Making the decision to work for yourself, freelance or start up a business is a big one. At the beginning, you’re often thinking about all the practical things you’ll need to do, like telling the tax man. Before you get to this point, it’s a good idea to think a little bit more deeply as there are a number of factors to carefully consider before you enter self-employment.
There are lots of benefits of working for yourself: the freedom to make decisions and greater independence; being able to do what you’re interested in; setting your own work patterns and deadlines; more work/life balance; being your ‘own boss’ and reaping the rewards of your own efforts and making your dream become a reality.
Sounds amazing, doesn’t’ it? Let’s flip it. There may be more stress as responsibility for success or failure ultimately lies with you. There will be times of financial instability – particularly at the start – and no paid holidays or sick pay. You may earn less in the short term. There will be no one to manage you, keep you on track or provide you with motivation. You may have to work longer hours which could impact on family and relationships, and working in isolation can be lonely.
Remember, at the beginning you will have to do everything, and you’ll be responsible for everything. Your passion, energy, dedication and creativity will need to be present in all you do.
If you were to apply for a job and were successfully shortlisted, you would attend an interview to mutually decide with the employer whether you were a good fit and suitably qualified for the role. This doesn’t happen when you’re self-employed, so it’s really important to be realistic, and honest with yourself. If you have a business idea, it is just as important to ensure you have the skills and the mind-set for the road ahead. Interview yourself!
So, ask yourself:
- Am I comfortable taking risks?
- Do I take opportunities, or do I over-analyse situations?
- How would I manage myself?
- Will I be able to network, and sell myself?
- How will I cope with uncertainty and unforeseeable events?
- What do I know about the practicalities of setting up as self-employed?
What every self-employed person has in common is the commitment to hard work. Those who are suited to self-employment are often calculated risk takers, find uncertainty exciting rather than a worry, have the determination to battle their way through obstacles, plan ahead and organise their time efficiently, have the emotional resilience to get through the difficult times, are opportunistic and optimistic, can network confidently and build connections, and most importantly, are self-motivated!
Does this sound like you? Lots of these can be developed over time, and often a shift in mind-set naturally occurs when you’re doing something you love. However, if you’re thinking “This is not ‘me’” maybe self-employment isn’t for you. And that’s fine. It’s important to know now rather than spending time and money developing an idea or setting up a business.
Something you may wish to consider to ‘test the water’ is freelancing alongside employment. You’ll have the security of your job and the ability to explore the market which you would like to enter. You can assess demand for your services, and also consider whether you would be ready to take on the commitment full-time.
If you want to find out more about freelance careers or entrepreneurship, there are still a few events left in this year’s Venture programme. Visit http://www.chester.ac.uk/careers/entrepreneurship to find out more, or look at the Events on CareerHub.