With the rise of technology and the lack of “jobs for life” many more people are choosing to go down the route of self-employment. You may be an entrepreneur born and bred, or come to this life through circumstances or desire. Either way, there is nothing hotter in the world of business in the noughties as someone who is riding the wave of a “start-up”.
When people become parents the idea of risking it all for the flexibility of working for yourself often isn’t as scary as it once was. Don’t get me wrong, being your own boss is hugely fulfilling, exciting and a massive learning curve. But, don’t believe the hype. Here are some home truths about working for yourself.
1. You will have to do ALL THE JOBS (initially at least)
Creating a website or printing off a few business cards is not enough to get a sale. You have to be comfortable promoting yourself, either face to face through networking events or online; you will be your own Business Development Manager. You also need to be comfortable enough with numbers; managing budgets and keeping tabs on your finances; you will be your own Book Keeper. You will need to understand how to communicate with your customers; you will be your own Marketing Manager. Get the drift?
2. You can have a “lean start-up”
Don’t have to chuck a load of money at different platforms and courses; however much the adverts tell you. Over time you can invest in your business, but trust me when I say there are lots of free options out there! “Shiny things” don’t make a sustainable business.
3. There are no short cuts or overnight success
When you are researching your market and your competitions (tip – if you haven’t, you need to do this!) you will see lots of smoke and mirrors. It may appear like people have bought into the latest trends in marketing or sales techniques and hit the jackpot; what you won’t see is the history of the relationships they have built, the second job they have whilst they are building their business or the other income streams they have to create their portfolio career.
4. You can set your own hours
How you structure your day will be totally on your head, so you will get the flexibility you crave. This may mean evening or weekend work occasionally or all the time (if that is what you need for your family). What you will find harder is “shutting the door” on your work. If you are working from home, there isn’t always an office door to shut. Set your boundaries from the beginning to get a quality work-life balance.
5. It will feel like a feast or famine
The new normal will be having a sense of lack of constant work. Some months you will be scraping for work, others your will be worrying how to fit it all in. Get a plan in place at the beginning around prioritising your work and setting expectations with clients so you don’t burn out! It may also mean you have to be creative to where your income comes from; if you want or need to get another job or another income stream, this is NOT a reflection of your success, it is a means to an end to maintain the work-life balance you want
6. If you can’t set your own prices or influence them, you aren’t your own boss
There will be lots of opportunities out there who will promote a package as a business, but give you little control over how you run it. Once you go public with your parent + self-employed status, you will be approached with opportunities. Do your due diligence with everything and if your gut tells you it is too good to be true, it usually is. (See Kate Dyson’s blog Network Marketing: A Cult for Mums?)
7. You can go on maternity leave
With some planning by paying your NIC contributions if you are self-employed, or setting yourself up as Director of a Limited company, you can get some income should another little one make an appearance. Make sure you think ahead and get all the information you need – don’t make assumptions. You can find out more on HMRC site or speak to an Accountant
8. You can’t do it all
Think about how much you are worth per hour – if there are things you can’t do or can’t do quickly, it may be worth looking at outsourcing. Then you can concentrate on doing what makes you money! One of the first areas I outsourced was my tax return and got a great Accountant. Sometimes you have to admit you can’t do it all or know it all!
9. You will get lonely
I went from over a decade in a busy office to working on my own. At first, the novelty was great (box set of Scandal anyone?) Now, sometimes I go a couple of days with no face to face human contact (apart from the kids and husband) and I get a bit stir crazy and tend to overshare at checkouts. Be prepared. Look for groups of local business people (such as co-working spaces or networking groups) where you can gain that much needed social support network. It can also generate business opportunities.
10. You will feel sluggish
I had visions of healthy meals and daily walks; instead, it’s being sat on my backside for hours feasting on the kids’ chocolate. Get up, get dressed, have screen breaks and have nice, healthy food in the house.
11. You will wonder why you waited
Despite all of this, working for yourself is empowering, exciting, challenging and eye opening. It will give you a sense of confidence and career control you never imagined was possible before!
About Clara Wilcox
Clara runs The Balance Collective. She is a mum of two with over a decade’s experience in recruitment and coaching. She offers career and return to work coaching for parents and flexible working consultancy and workshops for businesses. Find out more on The Balance Collective website or find Clara on Facebook, Twitter or connect on LinkedIn!