The Trouble With Working From Home: the drive-by client
I love working from home, wouldn’t change it for the world. The problem with that, though? Well, there are three.
1. It becomes very, very easy to just not bother getting out of bed in the morning
2. What clothes? This here dressing gown does me just fine, thanks very much. (Note to self: buy selection of dressing gowns. Maybe a black one. Black goes with everything.)
3. The house gets messy.
Yes, number three surprised me, too. I’d always assumed that those who worked from home would have perfect palaces of houses, given all that lovely time they have to clean. Yeah, I was clearly on crack when I thought that. People who go out to work have much tidier homes, and that’s purely because they’re not there enough to make a real mess. We are at home, and, by-God, we do make a mess. For this reason, we do not invite clients into our home.
See, my home is my castle, and by “my castle” I mean “My tiny little two-bedroom semi-detached house”. Unfortunately, my home is also my office, and this means that, from time to time, clients will try to invite themselves round. Normally we can put them off pretty easily, either by offering to come to them instead, or suggesting a halfway house of a meeting place. If the worst came to the worst, the local business centre hires out meeting rooms, and I’d honestly rather do that than have people come into the house.
It’s nothing personal: I mean, obviously I don’t start making gagging noises when they suggest coming round, or go “Eeewww! You’re not getting into myhouse!” I just casually suggest that I come to them instead, and, for the most part, this works out just fine. Sometimes, though: sometimes we get what I call “drive-bys”. Clients who call us from their car and say “Hey, guess what? It just so happens that I’m parked outside your house right now! Why don’t I come in and drop off that cheque/CD with images that Terry needs/totally non-urgent piece of paper that you didn’t even need in the first place?”
This happened to us last week, with one of Terry’s clients. It was horrendous. In the five minutes worth of warning time that we had (WARNING! THIS IS YOUR FIVE MINUTE WARNING! CLIENT INCOMING! CLIENT INCOMING!) we had to rush around the house, plucking knickers off radiators, hiding dirty dishes under the bed, checking to make sure Rubin hadn’t peed on that corner of the couch that he will keep peeing on any chance he gets, and generally trying to create the illusion that, why yes! As it happens, we totally are an organised, professional and – yes - perfect couple of business owners.
Once the client was in situ in the lounge, though, the fun was only just beginning! You see, business and animals? They just don’t mix. (Unless you’re a vet, or a zoo keeper or something, obv.) At the moment we have not one, but three animals. One is Rubin. One is Woody the Stick Insect. One is Pepe the Parrot. This is Pepe the Parrot:
Isn’t Pepe cute? DUH! Wrong answer! Pepe is NOT cute. Pepe is a little b*****d who screams the place down, making a noise that’s sort of a cross between a train going through a tunnel and a very large person being brutally murdered every time a) the phone rings b) he is left on his own for more than a few seconds or c) Terry leaves the room for any reason at all. He also bites.
This is Rubin. The Man.:
Isn’t Rubin cute? Well, yes, he is. But Rubin? Is mental. Crazy mental. It’s probably the wolf blood in him. What Rubin can’t stand is not being the centre of attention. If there is someone new in the house, Rubin feels that person’s attention should be focused solely on him and him alone. If it’s not? He will cry like a baby.
So, client is in the lounge with Terry. I am in the “office” with Rubin, Pepe and Woody the Stick insect. (You’re not getting a picture of Woody, OK? Just imagine a stick with legs. That’s our Woody for ya! He and Pepe belong to Terry’s mum, who is on holiday, by the way. We didn’t just spontaneously decide to get ourselves a menagerie or something.) Pepe is screaming like a train/murder victim. Rubin is crying like a very noisy baby, and also: scratching at the door. Woody is…well, Woody is being a stick. I got no beef with him.
Despite all of this, I think we managed to pull off the “We are professionals” thing OK. (Sorry, I’ve just realised you were probably waiting for a punch line here, weren’t you? You were thinking I was going to pour bleach in the client’s coffee, or pee on him or something, weren’t you? Well, there isn’t a punchline. Sorry. You just read all that for nothing. Please don’t hate me.) I did find one of Terry’s socks on the stairs after the guy left, but as the only reason the client would have come up the stairs would have been to use the bathroom, and as Terry was under strict instructions to say that, sorry, we don’t have one, we were good. Luckily the man didn’t ask. I would imagine the screams coming from the bedroom probably acted as a deterrent there. He probably thinks Terry has a mad wife in the attic or something, and actually? He sort of does, when you come to think of it.
Anyway, Pepe and Woody go home tomorrow, so at least that particular problem is solved. Other than that, I don’t quite know what we can do to put off drive-bys. As I see it, there are only three solutions:
1. Rent offices (Totally not an option, not only because of the cost, but because we just don’t want to. I hate offices with a passion)
2. Switch off all the lights and hide when they drive by. (Note: Let them in if they come bearing a cheque, though, because, God knows, getting money out of clients is like getting the truth out of Heather Mills…)
3. Become perfect people, whose home is always perfect, like the Fly Lady’s Chances of this happening: slim to nil.
Still. At least I wasn’t naked this time.