiphany. I realized I couldn't be the only person who lives through those personal fears, successes and anxieties."

Interviewing 39 people from all over the world, Chan gained insights on how-and why-they run their booming businesses, and how they find success amid the occasional chaos. Viewing himself as a spokesperson for the homebased professional, Chan sees past the chiding and derision once reserved for the at-home worker. He uses his own experience as an example of the homebased "tycoon": a business owner who wants to achieve as much success as possible without being forced to grow the enterprise beyond the scope of his or her home.

While the book is not a psychological analysis of the at-home entrepreneur, Chan says the real-life tales will help readers realize they're not alone in their homebased business pursuits, successes and failures. "We comfort one another. We listen to other people's stories about how they deal with family and customers, while keeping a sane balance," he says. "We learn how not to be slave drivers to ourselves."

Nor is this a how-to book. Readers will find no business plans, start-up checklists, or other guideposts to starting and running a business. Rather they'll find insights on maintaining balance, dealing with family and business contacts, isolation, and growing a successful business-and a business state-of-mind. "It's a how-to-be book rather than a how-to-do book," Chan says.

"The phrase 'Spare Room Tycoon' defines the psyche of people who want to build independent careers and seek a sane balance in work and life," he adds. "'Spare Room Tycoon' is someone who's gained autonomy over his or her work and life. It's not just [about] making a lot of money. We are people who have complete control over our fate and over what we want to do. Measured in this light, we're just as independent as real tycoons."

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


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