Michael Whelan
The Whelan Group
Washington, DC

Years working from home:
Hours per week you work: 40 - 50
Happy at home index: 1 - miserable, 10 – nirvana   8
Success at home index: 1-can’t make ends meet 10-fabulously wealthy 9

What kind of business do you have at home?

Business writing consultant specializing in writing  (“Ten Secrets to Powerful
Writing’) and e-mail (“Secrets of Powerful E-mail”) seminars.  Have taught clients in
some 20 countries.  I also do consulting on high profile papers.

What did you do before you started a home business?  

Started as  business reporter, associate editor of The Gallagher Presidents’ Report in
NYC.  Then became manager of marketing communications at MCI in its early
years, when I was hired by Bill McGowan, the Chairman, who had been a regular
news source for on the telecommunications business.

Why did you start a home business, and why this particular business?  

Initially to save cost of rent; later because I like the fact that my commute is 30
seconds. I started my seminar business because I wanted the freedom of being self
employed and because it was a natural outgrowth of my career in communications.
I chose seminar business also because it is far more lucrative per day than most
other consulting work...and I love to teach and create imaginative learning

What was your biggest challenge in starting your home business?  

Getting a good working office set-up.  Also: Training friends to understand that
working at home is the same as working in an office – and doesn’t mean they are
welcome to drop by to socialize in the middle of the work day, or when they take a
day off.

What has been your biggest challenge staying in business?  

Keeping up with marketing, even when return business is booming.  

What do you love about working from home?  

The comfort of my own space; the flexibility it allows in my day.

What do you hate about it?  

Nothing.  Though there is a downside:  You have to get comfortable with being
more solitary than your peers in offices.  I deliberately moved my home to a
neighborhood that has lots of street life during the day, and I can enjoy it from my
second-floor office window.  People in the suburbs don’t have this perk.

How do you inspire or motivate yourself everyday?  

I enjoy my work, so I don’t really need to motivate myself.  Being in a home office is
not a challenge in this respect.

How do you separate home life from your work life?  

Not very sharply.  I work sometimes late into the night – and may start work
sometimes late in the day, to make up for the night work.  I don’t feel uncomfortable
with mixing life and work.  In fact, I have deliberate designed my work space in my
living room so that it looks like a library rather than a home office.  And when I
throw my big annual Christmas party, my desk makes an excellent bar.

Where is your office in your home?

In my living room – in a two floor

What is your daily routine?  

I work usually from 10:00 to 5:00 or 6:00.  
Usually lunch at home.  Go out for
an hour or so to Starbucks, to read t
he paper and work on poetry.  

What is your biggest (or proudest) achievement so far?  

Hard to say.  Maybe the simple fact that I’ve made a prosperous living doing what I
really like and seeing people thoroughly enjoy the seminars I’ve created.  Also, the
fact that I can run a business, which takes me often round the world, out of a work
space of about 15 by 15 feet.  I constantly weed out papers and junk; in fact, when I
did a major renovation, I hired an organizer, who told me that I was the most
organized person who ever hired her.

What are you working on right now to grow your business?  

My group consists of editors and trainers, but I’m looking into additional ways to
leverage my business by franchising and repackaging my intellectual property in
books, as well as my own publishing operation (Tintean Fein Press) to tap into the
print on demand market.

What advice can you give about starting a home business?  

Get well organized.  Live if you can in the city, where there is attractive street life
outside your door or window.  Find positions where you can work also on client
premises – to have a change of pace and to keep your social work life alive.  I had
such a position for 15 years at the World Bank, where I could go into an office
whenever I liked for consulting work I did there.  And as soon as you can afford it,
find a good “virtual assistant/secretary” who works from his/her own office but
can also meet at your home office as needed for face to face work.  I lucked out by
going to Craig’s List.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do (or not do)?

In terms of working at home, I’d probably have looked a little harder for a place big
enough to give me a separate room for my office, but I feel I’ve managed to get
around my space limitations excellently.  And I like the idea that I’ve saved some
$72,000 (my guesstimate) in office rent over the years I’ve worked at home.

What do you do for fun when you’re not working?  

Write poetry.  Read and talk philosophy. Visit my wonderful local museum (just
up the street:  The Philips, one of the best art museums in the country).  And gather
often with friends and host dinner parties.

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HOW Profile: Michael Whelan / Business Writing Consultant
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Michael Whelan
Michael Whelan's home office