7 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became Self-Employed

Working for yourself has a lot of benefits. First of all, you are building your own company and vision rather than somebody else’s. You get to make all the decisions, run your own schedule and have the satisfaction of growing your own successful business from scratch. 

But, like all things in life, there’s upsides and downsides when it comes to working for yourself.

As an accountant, I’m fortunate that tax returns – something which most self-employed people naturally dread – are something I can complete with ease.

But, that doesn’t mean everything else is always smooth sailing. 

As anyone else who is self-employed will understand, there’s plenty of challenges that come with running your own ship, especially when you are just starting out. 

Casting my mind back to when I started working for myself back in 2009, here are 7 things I wish someone had told me before I became self-employed. In no particular order…

It’s a Juggling Act

Going it alone to become self-employed is very much a plate spinning exercise, especially if you aren’t at the point of getting freelancers to help you. Not only are you doing your day job, but you also need to market your business, provide customer service plus do a million other tasks a day just to keep things running.

Wearing 10 different hats can take its toll, especially when there’s so much to do alongside your actual work. Even if you can afford to outsource certain tasks, you still have to be organised to get everything done. 

Knowing Your Worth

In any industry, going self-employed for the first time can be really baffling when it comes to knowing how much to charge. 

As an accountant, I already know to include things such as overheads within my hourly rate. Even still, there are always expenses that can catch me out unless I carefully look at my outgoings. 

Knowing how much to price yourself so that you offer value for money but also make a good living can be a tricky balance to maintain. It’s always good to do regular reviews as well as business forecasting to make sure you are on track. 

After all, self-employment can only work if the financials are on your side. 

There is No Such Thing As 9 To 5

On the one hand, escaping the shackles of the 9 to 5 life is freeing. You can create your own schedule and pretty much control all aspects of your workday. 

However, with self-employment, it’s often the case you can work longer hours to keep up with the workload. Evenings and weekends aren’t always safe either, especially if it’s been a busy week. 

While your company may be open between certain hours, there’s still plenty of work to be done in between meetings, or even just promoting myself. 

It Can Be Lonely

When you go from working in an office surrounded by colleagues to suddenly working alone, the contrast can be really stark. Although you obviously talk with clients or suppliers, it’s not the same as speaking with familiar faces every day. 

As a self-employed person, it’s really important not to become isolated, especially as remote working is on the rise. 

To counteract this, I definitely recommend attending networking events to boost your connections in the area. 

Another great idea is co-sharing an office space with other self-employed people. 

Tax Returns

As an accountant, I obviously know completing a tax return is an essential part of self-employment. But it still takes (unpaid) time out of my workday to do so. 

In regular employment, it’s really easy to take your payslip complete with deductions already done for you for granted. 

With self-employment, you not only have to figure out how much you need to pay to the government but the budget for it too. 

Holidays Can Be Tricky

When you’re employed, you request time off and wait to hear back. Usually, the time is approved by your boss and everything is sorted on your behalf. 

When you are self-employed (especially working alone!) it can be really difficult to organise taking time off at all. 

Firstly, you have to check that you can afford to take time off, seen as unlike in regular employment your holiday won’t be paid. 

Next, you need to make arrangements to ensure everything is done before you go, and that clients will know you aren’t contactable while you are away. 

Of course, not everyone gets the message (such as new clients), so you can often find yourself answering calls or emails from abroad. 

You Don’t Switch Off

Being solely responsible for every aspect of a business means it’s constantly on your mind. On the one hand, this constantly pushes you to grow and develop new ideas. 

But as you can imagine, it can also be difficult to switch off from too. 

Whether you’ve had a busy day or if you are just getting started and don’t yet have enough clients to sustain the business – either scenario can leave you thinking about work long after you’ve gone home for the night. 

Establishing a healthy work/life balance when you are self-employed is key to avoid burnout.

Wrapping Up

None of the above was not meant to put you off working for yourself. It was the best decision I ever made, with the upsides more than outweigh any downsides.

I put this post together to help you get prepared and avoid any nasty surprises before you embark on self-employment. 

Anita Forrest
About Anita Forrest

Anita Forrest is a Chartered Accountant, spreadsheet geek, money nerd and creator of www.goselfemployed.co - a UK small business finance blog where she shares help and advice with the self-employed community to make topics like registering a business, bookkeeping and taxes easy to understand.