It is almost a year since I made the decision to go self-employed, and a recent post by Wiola – http://freelanceinstructorsdiary.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/day-20-few-things-they-dont-tell-you.html, made me think about the learning curve that is being self employed.
I totally agreed with Wiola`s observation that sometimes you enjoy your job so much, you feel guilty for charging people. I have lessons like that. I have rides like that too.
When you go self-employed you suddenly gain control over your life. You can book days off when you like, and work your day around any doctors appointments or farriery appointments. It makes it so much easier to organise your social life too. I remember struggling to leave work on time, racing through the house and changing my outfit within seconds, only to arrive at the party ten minutes late. Now, if I have an event to go to I rearrange any lessons, or the general day, so that I can arrive at that party on time.
I`m also benefitting from the fact that I can ride my horses during the day. This makes my leisure time much more enjoyable, and their work is more varied because I can hack more frequently during the week. I`m also not as tired or stressed when I ride them.
I enjoy the variation of being self-employed, but sometimes my life gets turned upside down. I love routine, and it only takes a client to change their lesson day for me to be thrown off track. Around Christmas I was spinning in circles as my weeks didn`t follow their usual plan because clients need to rearrange lessons to fit in with other social activities. There is also the variation in people I meet and horses I see, which makes life much more interesting.
So what are the cons of being self-employed?
If I don`t work a day, I feel like I`m not earning money. This unfortunate feeling often stays with me on the weekend so I throw myself into other activities, such as painting the spare bedroom.
I`m constantly aware of how much money I`m bringing in. Or not. If someone is away or busy one week, I fully understand, but am aware that I`m losing income. It sounds greedy, and most of the time at the end of the week or month I don`t feel hard done by, I just notice the cash flow more now I have sole charge for it.
I don`t have a base, or a captive audience of liveries at my own yard, which makes me very disposable. If someone doesn`t want me to teach them anymore, then BANG! That`s it. No warning, no notice period. Nothing. If a yard doesn`t want me to teach there then BANG! I`m disposed of as easily as a used tissue. This is the point that you hope your clients are loyal, so aim to treat them individually and give them the highest standard of work so that they come back.
As a self-employed individual I have to complete my own tax return, which I`ll be honest, I not looking forwards to doing, but I`m sure it will be fine. I also have fewer rights than an employee. I don`t get sick pay, I`m not entitled to rest breaks or paid holiday, am not protected against discrimination and can have any contracts broken without notice. Furthermore, there is very little representation for self employed people, legally – employees and employers have much more protection. Perhaps this is where I begin to develop my political views?
It is hard to plan for the future because I can`t guarantee what income I will have in two months time, which means you begin to live for the present – immediate gratification we called it in sociology. This goes against my upbringing of deferred gratification, and make saving for a pension seem impossible.
For someone quite reserved it is very difficult to advertise yourself and network positively. I`m rubbish at self-promotion!
So what have I learnt about being self-employed? It`s great fun being my own boss and I love being in control of the majority of my life, but it is full of uncertainty for the future. It`s amazing that as much control that I have, my success lies in the hands of others.