Thoughts On The 7 Things To Know About Self Employment Before You Quit.
It has been just over a full year since I went self employed and about a year since I actually started picking up any work (I needed about a month to overcome the exhaustion and border-line burn out of my lost job) and I am so pleased I did it. I can honestly say that it was the best thing I did and I would do it again in a heart-beat in fact I would do it sooner, but now as I sit here reflecting on my year, there are some things I wish I had known before I made the leap so I could have better prepared myself.
If you are making the leap or thinking about it have a read so you can be more prepared than I was:
1) You need some savings: Everyone says it, its written everywhere and guess what I ignored it! And guess what you need them, as spoiler alert you are unlikely to make money immediately and you still have to pay your rent or mortgage and still have to eat! Now if I am honest, even if I were to repeat this whole process and still didn't have any savings not because I am so confident I would survive but actually because I just needed to leave my job and it isn't until I left that I realised how much my life was being impacted, but it would have been really nice not to be lying awake at night worrying about how to pay the bills. It is also important to recognise that I was in a real position of privilege as I own my house with the wonder Mr Thoughts Of A Wandering Mind and so we could (just about) live on his wage but it was tight and I would have preferred not to have had this anxiety.
2) It is lonely: Working on your own at home all the time is lonely. Regardless of whether you are going to work in coffee shops, meet friends for lunch (see below) or will have direct face to face contact with your customers it is lonely. If you live alone this means you may can go a few days without actually seeing or properly speaking to someone or if in my case you will watch your significant other go off to work while you remain at home with the dogs for company (they make fantastic work colleagues and are great to chat to but the office banter is somewhat limited).
I was used to working in a busy social work office, where my phone rang constantly throughout the day (and often well into the evening) and certainly I have found my work isn't like that anymore - actually people are very respectful of working hours and this can feel very
3) You are always worried about money: After you get over the period of time of making no money at all and you do start being able to pay yourself a wage, this doesn't mean you stop worrying about money! As you are not employed except for specific pieces of work you always have to be thinking about where your next assignment is coming from and unless you are super relaxed this is something you always worry about. I have heard varying thoughts and opinions on how long it has taken others to realise there is enough work to go around from 6 months to 18 months (and I am sure others will say longer). I can honestly say I am a year in and it hasn't gone away yet. This means diversifying or more becoming more specialist is harder due to this fear so you can end up completing work that is not your passion just because you are worried about having enough money.
4) You don't get the work-life balance you think you will: When I became self employed I really thought I would be able to do all the things I had missed and hadn't been able to commit to when I worked full time. I had images of being a lady that lunched, having days off and being able to relax in evening. I really hate to say it but my life hasn't been like that because you are always worried about money you tend to over commit to get assignments and this means you often end up extra hours to make sure this work gets done. I hate to say it and it makes me feel icky using the term but you are a brand and you are only as good as the last piece of work you do so you always have to make it the best thing you have done. When you have an off day and are employed for someone they have more understanding about an 'off day' or issues in your personal life. If you are self employed and being paid for a one of piece of work, people do not care and have expectations.
5) You have to work hard to maintain friendships: I am sure that there are loads of people you get on with and think that you would like to stay friends with. Its a horrible fact but that is really hard. There were loads of people who I wanted to stay in contact with and thought I would but in reality, there are only two (I hope you guys know who you are if you are reading) who I see fairly regularly. I still have group dinners with some people but these are very infrequent. There are so many reasons for this, but its important to remember that work is a great bonding experience and when you no longer work there actually you do have less in common, you don't know the new colleagues and you don't know the pressures anymore. I think this also reinforces Point 2 as well for you until you get used to it.
6) Being your own boss is tricky: A boss has so many purposes but one of them is to give you the bad news, critique your work and make you do the jobs that you don't want to. When you are self employed, you have to take on this role yourself and its difficult. When you are tired, feeling overwhelmed and like life is hard it's hard to motivate yourself to do the jobs you hate and when you are having a great day, feel inspired and think you have done the best piece of work ever, its hard to be really objective about what you have done. Everyone has a case of the Mondays (although for me it's Thursdays) and you take on the role of snapping yourself out of it. Yes you get to do nice things like working in the garden on a sunny day but you also have to make sure you work in the garden on the sunny day.
7) There is advice everywhere but not all of it applies to you: Go on Pinterest and there are millions of pins giving you advice, anyone you speak to will give you top tips and hey even this post is a little bid advice orientated. Sadly, some of it is brilliant and the rest really isn't. The fact of the matter is advice is specific to people and really you need to know yourself. It took me ages to work out how to be more productive and I still don't always get it right but hopefully I am getting there. In another blog post I will try and pull together what has worked for me but my suggestion would be work out when you are most awake abd build your routine around then.
If you want to chat self employment get in touch. If you are just starting out, making the jump soon or long term reach out - I am always open to hearing other people's experience! Also come and say hello on Instagram or Pinterest as I try to share resources and information there. Like I said self employment is amazing and I wouldn't do anything else but there are a few things to prepare yourself for. If you know someone who is making the leap please share this post with them and remember stay in touch with them it will mean a lot (it certainly has done to me).