Written by Karen Bryan
I do think that sometimes people get carried away with the idea of self employment without looking at the reality of it. I’ve been self employed as an online publisher since 2002 but also had a part time (3-4 days a week), freelance job until May 2009. In my experience, almost every aspect of being self employed that has an advantage, also has a disadvantage.
Doing Something You Love
While being self employed gives you the opportunity to do a job you’ll enjoy, it’s unlikely that you’ll take pleasure in every aspect of the work. I started my travel website, Europe a la Carte, so I could work in a field in which I had a great interest. However, once I gave up my part time day job and needed to make a certain income from the site to pay towards living expenses, I started having to spend more time on doing things in which I wasn’t interested, e.g. search engine optimisation and selling advertising. However, these tasks were essential to earn a living from my site.
While being self employed you do undoubtedly have more freedom and control of some aspects of work than as an employee, you have to make all the decisions yourself which can be liberating, yet exhausting. I can take time off when I want, e.g. to sit in the garden if it’s a sunny afternoon or go for a walk on a weekday morning; but then I’ll need to work in the evening to make up for that time off.
In theory many self employed people can work from anywhere as long as you have a decent internet connection but I’m not so sure about that; I don’t think you replace real face-to-face contact. I’ve missed out on a lot of networking events and travel press trips as I don’t live near London.
Being self employed gives you the potential to make more money than being an employee. But remember to factor in employer pension contributions, sick pay and holiday pay to your comparisons. As an employee you know how much you’re going to be paid and on which date. When you’re self employed you could have some lean times and/or issues with your invoices not being paid on time.
Working From Home
Obviously this depends on the type of self employment you are undertaking, but if it’s clerical/computer based, you will probably work from home, at least some of the time. This means no commuting and you can work around family commitments. However, you may find it hard to keep on top of things due to other obligations, miss the company of colleagues at work, find it hard to stay focused and lack any boundaries between work and home.
Hours of Work
Because you enjoy what you’re doing, want to make a success of it and/or are under pressure to earn a certain amount, you may find that you work many more hours than as an employee. It’s quite common for me to work an 80 hour week. There are hardly any days when I don’t do at least a bit of work, but that’s because I prefer to keep on top of things.
Is Self Employment For You?
Only you can weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of self employment, depending on your own circumstances. I’d just caution you to be realistic in your evaluation.
Overall, being self employed is working out for me as a lifestyle choice which allows me to work flexibly from home. My husband took early retirement, so being self employed means we can spend time together during the day. On the financial front, I’ve replaced my earnings from my previous job.