Three years ago today, was the last day in my job of 11 years; the last time I set my alarm for 6.30am and made the tube journey into the security blanket of permanent employment.
Two years ago, I wrote a blog about the benefits and disadvantages of self-employment, which you can read here. Today I wanted to revisit that idea, now that my business and I are a year older.
How have I progressed, what have I learned and which of last year’s frustrations still apply?
During the last 12 months I’ve continued to push myself to get uncomfortable, by taking on new challenges.
In the name of blogging, I’ve done a few more videos; taken workshops in iPhone photography, flower arranging and cake decorating and presented to groups on starting a blog.
On a personal level, I’ve absorbed a library of personal development books; been to an evening of Buddhist chanting and taken a Reiki course. We’ve also expanded our family with the addition of Coco the poodle and created a lovely kitchen/diner for her to crap all over.
In terms of my day job, the recruitment partnership which we set up in 2015 is busier than ever. I recently took on the most senior role I’ve ever worked on. The successful candidate starts next month.
My financial security and optimism have increased over the last 12 months. I’m more confident than ever that this is the right path for me.
So it’s all good, yes?
Well, yes, and also, not so much.
I said it last year and my opinion hasn’t changed. There is too much hype out there about becoming self-employed, without exposing the potential pitfalls.
Here are four more ‘warts and all’ reasons to love (and hate) being self-employed.
This is the big one. The main reason people will not leave permanent employment is the financial security of a monthly pay cheque.
I completely get that. In fact as a recruitment consultant, I always advise candidates not to leave their permanent roles for freelancing, unless they have enough money in the bank to keep them going for at least three months.
In my case, it took a lot longer than three months to gain any sense of financial confidence. It wasn’t until January 2017, a tipping point for our business, that I started to believe I would return to the level of income I enjoyed before I quit my job.
Not everyone has the luxury of time. Even now there is no certainty. Clients have to be chased relentlessly for payment. By the time each invoice is paid, I’ve spent most of the income already.
Starting a business takes commitment, patience, hard work, patience, tenacity and above all, patience. It’s a long game. Some of the meetings we set up in 2015 have only started to bear fruit this year.
2.Colleagues, clients and communities
I do sometimes miss the buzz of working in an office and having colleagues to have a drink with after work. I have to pick up the phone or send an email to get an opinion, rather than just turning to the neighbouring desk.
But it’s lovely to be able to choose who I work with. Being my own boss means that no one is going to make me work with that company who I had such an awful experience with in the past; or the candidate who didn’t turn up for interviews one too many times.
On the blogging front, I’ve come to the realisation that I’m more comfortable having a community of supportive bloggers to talk to online, rather than going to busy, impersonal blogger events.
Being self-employed means that I can choose not to go to them anymore.
3.Having a plan
Fail to plan and you plan to fail, so the experts say. It’s true you know.
I’m not a big picture person. I get bogged down in the detail. I am tactical rather than strategic, so my chosen profession suits me well.
As a result I need to plan each day meticulously, with diary entries and check lists for every work related activity, down to individual phonecalls. Otherwise, I’ll get distracted by playing with the dog, reading a book, or fiddling around with a recipe. Or worse, get sucked into the social media vortex.
On the other hand… how nice to occasionally think f**k it, today I’m going to mainly play with the dog.
Which brings me to the problem of self-motivation.
When I’m busy, I’m in flow, disciplined about getting the work done – but really wishing I had the ability to drop it all and eat ice cream in the bath.
I look forward to those days when I have no appointments in my diary, when I can write that blog I’ve been procrastinating about, or go to a gallery, or detox my wardrobe. But the reality is that I never do those things. I need to be busy to be motivated.
There are always compromises. No one lifestyle choice is perfect. It’s not possible to have it all.
Self-employment will suit some people and not others. Choose whatever path makes sense for you, but if it’s making you unhappy, change direction.
I greatly appreciate that I was only able to survive those first 18 months financially because of my husband’s support, for which I’m hugely grateful.
For all the drawbacks, self-employment suits me and (for now) I’m looking forward to enjoying many more years of it. I’d love to hear from you if you’re self-employed, or thinking about making the change. What are the best bits for you?
Gotta go, the ice cream van is coming.
Much love, Vx