By CASSIE MCKEE, Four Points News
Nationwide, 10 percent of the country’s 146 million workers are self-employed, according to Census data.
That percentage holds true in western Travis County, where 10.3 percent of residents say they are self-employed. Locally, many self-employed residents say they choose to work from home because of lower costs, more flexibility and convenience.
Steiner Ranch resident Richard Piotrowski is the co-founder of LogZilla Corporation, a software start-up company that has created a network event management application to help keep networks running smoothly.
The company operates virtually, with Piotrowski and the other three co-founders located in different U.S. cities. The company employs 12 others who are located throughout the U.S. and Europe. They communicate using an online collaboration program called Slack.
Self-employed Americans and the workers they hired accounted for 44 million jobs in 2014, or 30 percent of the national workforce, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data the U.S. Census Bureau.
Piotrowski said he chooses to work out of his home rather than an outside office because of cost and convenience.
“Since we are all virtual, there is no reason to have a defined office,” he said. “The convenience of working out of my home is unbelievable.”
Sales are accomplished via phone, email, and Zoom teleconferences, and all product support is done remotely, he said.
Prior to starting this company, Piotrowski was a technology analyst on Wall Street, and a CFO of a another technology startup company. LogZilla Corporation is his third technology startup.
“I have always wanted to own my own business,” he said. “The Great Recession in 2009 led me down this path.”
Cathy Richardson, who moved from Steiner to Dripping Spring this summer, started her creative design company Cathy B. Design when she was 28. She works in a variety of venues in creative direction, visual brand consulting, graphic design and illustration. She also has a Cathy B Licensing line of stationery and home decor items and is working on her own online store of personalized products. Prior to starting Cathy B. Design, she worked for Disney Consumer Products in Los Angeles.
“With the blessings of my director and team, I branched out to create Cathy B Design and continued to freelance for this incredible and vast company and other entertainment studios in LA,” Richardson said.
She has also worked from a home office ever since her three children were born.
“(We) started a family and that is when I knew that I truly was blessed to run this business from home with my babies,” she said.
She remembers the early years as being very busy, with two young babies and working for her licensing agent and freelancing for companies like BabiesRUS and Disney.
“Having (my husband’s) support and confidence in the business throughout our dating and married life has been such a gift,” she said.
Richardson says she has always tried to include her kids, who are now 11, 13 and 14, in the creative process in her work. They often give her their opinions and suggestions for new ideas.
“I think this teaches them to think out of the box, inspire them to try new things, and support their ideas and dreams,” she said.
While it is often a struggle to balance her business with family life, she said it is her passion.
“This is something that is part of me,” Richardson said. “The business is sort of like a family member, I would never give up on it.”
Brothers Ted and Doug Beck are the owners of Bevenco, Inc., the business their father started in 1983. Bevenco provides financing to businesses and municipalities for their equipment and software requirements. They each work from a home office.
“No longer having a direct sales force, an external office was not needed,” said Ted Beck. “Our work with our customers, vendors, and partner banks can be conducted via the internet and overnight mail.”
The biggest advantages for him are the lower overhead costs, eliminated commute, and greater flexibility in work hours.
It can still be challenging at times to work from home.
“The disadvantages include having the family watch their noise level, especially when the kids are out of school, and having family think we can drop our work at any point,” Beck said. “Sometimes we have to remind them that we do actually work.”
Another challenge is that since the office is at home, it’s often hard to leave work behind, especially for Piotrowski, whose software company has many international clients.
“There is no concept of daytime, or nighttime, or weekday or weekend, or holiday,” Piotrowski said. “We are hopelessly chained to email, texting, slack, or the phone.”
He said it would be hard for him to do it all on his own.
“You need partners that have complementary skill sets in order to succeed,” he said.
Despite the challenges, all three said they love the flexibility and freedom of being self-employed.
“The only real commuting that I do is to drive my youngest daughter to swim practice,” Piotrowski said.