For anyone out there who is considering handing in their notice, stepping out of the cubicle and into a life of self employment – but with more than a little trepidation and needs some encouragement, here are my top 13 reasons why you should consider self-employment.
- There’s no commute – unless the walk from the kitchen to my desk, coffee in hand, counts. I no longer spend 2.5 hours a day in the car doing a 60 mile round trip (yep, 2.5 hours to travel 60 miles during rush hour. I could walk faster!)
- You can take time off without putting in a request to your boss who might say no anyway. Now, I can take time off for school plays, kids activities, and parents’ nights.
- You can get appointments at the hairdresser on less busy days. Wednesday at 11am anyone? Or take holidays/time in lieu to go to the dentist for a filling – what a horrible use of time off!
- You can drop the kids off at school – and pick them up. OK, there are days when the school run can be stressful due to children not getting ready quickly (what is it with kids and working to their own time?). However, it’s nothing when compared to my former commute. Now, I spend half an hour every morning before leaving to go to school answering emails, finishing up blog posts or checking in with Twitter. Then, the kids, dog and I set off for our walk along the river (yes, really) to school. Murdo (the dog) and I then go for a walk with friends before I head back to the desk to switch on the computer. I work until 3pm, then pick the kids up from school, take them to activities/have dinner, then put them to bed before I sit down to an hour or so of work in the evening.Read this post if you’re looking for more organisational tips for parents running a business.
- You don’t have to pay for expensive childcare every day (see above). I choose my hours, I pick my kids up from school AND I am free when it comes to looking after the children. Now, in the early days, I needed more time to help build the business and find new clients so I did pay for after school club one day a week, but that’s nothing when compared to the 4 days a week when I was working (I’m lucky that my Mum used to cover the 5th day for me).
- You still have money coming in to the house AND can spend time with the kids. I still contribute to the household income and get to use my brain at the same time, while also having the chance to spend time with my kids. Win win.
- You don’t have to hire a dog walker – unless you’re working to a deadline.
Obviously, this one’s just for those with dogs – you don’t need a dog walker if you don’t have a dog after all – but Murdo and I fit in two walks a day (usually to coincide with the school run) so I don’t need anyone else to take him out for me at the cost of £10 an hour.
- You can keep fit. Although the flip side is, of course, now there’s no excuse not to keep fit! Now that you’re not spending upwards of 2 hours each day commuting, there’s more time to go to the gym or go for a run at lunchtime with the added bonus that your workplace (your house in other words) has a shower! I don’t sit on my butt for the commute to school – I walk 2+ miles every morning between dropping the kids off and walking the dog, then another 1.5 – 2 miles at pick up time. Every day. I run 3 times a week (ahem, that might have slipped recently to 1 or 2). In short, I still eat biscuits, chocolate and crisps and am partial to a wee glass of wine but I’ve still lost over 1 stone since self-employment beckoned.
- You can have coffee on the go all day – or tea – or cake! When I get back to the office after school drop off, the coffee goes on and I enjoy my first cappuccino of the day – and it doesn’t cost me upwards of £2 either.
- You can arrange for deliveries, gas/electric inspections – whatever – yet again without having to book a day off, and with the added bonus that you can still get work done.
- You have the chance to explore different opportunities. I’ve been a fundraiser for 20+ years and set up as a fundraising consultant nearly 7 years ago, but I’ve also been writing on the side for years. Would my old work have said ‘Yes, by all means, do some article writing’. Erm, no. That wasn’t part of my remit, so it wouldn’t have worked for my old employer, but now I have the opportunity to use my skills to turn my hand to doing something that I love.
- You don’t need approval for personal development. Obviously, the downside here is that you have to pay for it yourself, but since I set up my own business, I have invested in myself. Not in the early years. No, in the early years, I was focused on bringing in money and building my client list. However, in the past 4 years, I’ve made sure that every year I take at least 1 training course in an aspect that I’m interested in. Last year, I even managed to complete a WordPress course, a writing course AND a personal budgeting course – all online. This year, I’ve invested in more development courses around my writing, as well as taking an advanced blogging course, and I don’t intend to stop learning. In fact, learning is one of my passions.
- The boss isn’t a pain in the ass. OK, so your current boss might not actually be a pain, but they do have to take into account the needs and wants of your fellow workers when considering your holidays/flexi-time requests/work pattern and workload. Your new boss on the other hand – ie little old you – only has one person to consider. OK, so you do still need to factor in your family needs and wants but that’s different as (hopefully!) they mean a hell of a lot more to you than your co-workers.
Of course, there are some downsides:
Sometimes you feel like you have to juggle everything: running a business, a home, organising homework plus having to take the kids to school and all of their activities, but for me, this is 100 times better than sitting in traffic, breathing in the exhaust fumes of the car in front. And of course, it won’t last forever either. My son starts high school this year and I can already begin to see that my taxi services after school at least, are becoming redundant.
You have to pay your own tax and NI and there’s no company pension – but to have the flexibility over your time while still using your brain and earning money is, in my opinion, worth the compromise.
You might have to reign in your lifestyle. Have we had to cut back? Absolutely. Especially in the early days when I had no client list to speak of and no clue where my next client was likely to come from, but we’ve still managed to have holidays and days out with a bit of careful planning and budgeting.
Self-employment isn’t for everyone. If you like the security of a monthly pay check and you don’t like uncertainty, then it’s likely that it won’t suit you.
I am happiest when I have at least 3 months salary covered, and so I have the peace of mind in knowing that we have enough money to cover the next 3 months or more, but there have been times when I have literally had no clue what was going to happen in 6 weeks time in terms of getting paid.
Is that nerve wracking?
So far, I’ve been lucky and it’s always come good by phoning around my contacts – or just having the sheer luck of a good contract coming up at the right time. I also didn’t make the leap into self-employment until I had 6 months salary saved up either, and to date, I’ve been fortunate enough that I haven’t had to use that so it’s still there as a security net if I need it.
Is it less secure than having a job? Partially. If you’re a permanent member of staff in a job in the UK then you’re likely to have some sort of sick pay scheme in the event of you not being able to work – and you may have some sort of pension scheme that your employer contributes to. If you’re self-employed, both of those things disappear, which is where having your own safety net comes into play.
In terms of job security, however, it probably isn’t any more risky working for yourself. In fact, you could argue that it’s less risky. I have a number of clients on my books – as well as contacts who’ve recommended me in the past – so in lean times, I do a bit of self-promotion. If you’re only relying on being paid by one employer, and things go wrong for them, then you’re stuck trying to find a new job or with reduced hours that you weren’t expecting.
I much prefer working for myself, and can’t imagine being an employee again. My husband and I have always said that we’ve got the kids ‘on loan’ until they grow up and make their own lives. So this is the time that we’re privileged enough to have to spend time with them – and hopefully, not make such a mess of bringing them up that they will still want to spend time with us when they’re older and no longer have to.
Even if they do decide not to disown their parents when they’re older, the reality is they won’t live here and we won’t see or speak to them every day (gulp) so I’d rather spend 20 minutes walking them to school than dropping them off at breakfast club at 7.30am before tearing off to work. I’m not judging anyone who has to do that – I’ve been there – but I am eternally grateful that I’ve had the chance to organise my working life differently.