The 5 best things about being self-employed. A personal perspective.

the 5 best things about being self-employed

I got an unexpected text today, from Hays recruitment agency. They’re looking for an admin assistant for a temporary contract in Penrith. Have to be an ADVANCED Excel user with experience in VLOOKUP (whatever that is).

Well, I’m not an advanced Excel user. I learn the hard stuff when I need to use it, but I couldn’t imagine anything worse than having to use the damned software every day. But just 5 years ago, I would have considered that over the job I did take, which was working in homecare.

I lasted in homecare longer than I did any other ordinary job to date. My previous record was 18 months. Don’t get me wrong, despite my characteristic abruptness and bossiness, I was nearly always asked back permanently to jobs I started on a temporary basis – I was a good temp. But homecare did what I needed it to – the poverty that comes with a job in homecare drove me to start writing for money … and that led me to where I am now.

After 36 jobs in 12 years, I’m into my second full year writing ‘full time’.

It has its downsides. Mainly to do with time! Invoices are rarely paid on time, which makes paying regular bills a bit of a headache.

And it was already difficult for me to get myself somewhere on time – now I don’t think I can do it. Something always crops up at the last minute!

I don’t see enough people; I’m an introvert, but I like to chat while I work. An extroverting introvert, maybe. Now I freak the dog out as I mutter under my breath, and I’m one of those annoying people who talks constantly when they meet other people.

But, my goodness, the upsides far outweigh the downs.

Apparently Confucius said:

Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.

Here is my list of five favourite reasons why quitting work was the best thing I ever did:

1. I can do what I feel like doing, every day.

Whether that’s eating or not eating, having another coffee, getting up at 10 am and going to bed at 3 am, having a random attack of gardening at 2:05 pm, or collapsing in front of the fire at 3:30 pm for a nap. It doesn’t matter what it is, I can do it.

I don’t let myself have a nap very often any more – I get more sleep than I did working homecare, there isn’t the need – but the point is, I could if I wanted to.

Because of that, I want to work. I love to work, because that lets me do everything else, even if that’s nothing. (And there’s never nothing to do).

2. I can choose when I want to work.

I think this is really important. It’s useful to work at the times when office people do, because when you have a problem, you can call them. Learned that the hard way, at 2 am on a Purecontent batch. But working when you’re up to it is way more productive than trudging through it when you’re feeling like shit.

The trick here is to look after yourself well enough so that you mostly feel good with a few off days. That way you get one spare day in the middle of the week to do nothing if you feel like it.

See, I’ve always been fairly motivated to work hard and at speed. In office jobs it was because I would have been bored otherwise, and I have a gargantuan fear of boredom. Now it’s because I want to earn more money!

3. I earn far, far more money now than I ever did.

I have more worth to society and to myself. Money doesn’t give me worth, I know that. But somehow, people are prepared to pay me because not everyone can do what I do, and that does something amazing to my self-worth.

4. I earn money for my work, instead of for just turning up.

This matters so much to my self-esteem. I’m paid for what I produce, and that includes my time of course, but it doesn’t mean I’m paid-for all the time. I’m not owned by anyone. I can develop my career the way I think is appropriate. Not held back by what other people will allow me, according to some national standards or CPD but allowed to be as ambitious or as cautious as I like.

So, suddenly I have a bigger future. It doesn’t matter if half my ideas don’t work; something will, if you learn from your mistakes and you keep thinking things through. The biggest challenge is making those things happen. You gotta be hungry. 

5. I am fulfilled

I am fulfilled because people come to me and ask me to do something within my specialism, and then I do it.

Imagine that. Being asked to do something smart, not because someone can’t be bothered to learn, but because it was more cost-effective and timely to ask someone who knows how to do it already. And I’m that person. Feels great. And in between times I get to make jewellery, have a mid-week baking fest, lie on the top of a hill in the sunshine with the dog, or chat on the phone with someone great for an hour.

What’s the biggest decision you ever made, and what are the best things about it?