In July our very well used laptop died. We were bereft. I was in the middle of transferring all our photos off, writing this blog, planning for the Therapist Business Clubs August course. My husband was busy planning for September and the return to school. Suddenly we were faced with having to invest in a new bit of technology.
Normally this would be fine, we’d pop out and pick up a good deal. Job done. But July and August are a really tricky time for me. July is spent squirreling away the pennies to cover August, and probably most of September – or as I like to call them ‘The Summer Months of Doom’. You see, as a supply teacher, and schools advisor, I don’t make any money over the summer because I can’t work. I have to plan carefully, and throwing an unexpected and hefty financial outlay into the mix can, quite frankly, tip me off the precipice.
I’m sure you all know only too well the feast or famine fear, the feeling of walking that tight rope, and wondering if all this will be worth it. Another couple of unexpected bills at the end of August has had me wondering if all this is going to work. Can I stick this anxious time out or would I just prefer to walk back in to a safe secure little job?
Turns out, I’m not alone in asking these questions, especially when times are lean (thank you wonderful Adam for paying our bills!). So I turned to all the wonderful, amazing, talented people I know who took the route of self-employment and I sought their wisdom.
Here’s what I found out.
Most of us don’t jump
When I decided to become self employed there were several factors involved. I knew I was unlikely to be able to go part time in my teaching job – a fact borne out of several conversations that ended up true. There aren’t any part time jobs out there for experienced (read: expensive) teachers, so I struggled to find another job. The old dream of working in the well being sector resurfaced and I had the general feeling that maybe the time was right. In truth, if I’d got part time in my old school I would have just stayed. I didn’t jump – I had a nudge in this direction due to circumstances. So many people turn to self-employment in the face of job dissatisfaction, redundancy, or the inability to get another position. We’re turning difficult situations into a chance to follow our dreams, do the thing we love, and be positive. If you’re the super brave person who did jump, all power to you!
It can be really hard
Bookkeeping, accounts, tax returns, marketing, pension and National Insurance contributions, lack of sick pay. It’s all on our heads and can be the bane of being self-employed. I’m right in the middle of doing my first self assessment tax return and, honestly I could cry! I’m terrified of making a mistake and getting something wrong. The thought of ending up with an enormous bill that I hadn’t expected, because I’ve made an error somewhere gives me absolute nightmares. I’ve watched countless HMRC webinars and YouTube video’s, but still feel pretty clueless. I am, however, reassured. All my clever self-employed friends have sensible and workable systems in place.
My lovely brother-in-law does his books and accounts on a weekly basis to make sure he’s on top of what he’s been paid and if he’s owed anything. And, the biggest thing that has come up repeatedly is the importance of a good accountant. As one friend said ‘my accountant has paid for her services many times over’. My goals for the next year – to earn enough money to warrant paying an accountant to do my taxes! Small steps…
We love the responsibility
Despite the anxiety, frustration and pressure of going it alone, I keep hearing that being responsible for our own lives is a huge draw to being your own boss. One friend, a landscape gardener told me that ‘I love knowing that I have to put the work in to get the reward. That I have to make the effort’. Knowing that you’re doing it for yourself and your loved ones gives self-employment a personal level you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. Being entirely responsible for our own actions and success is important to our well being.
In the ‘working world’ where we are employed by others, our own autonomy can often take a backseat. Knowing that there’s nobody watching over our shoulders – nobody else in a position to make huge decisions that impact our lives can be a massive breath of fresh air. Looking to the benefits of self-employment can help to mitigate the fear around that responsibility. A friend of ours who is in IT reminds himself that all the many hours of driving and travel can contribute to reducing his tax liability. In the words of a drummer friend ‘if I work extra, I get 100% of the benefits from that effort’. Surely that’s worth remembering!
So, would you ever go back?
It’s difficult, it can be stressful, it might be a learning mountain, you might be working 24/7 with no switching off. But…it is yours and yours alone. It gives you the freedom and flexibility to build the life you want, doing something you love. When it gets you down and you wonder if it’s worth it, ask yourself – would you ever go back?
If the answer is yes, that’s fine. Reach out, make those links, meet those people and find that path that takes you to where you’re happy and comfortable. If the answer is no, that’s great. Reach out, make those links, meet those people and find that path that takes you to where you’re happy and comfortable. It’s totally worth it.
This time around I’ve had help writing from loads of wonderful people that I am lucky enough to call my friends. Things they’ve said and told me over time, and specifically for this piece, help me hang in there while I’m super anxious (so…now!). These are my wonderful, amazing, talented self employed friends, and I thank them for their wisdom, help and support.
Fergus Wilde, Gary Tranter, Liz Badger, Phil Jevons, Phil Guest, Bob White, Miranda White, Dan Guest, Sue Glover, Alan Glover, Dan Clark and Susanna Westwood.
Bye for now!
Raegon Guest – gal on the ground!
About the Author
I’m Raegon Guest, your ‘Gal on the Ground’! I’m a new-start therapist and I’ll be following the member content and providing feedback to you and the team. I moved from my teaching job to become a stress management consultant. I now work with those in the education sector to implement stress reduction strategies for staff, children and families.