This week marks one year from the day I left the security of employment and set up my own business.
Was it a good decision?
I believe so.
Last year I got increasingly unhappy with working in a riding school because I ended up doing, or trying to do, everything and couldn’t manage the workload – teaching, exercising horses, managing staff, managing the bookings diary, running the day to day stable yard. With the occasional curved ball thrown in. So I picked the bits I liked doing the best and focused on them.
It’s been a strange year, of mostly ups but it has had a couple of downs too. This time last year I was emailing pony clubs to advertise myself, and ended up teaching at three different camps. This was a whole new level compared to own-a-pony days, but I loved it when I got into the swing of it and can’t wait until the first one in July!
I was teaching perhaps half a dozen private lessons a week, just enough to covere my costs, and then teaching a couple of days for the riding school which gave me a bit of security. Nowadays I’m teaching for two or three hours after school each day, plus some daytime lessons too, which means I’ve been able to give up teaching for the riding school. Whilst I miss the clients, I much prefer looking at my diary and knowing exactly what’s planned for the week (am I a control freak?), and at the moment I gave the added bonus of having my weekends to myself. Of course I can choose to work them if I wanted, such as going to a pony club rally, but it’s given me much more freedom to compete Otis and see family on the weekend. I think that when winter comes I will probably teach one weekend day and put many of my after school clients on that day so we make the most of the daylight hours.
At first I wasn’t exercising any horses, apart from my own, but this has really taken off over winter- last week I had twelve hours of riding booked in – and I’m finding that I’m kept pretty busy during the day exercising various horses. I’ve found this really beneficial to my teaching because I’ve sat on a wider variety of shapes, sizes, attitude, responsiveness, and experience, which has given me more tools in my toolkit when teaching or training a horse. Last month I was schooling an ungainly cob, who really surprised me with how quickly she learnt and how forward going she became once fit. My next project is a young teenager and her pony. I’ve met the pony, now I need to meet the rider and see the combination together. I’m looking forwards to it!
Being self employed means that I have more control over my time, so I can fit in lunch with a friend, or a doctors appointment, and can justify and attend courses to help my training. One of the things I wanted to do was take my Intermediate Teaching Exam, but I haven’t really had chance to study for it. We spent last winter decorating and titivaring the house, and next winter may well be taken up with wedding organising, so I’m perhaps looking at the second half of 2016 to start training for it. However, the people I teach will put me in a good position in terms of experience and teaching content, so really I’m spending the next twelve months gaining practical experience. I’m not in a hurry, as I don’t feel held back in any way.
Teaching freelance enables me to travel to various yards to teach, which is a shock to the system, but I’m getting used to it. Some arenas are small, some are grass on a slope, some are grass with no letters, and some arenas sing and dance! It’s great seeing how many horses are kept – their management, the way they best utilise their facilities, and widening my horizons of the horsey community.
There are downsides to being self employed, such as “if you don’t go to work you don’t get paid” but as I’m such a workaholic this doesn’t not really apply to me. I also have to assign time to tot up my accounts, which isn’t too bad – I was a maths geek at school so combine that with the control freakness and you’ll see why I like doing my accounts. People also feel they can contact me at all times of day or night, which can eat into my switched off time.
Besides, how can I complain when I get to see views like this everyday?