In late 2014 I made what was then, a daunting decision to walk in and quit a safe and secure job at a reputable company, and take the up a long term aspiration of mine, to be self-employed. In essence a 9-5 job didn’t excite me anymore despite working with high profile clients and colleagues I really liked.
I wanted the responsibility running your own company brings. Even though I fully understood I may have to work much harder (or smarter) to earn an equivalent or even lesser wage, I was determined to do it. Admittedly, while confident in my own abilities the thought of winning work, maintaining client relationships, receiving money, and dealing with tax and business setup amongst other tasks. I was anxious about all of it, especially when approaching my leaving date. Don’t worry, it’s normal and will work out if you put the effort in.
I wanted the responsibility running your own company brings. Even though I fully understood I may have to work much harder (or smarter) to earn an equivalent or even lesser wage
Now over a year later I wanted to share some of my tips and experiences for any aspiring entrepreneurs thinking about working for themselves.
Know your stuff!
It sounds obvious I know. But while experience is important, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend self-employment just because you’ve had a number of years solid experience in the job. Only on the basis that I’ve experienced people with 10 years or more experience who were in my opinion still pretty awful at their jobs, and people with 3 years experience who quite easily have the skill set and personable approach to work for themselves.
While it’s very hard to determine whether you’ll enjoy working for yourself, I’d judge based on your ability to provide a useful, specific service or product for somebody. One you know you can isolate, clarify easily and charge for. An interest in the job is incredibly important, but it won’t be enough alone to succeed. Working within the field of UX from the perspective of a one-man business, will be very different than working in an employed role.
Work hard (but not too hard)
Before working for myself I read many stories stating they worked endless hours to succeed. Maybe I’m lucky, but that has’t been my experience. If you make sure you charge your worth and find ways of getting work consistently lined up and completed quickly, you can actually find yourself doing less hours work over the the course of the year. I personally found that, as the work I do now represents me as a personal brand, I worked far more effectively than when I worked for somebody else (sorry guys).
I personally found that as the work I do now represents me as a personal brand, I worked far more effectively than when I worked for somebody else
I also did the majority of my planning, personal branding and prep work on public transport while on the way to my previous job (just a tip.) Ways of saving time ensured I could hit the ground running and get setup quickly.
Use your contacts!
Around 95% of my initial business came from people I have previously worked with throughout my career. I can’t stress the need (especially in the early days) for you to reach out to those you know already. Trying to build relationships quickly with new clients in a short timescale is not something I would recommend. You’ll be surprised where work can come from, so remain persistent and let everyone (including friends and family) know about your new business venture. Get used to representing yourself and what you provide with confidence – this ability will be useful on a day to day basis to both win jobs and up sell your services.
You’ll be surprised with where work can come from, so remain persistent and let everyone (including friends and family) know about your new business venture.
Get an accountant
I’m more interested in creative aspects of the job, it’s my nature as a designer. If you feel that way as well, then save yourself the trouble and pay the necessary fees to an accountant to do your financial duties. The peace of mind will allow you to focus on the job at hand. If you search around, good accountants aren’t as expensive as you think considering the time and money you can save.
When it all falls down
Towards the end of 2015 I became very ill. For several months I tried to ignore what was happening, and plod on through ignorant persistence in the frame of mind that, this is what self-employed people did when they were ill. During December I was admitted to hospital with a serious autoimmune disorder which left me unable to work for several months.
Being self-employed, I was devastated with what was happening. The fact that this had happened in my first year to go self-employed made it worse. Luckily I was very busy prior to falling ill, and invoices fell conveniently for me to survive the period financially and recover health wise.
The reason I felt inclined to mention this was because with all my planning, it was something I couldn’t possibly have foreseen, and if it wasn’t for great friends and work colleagues that have enabled me work in a way that aids my recovery, I would have began to struggle quickly. While an event like this is uncommon, it’s best to understand that despite your sheer determination, circumstances may at times limit your ability to work.
Despite your sheer determination, circumstances may at times limit your ability to work.
The best career decision I’ve ever made
While I am still in the process of getting fully fit and healthy (I was only admitted a month ago), I’m now getting back to my normal working day. While it is a matter of perception as to ‘how my first year went’ considering the circumstances. I can openly say that despite hospitalisation, it has been the most exciting year of my career.
The biggest takeaway from my first year, was not a lesson learned career wise, but a reminder that personal circumstances can change quickly. If you aspire to do something, then don’t hang around waiting for an ideal moment, just do it. After all, there are much worse things in life than a career path not working out.
If you aspire to do something, then you shouldn’t hang around waiting for an ideal moment, just do it.
If you’re looking to go self-employed, I’d be happy to hear your thoughts and comments or answer any questions. Just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All image credits: www.unsplash.com