Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Celebrating one year of self-employment

Today is exactly one year since I took the plunge and gave up my half-day job for fulltime freelancing. Lots has happened in this year (clients have come and gone, I've ghost written a book, TSC has found a job) and lots has stayed the same since my first post about it (I still work in my slippers, spend too much time on the internet and stress about my tax stuff).

Here are a few things I've learnt from the experience so far:
  • Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Even the most reliable of clients and partnerships may come to an end unexpectedly.
  • If you are looking to procrastinate, the internet offers un unending supply of strange videos, annoying songs, and incredible projects by creative people. You will never get to the end of the awesomeness. You will also never get any work done. (Btw, these links are SO worth clicking through!)
  • I need to get out the house. Otherwise I get cabin fever. I schedule meetings at coffee shops, pop out to do the grocery runs (so I can avoid the shops on weekends when they're crazy) and occasionally, when work is slow, I do lunch with an old friend. Having this flexibility means I have to have discipline though - if I take a morning out, I may have to put in the time in the evenings. And that's fine by me.
  • My boss is a real cow sometimes. Working for myself means being on my own for most of the time. And I get sick of myself. Which refers back to the point above - get out; see people; maintain a semblence of sanity.
  • I'm it. I can't pass along the boring work to someone else. And when deadlines are crazy (as they tend to be in journalism), I sometimes have to work through the night to get everything done. There's no passing the buck. I don't think you can survive being self-employed if you don't have a sense of personal responsibility.
  • Even when there's not many jobs on my plate, there is ALWAYS something to do - admin, filing (blergh), marketing, following up, invoicing, networking (haha - not so good at that) and, of course, blogging :-)
  • People tend to think that because I'm self-employed I either have no life and will be able to take on jobs with no notice or ones that fall completely outside of normal office hours, or they think that I just sit at home and twiddle my thumbs. In the latter case, they try to get me to join committees and clubs or they try to fill my hours for me with tea parties and shopping expeditions. They don't realise that I'm actually much busier than I ever was when I was employed by someone else because now I am my own office manager (suck at that), accountant (suck at that even more), marketing department (wow, aside from writing I'm not actually very good at any of this stuff) and tea lady (ok, I can do that).
  • Clients often think that because I'm a one-person business they can pay me peanuts and pay me late. I don't get that - surely I'm more vulnerable than a big company? Paying me late messes up my cash flow completely. And I don't have a salary to rely on, so it's important that I charge properly, otherwise I don't eat. Wish I could get them to understand this fact.
  • It's important to unplug. Working from home and for myself means that I could easily get carried away and never switch off from work. I make a point of "closing shop" for the day and I've taken to turning my phone off at night (seeing I have clients who call me before 7am). It's healthy to get out of work mode and spend quality time with TSC and also on my own doing stuff not related to work - gardening, cooking, taking a long bath, going to gym and cuddling my cats.
  • I couldn't do this if I didn't love writing. Self-employment for me is only an option because I love what I do. If I were trying to make this work as a book-keeper (wahahaha... as if!) or a freelance PR officer, I would fail because I am not passionate about those things and wouldn't have the discipline to get the work done without a boss looking over my shoulder.
So that's what I've learnt in year one. I look forward to sharing what I've learnt with you at the end of year two. But for now it's off to get some work done!


Damaria Senne said...

It's been a year? Oh my! Time does fly. Congratulations! And it sounds to me like you managed to pack quite a lot of accomplishments and learnings in your first year. I can't wait to see what you manage to get done in your second year of fulltime freelancing. Well done.

Nes said...

Wow! One year! That is very cool. I think you are very brave. I grew up with my father having his own accounting business and so I know firsthand how difficult it can be (why DO clients insist on not paying or paying late??? I can never understand). But its great that you love what you do and can work in slippers :)

Helen said...

wow time flies! I am impressed at your self-discipline, as my superV lives overseas I'm basically my own boss and I'm 100% sure that if I was working for money I would have starved to death by now.

I'm glad it's worked out well for you though and you can do what you love rather than your old job that wasn't quite what you wanted.

po said...

Sounds like a super steep learning curve, am so impressed that you can do that, it kind of blows my mind, I think I need a boss to feel motivated, which is a pity but very true. I am a minion.

DBAWIW said...

I demand more pictures of your cats helping your work.

Well done on a very successful year, Tamara.

Slyde said...

if you fire yourself, could you then re-hire yourself, but this time at a lower salary?

that might be a big money-saver....

Jeanette Verster said...

wow a year!! I admire you for taking the plunge :) well done!

Tamara said...

Thanks, everyone, for the warm wishes!

DBAWIW: I'll see what I can do.

Slyde: Yes, I could do that. But then I'd not be able to pay all my bills. SO maybe not such a hot idea. Unless, of course, you're willing to pay the shortfall?

Anonymous said...

I'm also a freelancer and work from home and I relate to all your points!! I love slippers and tea made the way I like it :)

Louisa said...

Urgh! Late payers really P me off.

Congrat on your one year - hope there are many more to come filled with lots of awesome and well paying customers.