Over the past few weeks, I’ve been speaking to people who are considering the leap into the self employed lifestyle. But, without a guide to follow, they’re not quite ready to take the self employed plunge just yet. Mostly, it scares them. Scared of the unknown and whether it’s a sustainable idea. Whether they’ll make enough money. And ultimately, whether it’s the right thing for them to do.
I remember that feeling well.
I never actively planned to become self employed. It just simply wasn’t on my radar.
What was on my radar was being able to work from home. Funny to think about that now. Especially seeing as I would have been doing so anyway given the situation the pandemic has put us in. I know it’s not for everyone, but it’s something I wanted, bad.
Going All-In on Self Employment
Working set hours in a set location was starting to get to me. I’ve never been a morning person, and I’m loathed to go through heaps of makeup and wear professional clothes every day for the sake of working for somebody else’s business. Somebody else’s dreams.
As I went through a lengthy online interview process for a remote yet salaried role, I started to realise that there was a lot more out there that I hadn’t yet considered.
And when that particular role didn’t work out and I was just a few weeks from the end of my notice period, it struck me. If I wanted the flexibility and the work from home lifestyle, I had to make it happen myself.
So, just like that, with my heart in my mouth, I went for it.
With no plan, and certainly no guide, I made my own job, and I became self employed.
Honestly, my life changed overnight. It was such a novelty at first and I revelled at the thought of staying in my PJ’s all day and not brushing my hair.
Unplanned zoom calls soon fixed that.
The scariest part was making the leap. Once I was on the other side it didn’t seem so scary anymore. Of course I was still bricking it and had a million and one questions. But as with anything in life, you just work through it.
There’s definitely a number of things that may have made the transition easier and I wish someone had been there to give me a few pieces of advice to make my path a little smoother.
So, with that being said, here’s a little guide to being self employed:
Save up some funds before you make the leap
This one is a game changer. It’s by far one of the most important pieces of financial advice I could give you. By some miracle, I had a small pot saved up — that was not intended for this purpose — but was enough to get me through the first few months if I was unable to find any work. Ideally you should have enough to cover you for 6–12 months. It will ease the pressure and you can fully focus on building your business from the ground upwards without worrying about whether you can pay your bills on time. It will also keep you debt free (or at least lower debt.) As Charlotte Brown writes, “There is no such thing as good debt. People like to say small business loans, student loans and house loans are ‘good.’ People are wrong. It’s better to be debt free, especially in business.”
Keep your receipts
When you first get going you’ll have all these good intentions about keeping on top of your paperwork and keeping hold of receipts. Don’t lose sight of this. Keep a spreadsheet of your monthly expenses and think about what you use on a daily basis for your business — even things like notebooks and pens which soon add up throughout the year.
Develop a routine but stay flexible
My biggest mistake when I first started out was completely letting go of any form of routine. I turned my alarm off, I didn’t get dressed, I started snacking throughout the day, and I kept the television on. And whilst it seemed great at the time, it wasn’t conducive to a healthy life. You don’t have to set an alarm all the time (unless you’re going to sleep until noon) but having a set time you get up, go about your morning and check your emails will give you a focus and is more likely to lead you onto the path of success. But — stay flexible. Things change all the time and you should be willing and able to adapt as necessary.
Learn to say ‘no’
This one’s a biggie. One of the first things I was told when I started getting a bulk of clients was to maintain healthy boundaries. Not to respond to messages at all hours of the day, and also not to respond within a matter of seconds. Needless to say I ignored this advice — much to my own detriment further down the line. I wanted to impress everyone and for them to know I’d be there at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, that’s not always sustainable. You can still do an amazing job for your clients whilst also taking care of your needs and learning to say ‘no’ when you need to.
Take time off
Easier said than done, I know. I’m the girl who takes her laptop away with her so that I can be on hand even when I’m supposed to be on holiday. Completely inadvisable. We all need time off and a break from our working life. We need to reset and recharge our batteries so we can do our best work. There has never been a better time than right now to take some time for yourself, engage in some good old-fashioned self-care, so that ultimately you can be the best version of you — both personally and professionally. Hell, you could even take a sabbatical from your work.
Finally, be patient. Even with a guide to being self employed, work and success is not going to happen overnight. You’re not going to go to bed and wake up the next morning with a fully functioning business or a book full of clients.
That’s the beauty of this lifestyle. Life is all about the unexpected. Some things we don’t like so much, but if we don’t try something, we’ll never know.
The future can be better than you’ve ever imagined — and it’s in your hands.
“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” ~George Bernard Shaw
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