Lisa Kanarek left the corporate world over 20 years ago and has been working from home commute-free, boss-free, and annoying-co-worker-free ever since. For the first five years, she didn’t let anyone know that she worked from home because she wanted to seem professional and definitely not the small, one-person business that she was. But after her first book was published, her cover was blown. Like a crazed infomercial pitch person, Lisa shared the joys, challenges, and benefits of working from home on her blog, Working Naked.
Read on to see how Lisa's work-at-home journey began.
You started working from home in 1990. Tell us a little bit about yourself how you left the corporate world.
I graduated with a BS in Journalism from the University of Kansas. The three corporate jobs I held before I started my own business provided me with the skills I needed to grow each venture. As a radio sales rep, I learned sales strategies that have continued to help me throughout my career. As a special event coordinator for Macy’s Midwest, I learned public relations skills and sharpened my organizing skills. My final job was as the Licensing Director for Universal Press Syndicate. In that position, I learned negotiating skills and that I no longer wanted to work for someone else.
Almost two years after I started my last job, I knew it was time to start my own business. I read about a woman in New York who was a professional organizer. I was already helping friends and family declutter their homes, so I quit my job and put all my efforts into my first business called Everything’s Organized. I joined an organizing association and networked with other organizers. I had found my people! Where I lived, no one was doing what I was, so the field was wide open. I was a guest on every morning show in the city and in every local publication as well as a few national publications and shows. The publicity led to months of consultations and spokesperson opportunities.
Eventually, I focused on home offices, started a company called Home Office Life, and published five books.
How has your business evolved over the years?
As with any profession, I burned out. I had accomplished all of the goals I set for my two businesses and was eager to move on. When my sons were little, I went back to school to earn a degree in Interior Design. I worked with clients to design home and corporate offices.
Five years ago, I was looking for a career change, but one that would utilize my design skills. That’s when I started my current company, Imagine Property Group. I buy and rehab houses that I either keep as rentals or flip them. The design skills I learned in school, along with the insight other real estate investors have shared with me, have helped me grow my business.
In addition to real estate, I am a freelance writer. Real estate investing provides my income, and writing provides a creative outlet. If my real estate business wasn’t successful, I wouldn’t have the time to focus on my writing, and I would have to go back to the corporate world—a terrifying thought. At this point, I’m unemployable!
Do you have any special training?
Aside from design school, no.
How are you monetizing your business?
I own seven rental properties and invest in multi-family properties. When I rehab a property, I don’t cut corners, and I do what I can to avoid tenants calling late at night because of a faulty water heater or AC unit. Everything is fixed correctly from the beginning.
Give us an example of how you landed one of your first clients.
In my first two businesses, the way I landed clients was through publicity. I wrote articles and guest posts for various websites and publications. I worked hard to establish myself as a home office expert, but my focus now is on being a real estate investor.
As a freelancer, I write every day and submit essays and articles every week. I still write about working from home, but that is not my primary focus. My focus is on personal essays and humor pieces. I’m not interested in working for corporate clients as a writer, but several of my friends make a significant amount of money doing so.
How do you minimize income peaks and valleys?
I always plan ahead. At the end of the year, I have to pay property taxes on all my properties, so I put money away throughout the year. When I depended on clients for income, I kept in constant contact with them so they would keep me in mind for future projects.
Besides consulting and blogging, you’ve also written five books. Tell us little about your books, and do you plan on writing more?
My books are about setting up a home office, meeting the challenges of working from home, and making working from home work. One of my humor essays was included in the anthology, Feisty After 45. As of now, I don’t have any books planned.
How do you manage all of your personal and business activities? Do you outsource any parts of your business?
The only part of my business I outsource is my taxes. I handle everything else.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I attribute my success in every business I’ve started, to the people I’ve met online and in person. Through Facebook groups and mentoring groups, I’ve been able to learn from others and am always willing to share what I’ve learned along the way. As entrepreneurs, I think we need to help one another and support each other’s efforts.
Thanks, Lisa Kanarek for sharing your story!
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