Sunday, August 10, 2008

Don't Despise the Day of Small Things

It's been a while but I am back to continue the story of my work from home saga. I left off with the purchase of an IBM Mag card machine and I was starting to solicit work. As I mentioned, we left notes on bulletin boards at the local colleges, told everyone we met, and ran an ad in the paper.

I started to get calls from students that needed their thesis and other papers typed. The going rate was $.35 per page but I was glad to be doing something to make some money while at home with the kids. Many times the work came in the afternoon and they needed it done by the morning. I would work late into the night to get it done. That was actually okay for a while because the kids were in bed. Needless to say, that can get old and sometimes did.

Shortly after my start up venture I received a call from a doctor that needed his insurance forms keyed and filed. This doctor specialized in geriatric Medicare and Medicaid patients. I went into his office for a meeting and he explained the job. We arrived at a deal and I happily went home to figure out how I would accomplish it. It was about this time that I upgraded my equipment to a PC. This PC was far from the desktop PC's we are using today. It was a SANYO computer, had 64 KB (not MB) of memory, did not have a hard drive, had a 5 1/4" floppy drive that the operating system (a predecessor of DOS called CPM) and all programs would run off. It came a "suite" of software applications that included WordStar, DataStar and a spreadsheet that I have forgotten the name of. I knew I could key them with WordStart but it was a great deal of work, besides I was only making 35 cents per filing. At that rate I might make $5.00 per week. I starting playing with DataStar to see if I could automate it and save time and eventually came up with a good system. I worked for this doctor for a good while and only lost the job when he stopped practicing.

What I learned from this was that if you are diligent, don't turn down work, don't think too much of yourself to take a lower paying job, and use your brain; you can usually figure out a way to be more productive, give a good product and compete with others if there is a fair playing field. I add the fair playing field because there are some occasions when it is not possible to be competitive. As an example: I gave a bid on some work last year and the customer came back to tell me that I was a few cents per record more than their bid from China. I do not consider that a fair playing field. As I'm sure most readers understand, China has different labor laws (I am happy to have fair labor laws) and lower overhead than we do. What may level out that playing field is that English is our first language, there is the ability to more closely manage the job, we are in closer proximity and when the customer calls we personally answer the phone and understand their job. There is also some expense, loss of control and risk involved in sending the work to an out-of-country service provider, either in hard copy or electronically.

That's all the data entry story for today. To be continued with the next post . . .