A good friend of mine asked me for some advice on self employment yesterday which, in turn, has spawned today's blog post. Of course, there are a raft of things to consider before you take the plunge and go it alone (particularly if you are giving up secure paid employment to do so).
There are many useful sites dedicated to guiding you through the nuts and bolts of setting up in business - and I've included links to a couple of such websites at the end of this article. Instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, my own post is a more personal round-up of the positives and pitfalls I've come to associate with working for myself...
Who's really the boss?
During the early years of my career in communications, I worked for a small PR agency. One day I asked my boss whether it was nice to be "her own boss". She warned me that when you become self-employed - particularly in a service company like her own - all you are really doing is swapping one boss for lots of bosses (her clients). I now understand what she means. Of course you have an element of control when you are self-employed - after all, you can actually turn down a project if you feel it is a bad fit. You are, however, still answerable to your clients - and each and every one of them will want to be treated as though they are your priority.
Time is money
You need to really know your strengths and weaknesses to make self-employment pay. It's all too easy for distractions to creep in and the hours to slip away. Try to figure out when you are at your most productive - and structure your meatiest projects around this time. I'm a morning person and tend to wilt as the day goes on, so I need to discipline myself to tackle the tough stuff first thing. If you gain momentum as the day goes on, save the big jobs until later. Even when we love our work, we all love our time off too. If possible, stay focused and keep on track. That way a six hour shift won't end up lasting 12 hours instead...
Distractions were mentioned above, however they merit a section all of their own! One of the upsides to self employment (particularly if you are based from home) is the flexibility to shove on a load of washing while the printer is churning out a document. Just beware of then realising that the kitchen floor could do with cleaning or that - wait a minute - it's the perfect day to do some jobs in the garden. Be strict with yourself and find a balance. I love to get out in the fresh air and, when the weather's great, it's almost irresistible. My solution? I let myself use my 'lunch hour' to go for a run. Sounds pretty rigid, I know, but it works for me.
It may be stating the obvious, but although self-employment might give you the chance to do what you love, there are always going to be boring bits. For me, as with many others, it's the book-keeping, filing and administration that I find a chore (apologies to all you clever numbers folk out there!). It doesn't ever go away so, from bitter experience, I would recommend that you tackle it on a 'little but often' basis. That way, you can avoid the prospect of a paperwork mountain - and sleepless nights in the run-up to self-assessment deadlines...
There's so much more to explore about self-employment or freelancing - and I hope to write some more posts on the subject soon. Meanwhile, you can read my earlier post on how to make your home office work for you here. The following links may also prove useful:
HM Revenue & Customs: First Steps to Register as Self Employed
Whatever you decide, I wish you all the luck in the world!
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