There are certain truths about self employment that are often glossed over by those of us who make a living on our own terms.
Being self employed is, for the most part, a completely liberating way to make a living whether you work from a home office, on the road or from a local cafe. The truth though, is that while it can be awesome it is always hard work. Always.
I’ve been self employed for over three years now and I still wake up each and every morning; eager for the new day. I’m always excited to see what the new day will bring, what I’ll learn and what I’ll achieve. When I worked in the corporate world, I used to wake each morning dreading the commute to work and the long day of frustrations and distractions ahead. And, I was lucky enough to work for a great company and with wonderful, supportive people! It scares me how much worse it could have been…
So, it’s a piece of cake to describe all the good stuff of being self employed but what about the not-so-good-stuff? Well, as much as I love working for myself, there are some challenging aspects, too. And, it would be insincere to talk about self employment and not spell those out, too.
9 Things You Need to Know Before Choosing Self Employment
Every day is a work day
Or at least, that’s how it feels. One side of this is that it’s hard to switch off when you love what you do and are completely passionate about the pursuit of your business goals. The other (less positive) side is that you feel like you have to keep working to either produce more work or find more clients or promote more or network more… There’s a long list of things you feel like you need to do to be successful.
And, vacations? Ha! When you don’t feel like you can take the week off from your endeavours, shutting up shop and taking a vacation is just too radical to consider. Or is that just me?
You get the idea, though. The first fundamental truth about self employment is: there’s no such thing as a nine to five day.
No added extras in your salary package
Depending on where you are in the world, there are little (or sometimes big) extras that are included in your salary packaging. They can range from health insurance to retirement savings, all paid for by the boss just for showing up every day. Or, maybe you get bonuses and stock options for not just showing up but also actively contributing to the success of the business.
When you’re self employed all these extras become your responsibility.
Convincing friends and family you’re actually working
This is especially true if you work from home. People drop in to say “Hi”. Sometimes it’s nice have a break but other times, usually when there’s a deadline looming or you’re finally in the zone and being super productive, interruptions like this can completely derail you.
It took a little while to get the message out there but after three years, finally, I’m rarely interrupted during the day.
So, be prepared, when you become self employed, you might need to hide your car or keep the shutters closed or maybe just refuse to answer the door!
One of the great things about being self employed is the money you’re paid is before tax is taken out. One of the bad things is having to plan ahead for your tax obligations.
This can be a challenge purely because you don’t know how much you’ll earn during the financial year. And, for those who are new to self employment, you’re probably not making enough money to warrant setting yourself up with a business structure.
Tax is unforgiving. Get professional advice up front so you know the full extent of your obligations, including record keeping .
You’re 100% in control of your income
That sounds empowering doesn’t it? Trouble is, it also means you’re 100% responsible for your income.
Yes, you have the final say in how much money you make each month but it’s never as simple as that. Sometimes, some things are completely beyond your control and they can have a serious impact on your income. I’ve experienced this myself and if not for a robust emergency fund and a well stocked pantry, things could have been very scary.
When you’re 100% responsible for your income you need to be keenly aware of what’s going on around you and your business. I learned this the hard way! I also highly recommend the book, Who Moved My Cheese, which explores the mind set around responding to change.
The most important thing to keep in mind when you’re self employed is to ensure you have multiple streams of income. Having more than one source of income could really save your bacon if the environment around your business suddenly changes.
Self employment can be an emotional roller coaster ride
Being self employed is more likely to be the emotional equivalent of a roller coaster rather than Ferris wheel. There’ll be days when you’re ticking off wins, one after the other then there’ll be the days when nothing goes right. You can blame it on whatever you like; the phase of the moon or the season or the fact it’s National Doughnut Day. The simple truth is, whatever the perceived reason, you’ll still have to deal with it. The buck stops with you.
So, celebrate the wins but don’t let the rest get you down. Every day is a new day, bursting with potential.
Self employment means being alone… a lot
Unless you’re in a position to have a team to help you, you’ll find you spend a lot of your working hours alone. For those of us who rank high on the introvert scale, that’s a win. But, for others, it can create an unexpected drain on their energy.
If you’re one of those people who need to be with others to renew their energy and enthusiasm, be mindful that too much alone time will drain you so look for ways to build appropriate activities into your schedule. You could organise a regular lunch date with kindred spirits or maybe take a group class at the gym. Just make sure you nurture that aspect of your personality.
You’ll work harder than you ever did as an employee
If you think your old boss was a tyrant, just wait until you’re self employed. Your new boss, you, will have you working all the hours of the day, plus weekends, without even a thank you, very much. If you’ve chosen your self employment field well, you wont care about all the hours because you’ll be passionate and dedicated and you’ll love every moment of it.
The. Best. Job. Ever.
If you’ve chosen the right business or activity and you’ve thought about and managed the previous eight fundamental truths about self employment, I guarantee you’ll agree it’s the best job ever.
Some of us don’t make good employees. We have different ideas on how to do things or our values don’t mesh with those of the corporate world and sometimes it’s just an inability to cope with the trauma of working in an open, noisy office. Whatever the reason, you don’t need to suffer in silence. You can choose to create your own job.
Want to work for yourself but not sure what to do? Start experimenting now. Start a side hustle of some sort first, like a blog or online shop via your own website or Etsy or look for freelance writing or virtual assistant roles and build from there.
Take what you know or take what you love and see if you can build a business around it.
Have you considered starting your own business and becoming self employed? What’s stopping you?
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