Working for Yourself is So Much Harder Than You Think
Ditch the J.O.B. they say. No more clocking in. No more answering to anyone else. Choose your own hours. Work from the beach. Embrace entrepreneurial freedom. Create the perfect work/life balance. It will be great.
Except it isn’t. Most of the time it actually sucks. But you won’t find many people who are honest about that. So I’m going to share the brutal truth and tell you how you can fix it too!
More for Less
The truth is that working for yourself usually means longer hours for considerably less pay. Oh yes, you can choose when you work those hours, but let me tell you unless you have the sleep pattern of an owl, you’ll end up doing at least 8-8 on a good day, and burning the midnight oil will soon become the rule not the exception. 9-5 will seem like a distant, pleasant memory just a few weeks in.
When the opportunity for a long weekend comes, take it! When you have the chance to schedule in something fun mid-week – do it! You might work long hours, but you can choose what hours they will be. You are not confined to a working schedule imposed upon you by a boss, so work your timetable around stuff you want to do. Want to take Fridays off to go to pilates, then lunch with a friend followed by a long dog walk? Do it. No one will give you a pat on the back for working long hours AND denying yourself the pleasure of being self-employed. Take the chance and make it part of your flexible schedule.
One is such a lonely number. In an independent report* on self employment, 25% of respondants stated that they missed having colleagues. Working alone all the time takes its toll. You end up with a version of cabin fever which turns you into an antisocial recluse – when you do have the opportunity to socialise you often pass it up because you have forgotten how to do it. Or you don’t have the time because, you know… work.
Get some virtual work buddies. Find some other peeps in a similar situation and pool your skills to support each other. Use Facebook or Slack to stay in touch online and host virtual meetings on Zoom to keep each other motivated. Go one better and have occasional face-to-face meetings and mastermind sessions to cement the bond and push each other on. It’s priceless.
And weekends are for work.
The laptop always comes with and you pre-empt the trip by doing so much work to ‘cover the vacation’ that sometimes it’s a relief not to go at all.
You watch with envy as employed friends use their phones at weekends to merely check facebook instead of answering frantic emails and calls from clients.
Inform your clients you are away and turn on the auto-responder. Create a google document for clients to log ‘action points’ of items that need work on when you return and give them your cellphone number for emergencies. You’ll be amazed at how respectful people will be of your vacation, especially if you prepare them.
When asked about the problems of being self-employed in the same survey, 30% cited not getting paid if they fall ill as a big problem. So you are never sick. If you actually allow yourself the indulgence of going to the doctor, you will merely laugh when she offers to sign you off work for a week or two. You will drag your laptop to your sickbed to attempt to keep your emails to a manageable level. Never show weakness.
You can purchase insurances to cover loss of earnings for illness but it is expensive. Better use of an investment might be to have a virtual assistant that is trained up to know enough about your business who could step up if you become ill. Most importantly take care of yourself and don’t allow lack of self care to become detrimental to your health. Sometimes taking a day or two off is the smart move.
Fear of Old Age
Giving up a secure pension contribution doesn’t usually factor onto the decision making of most wannabe entrepreneurs when they take the step into self-employment. Fair enough, its pretty dull stuff. But fast forward 20 or so years and suddenly that doesn’t seem like quite such a bland subject. An early or flexible retirement is actually one of the motivating factors many people choose to become a solopreneuer. But how to fund that island life when realistically your income is considerably lower than as an employee? 26% of entrepreneurs advised that not being able to save enough for the future was a problem for them. Reality bites.
Tax yourself every month and invest in a private pension and some other small long-term investments. Consider it an essential business expense right from the start – do not ‘wait until you are making more money’. It will provide some long term security. Find an independent financial advisor to help get you started. Start small but start now!
Fear of No Work
Starting up is easy. Staying up is what matters. So when your start up fund runs out, your new business has to stand and fall on its own merit. Cash flow is king when the safety net runs out. And this is when you stop being fussy and never say no. You are so scared of having no work that you end up with too much, and run yourself ragged trying to over service every client.
Being under pressure financially is suffocating and does not always provide the best place for you to make good and ethical decisions for your business – the need for urgent income can cloud your judgement. So there is nothing wrong with trying to maintain a steady income while you set up a new business. This might mean staying on part-time in your job to stabilise your finances until your business can pay its own way. This isn’t fear of failure, it’s bloody smart and will ensure you can do things right!
You Can Never Go Back
You become unemployable. It takes less than a year to realise that you can never again work for anyone else. The idea of going cap in hand to your boss or HR to plead for vacation times makes the bile rise in your stomach.
There isn’t one. You’ve burnt the bridge. Just embrace it!
The Future Is Bright
If you are still reading this article and it hasn’t sent you running for the security of a McJob, then there is every reason to believe that you have the minerals to make it. Being realistic about the challenges is half the battle. Forewarned is forearmed. Go you.
Success as a solopreneur is not a straight line. Embrace the challenges, find your own support network, and focus on your goals, whatever they may be: shaping your own financial future; enjoying your work; developing a company culture that you create; and yes… nailing the work/life balance, eventually. When you get to the point of turning away work because it’s just not floating your boat, then you know you have nailed it.
*Statistics taken from “Self-Employment Review – An independent report by Julie Deane OBE. February 2016”.