I have been working for myself for just over six months now, whilst awaiting to hear whether the Canadian Immigrations Agency will allow me into the country. I thought the six-month mark would be a good time to stop and reflect on what being self-employed has meant to my life. If you google ‘impact of becoming self-employed’, you’ll find the vast majority of returns are about financial considerations or regulatory requirements. Clearly these are important components of what it means to be self-employed but, for me, it is only part of a bigger story.
I started my adventure into the world of self-employment with high-hopes: I would suddenly have plenty of spare time to do things I enjoy; and I would be out and about meeting people, working in unusual locations and being more creative. For various reasons, it hasn’t quite worked out that way!
I have found self-employment to have a number benefits:
- Working from home means my daily commute takes approximately 10 seconds rather than the hour it used to take. With this time gained I can do some more of the things I enjoy, or I try to get some of the housework done to free up my weekend.
- I have more flexibility with my daily and weekly schedules.
- I have the opportunity to pursue more of my interests (business and leisure).
Of these, I think the time gained is certainly one of the best benefits to self-employment and working from home. I have, however, found that it takes some determination to make the most of the this extra time, rather than simply staying in bed for an extra 30 minutes!
For me, self-employment also brings some cons:
- Fewer people to talk to and bounce ideas off.
- Without a commute, my physical activity levels plummeted, although I do try to get out for a walk when the sun is shining and I have recently started the ‘Couch to 5K’ programme.
- Few nearby destinations such as cafes that are set-up for mobile workers.
- No bus pass (I used to get one as a staff benefit, but couldn’t justify it once I become self employed), which makes me question the necessity of each bus journey rather than just jumping on and off buses as I would previously have done.
- Difficulty having guilt-free days-off and really switching off from work.
Reflecting back on my initial hopes for what self-employment might mean, I’ve realised that it is all to easy to fall into habits and not push myself to go and meet new people or work in different places. Perhaps this is due to the work I’m doing, but I’m not convinced that is the only reason.
I should note that there are certainly a few things that have made my time in self-employment that bit easier. Firstly, James (my partner) for many reasons but, in this context, especially for his IT assistance. Secondly, Skype because I regularly have to call people in the UK and Canada, which Skype allows me to do for free. And thirdly, online shopping because I’m rarely in town anymore with easy access to the usual shops.
It is not just me who has become self-employed this year. The number of self-employed people in the UK rose by by 375,000 in the year to March 2014 to nearly 4.6 million, although there is obviously a real diversity in what self-employment means to different individuals. However, becoming self-employed myself, has really made me think about how the needs of self-employed people are met. I think the self-employed market could be a really interesting segment for new products and services across an array of areas from IT support to creative working spaces, to mutual support networking.
So, I’ll open this up to you – What is your experience of self-employment? What benefits does it bring to you? What could make your self-employment experience better?