Just over two years ago I took a huge leap of faith and handed my notice in to the company I had worked for since I was eighteen. My job role and hours had changed so much in the 14 years I’d been working for them but it got to the point where I just couldn’t juggle those 19 hours a week, Dave’s shift work, the children’s school hours and everything else. Even with so much help from friends and Dave’s lovely parents I felt like I wasn’t giving anything my all – something had to give, and it was my day job.
It turned out to be the best decision I have ever made. A year ago I wrote about things I’d learnt in my first year of being self employed and at that point I still felt like I was winging it massively. It felt like the bubble may burst at any moment. But now, another year in, I feel like yeah, this is life now. I feel like instead of winging it I’m on the crest of a wave, enjoying it, rolling with it and hoping it lasts as long as possible.
So I thought I would hand out some tips and advice based on the last two years – and ever since I started my blog really – in case it might help anyone else looking to take this same step in the future.
Being self employed is not easy. You don’t get sick pay or holiday pay. But, there is also no-one to ring in sick to – if you want to take a day off you can take a day off without anyone to answer to. But, it means that every day off has to be planned and you have to work harder the rest of the time to compensate for that time off. Work as hard as you can when you can – but make sure you take time off too. It’s easy to burn out when a business rests solely on your shoulders. Make sure you look after yourself.
When you’re self employed you tend to get paid as and when. Because of this it’s easy to spend money as it comes in but make sure you plan. I put 25% of all my income into a savings account to cover tax and national insurance. After expenses this usually leaves me with a nice chunk back each year when my tax return is submitted but, it also gives me peace of mind that I have enough there to pay those bills each year. I’ve also written before about why self employed people should want to pay tax – rather than trying to pay as little tax as possible. Which brings me on to the next point…
Being self employed means you can declare business expenses. This can be anything from a train journey to props or new equipment. Make sure you get advice – get an accountant – to make sure you are declaring everything you should be. And keep records of absolutely everything – as well as receipts.
It’s easy in this line of work to agree to any job that comes your way – in case no other work comes along. But, not everything will be the right job for you. It may be something that you just don’t agree with. It may something that you don’t have the time for or it may not have enough incentive to make it worthwhile. It could, purely, not pay enough. Make sure you set limits and try your best to stick to them – minimum payments you will accept, how much work you want to take on each week or month and an idea of the companies you are happy to work with and promote. All of this will change as time goes on but I think it’s important to know who you are, have faith in yourself and only compromise so far.
You will never have enough time. Most people in a similar position to me – a self employed parent, with a working husband – will know that you work around the kids. You work around meal planning, school runs, sports day and assemblies. I cram my working day into the children’s school day and then I start work again when they’re in bed in the evening. Because of this – there will never be enough hours in the day. So work smarter, not harder. I write a list of things I need to do and each day when I sit at my desk I crack on and get as much done as possible. Each day I have a new list and you can be sure I will never see the end of that list – but having a list is the only way I can keep going and actually feel like I’ve achieved anything.
One thing no self employed person should do is have all their eggs in one basket. As a blogger I get income from working with brands on my blog, working with brands on my social media channels and working with brands on creating videos. I have also been paid to hire out my kitchen, create content for brands to use on their website and social channels and to go to events. Many bloggers also produce products/services that give them a passive income – planners, clothing, courses, books… In any self employed job you need to make sure that if one string on your bow snaps you have more to fall back on. Diversify as much as you can but make sure you can do everything you offer to a certain standard – there is no point offering a service that just isn’t up to the same level as everything else you offer.
Like with any job there are going to be days that aren’t the best. You may have work that you’re not as interested in or that isn’t as exciting as other work but, that’s fine because not everyone loves their job 24/7 – but, doing our job, whatever that may be, pays our bills. I absolutely love my job but I definitely have some days that are better than others and quite a few that are pretty meh. Even being self employed, when the rest of the world thinks you should be living the dream as your own boss, it’s perfectly ok to just think ‘meh, work’ and not be particularly excited by it. As long as the good outweighs the bad and you can pay your mortgage at the end of the month that is really all that matters.
And lastly, make sure you have something to aim for. Whether that’s ticking something off your to-do list, writing a novel, being able to afford a holiday, having a tweet go viral, appearing on This Morning or whatever else. However big or small, make sure you always have an aim. I am pretty happy where I am with work at the moment. I plod along happily, I write, I take photos and I chat on social media – as well as everything going on behind the scenes. And I am pretty happy. I have no big aims to write a book, to be on TV or to have my own podcast or weekly vlog. But, I still have aims – things I want to do to the house, places I want to travel to and little things I want to do on my blog. Without aims we stop moving forward, we stay in the same place and we get lethargic and complacent. Have a goal, no matter how small, and reach for it.
Happy two years of self employment to me. It has gone by so fast and it still feels really odd that I don’t have to go to a place of work, I don’t have to wear a uniform and I don’t have to request annual leave. It’s great and I am enjoying it just as much now as I did two years ago. If you’re looking to make the leap into self employment – go for it. You may never look back.