By October 19, 2016 Read More →

Working in someone else’s home

by Janet Marshall

working-in-someone-elses-home-janet-marshallLast week I did a couple of hours work before breakfast and, as it was yet another gloriously hot morning, decided to take the dog for a walk before I cranked up the coffee machine.

We strolled four minutes down the road to the local park, and the first thing I noticed as I turned into the park was, less than 100 yards away, a family of kangaroos grazing under a shady tree.

Now, three things in this scenario are unusual for me. First, I never work without a coffee inside me, second, I haven’t got a dog, and third, it had been hot and sunny every day for the previous three weeks. The kangaroos? Well, I was in Australia, not my usual chilly Lincolnshire base. Once again, I was thankful to be a mobile, freelance worker.

What is it like working in someone else’s home, rather than your own? For the past several years I have worked in numerous strangers’ homes through house sitting across the UK and Europe, and I’ve also enjoyed extended working holidays to visit family in the US and Australia.

As a part-time associate lecturer for an international business school, I work with British and foreign adults living and working all over the world, and our interactions are exclusively online, via email, Skype or telephone – and I’m not limited to the 9-5. So, with my laptop and a reliable internet connection at my destination I can – and do – travel at the drop of a hat.

But, glorious as it might sound, there are some downsides to working in someone else’s home. I once spent a month in Queensland with only one hour per day’s free access via the local tourist office, seven miles away, in which to send and receive emails and download (very slowly) student assignments.

working-in-someone-elses-home-beachNeedless to say, it wasn’t ideal, so one of my few must-haves for house sits is a reliable and effective broadband connection. But on the plus side, I did have a gorgeous ocean view while I waited for my downloads and my accommodation was free!

Family visits can often be more problematic for less mobile home workers, particularly if their business has to operate during specific hours of the day to meet client needs.

However, if you know in advance about any special events or jaunts planned during your visit, it’s possible to work around them by preparing work in advance and ensuring that your family understand that there’ll be days when you simply have to shut yourself away from the fun to meet work commitments.

Good communication – with both family and clients – is the key to having the best of both worlds. Luckily for me my kids in Australia are also home workers, so it’s already part of the family routine – home grown Jelly sessions!

House sits can be in maisonettes or mansions in cities or villages. I’ve never found a home yet that I haven’t been able to work in quite happily – and very often the home and its facilities are grander than anything I could ever afford.

I’m fond of working at the kitchen table, and my last house sit had a superb kitchen with a bigger footprint than my entire home! It also had an energetic dog whose only desire was for me to throw balls for him to chase throughout the day. It’s all part of the fun of trying on other peoples’ lifestyles!


Here are my top tips for working in someone else’s home:

  • Take formal days off for travel – factor in an extra recovery for any jet lag.
  • Schedule work in advance – notify clients when you’ll be offline and aim to complete outstanding work ahead of deadlines.
  • If necessary, let clients know if you’ll be in a different time zone.
  • Show your formal leave dates in your email footer as an additional reminder to contacts and clients.
  • Decide what your must-haves are and make sure they’re available – most people have computers and printer/scanners and are willing to make them available to house sitters.
  • Remember that rural locations are unlikely to have handy coffee shops with WIFI.
  • Be flexible about when and where you work – essential for family visits.
  • Take advantage of working across different time zones.
  • Negotiate the days when you simply have to put work ahead of fun.
  • Remember that if you’re house sitting a dog, you’ll need to spend time walking it.

Finally – enjoy the view! There’s no point in relocating to a gorgeous house in foreign parts unless you make time to experience the pleasures of your new lifestyle. Half the fun of being a mobile worker is looking up from your laptop to see an astonishing new vista.

If you’re interested in exploring house sitting, two excellent websites are and

work from home secrets

Janet is a freelance writer and associate lecturer at the University of Lincoln. She has carried out a number of product reviews for us.

Have you ever tried working in someone else’s home? Let us know how it worked out!

Posted in: Mobile working

2 Comments on "Working in someone else’s home"

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  1. I have house sat many years ago, before the internet even, but I had a 9 to 5 job at the time. I found it to be quite an adventure to be able to see the world from someone else’s viewpoint and accommodations. Now that I am working from home, I think it would be even more fun and a wonderful way to explore new places. That’s the one thing I love about being my own boss and working from home: I can do it anywhere! Thanks for the links. I am going to check them out right now.

    • I’m glad you like the article, Karen. I hope the links might inspire you to become a digital nomad like Janet! It really does sound like a very tempting proposition.