I had a conversation with a dear friend this morning, who is going through a patch I know so well with self-employment.
Going solo is liberating, the best thing I have ever done. But, it is the hardest, most soul destroying journey at times too. I went self employed back in January 2006 after this happened. I now have my own company, I write for various on and offline publications and I have had stints of part time teaching too which I loved. But there have been so many dark times along the way, and I think it’s sometimes healthy to share.
Here are my top reasons why self employment breaks you, and the redeeming reasons why it makes you.
1. When I first went self-employed I moved out of London as I just couldnt afford to pay rent in the citty when starting out. I adored Vicky Park and my little hub of Hackney, so it was a sacrifice to make.
2. In the early days I took on a lot of crappy jobs to see me through as work began to trickle in. I clearly remember cleaning a local bar on weekends and bumping into some school mates out for breakfast, explaining I was now self-employed, whilst quite clearly standing there holding a mop and bucket in my hand, grimy and sweaty from cleaning the loos. Tip, self-esteem crusher, anyone?
3. It can feel pretty damned crushing to be a BA and MA holding overqualified loo cleaner. Other crappy jobs I took on were household cleaning, and admin filing for a student holiday camp company, again under the charge of people I knew from school who wondered why on earth I was looking for £6 an hour work at the age of 30…
4. Cheques are the bane of the newly self-employed. Luckily those rogue pieces of paper are on the way out, as the dread and persiparation iof waiting for an envelope to drop on the doormat so you can pay the rent and maybe eat that week is pretty humbling.
5. Sheer terror and panic can cause insomnia, and I spent many weeks in the first couple of years as an insomniac, my heart racing as I thought of ways to earn a living.
6. Self confidence can take a bashing if work is slow at first. See points 2, 3, 4 and 5 above. It’s hard to believe how much you rock when mopping floors and dreaming of a meal in the eveing other than pasta and pesto.
7. Explaining to your peers and ex-colleauges why you can’t meet them for drinks or social stuff in the early days can be embarrassing and all over humbling. When you go from earning a good wage and eating out and buying clothes when you want to having to choose between food or travel sometimes they just don’t get it. Your version of being skint takes on a whole new meaning than not being able to afford some Laboutins.
8. No time off. Ever. Well, not really time off, as you are held accountable despite the fact you want to be on holiday for a few days. If you want work, you need to be able to do it when the clients need.
That said, self employment is joyous, liberating and the best thing I have done. Here’s why:
1. Independence and creativity; you are your own boss and can write your own manifesto, plan your own journey and create your own learning curves. New opportunities arise all the time, and it’s a roller coaster ride worth every minute.
2. Re-learning the value of money is a lesson that comes pretty quickly. Having reached a well paid job those student days of bar work come flooding back pretty quickly and you are brought back down to earth with a bump;
3. Satisfaction. When things go well, pride is one of the best feelings ever. My first articles published as a writer made me beam with pride, and my first centre page spread in easy Jet magazine just one year into freelancing was a very proud moment indeed. I love knowing that my clients are mine because they want to be and that is something worth a lot of staring at the postbox for cheques.
4. Flexibility is something available to the self-employed – I am a mum now and I am able to work around the twins, my endometriosis, to dictate to a certain extent when to work, and my business is designed so I can work from anywhere (*cough* I am still available to work in Barcelona or New York you know, have family, will travel).
4. Self confidence may take a bashing, but when I teach at LCC or run my own workshops and share knowledge that confidence comes flooding back. I do rock.
5. Development is constant; I have learnt so much about blogging, writing, accounts, marketing, cashflow, PR and all sorts that is down to being the boss. I also love that I am in charge of my own development, no need to ask a boss if i can do something. Yeeeeeeah! ( that said, if something goes wrong I kind of miss being told off. I have actually emailed my old boss in the past to ask them to tell me off via email so I felt better. They obliged. Thanks guys;))
6. Co working makes it all great – I have met SO many amazing people that I now work with. Thank you, Twitter. I can choose who I work with, how to work, and when to do it. Now beat that.
7. Loo scrubbing means a lot of time to listen to podcasts and self development audio recordings. You have to pass the time somehow, right?
8. Obviously the ubiquitous working in PJ’s or the other self employed cliche of the coffee shops are a bonus. I have often had Skype meetings in my PJ’s when endo has dictacted. And you know, it was fine
Are you self employed? Are you thinking of taking the plunge or have you got a story to tell? Share it with us below, and good luck. Remeber, YOU ROCK!