August 30, 2012 by Sian Rowland
It’s not all daytime TV and coffee breaks in the freelance world. Here are my top ten reasons to stick with the day job.
Sadly freelancing doesn’t come with a pay packet at the end of the month. I’m really lucky at the moment to have the school based job (which finishes at Christmas) as it’s three days a week of definite income during term time. I add up my days and pop in my invoice every month. I set aside criminal amounts for tax and not so criminal amounts for National Insurance. Some months I’ve not earned anything and then some months it looks like I’ve not earned anything if an invoice hasn’t yet been paid. Make sure your finances are in working order before taking the plunge into the freelance world. A small buffer is helpful, thank you redundancy pay off.
2) Job security
Freelance work can be famine or feast. It’s tricky ensuring that there’s enough going on to keep you out of mischief. I used to think my local government job was secure. Mortgage advisers couldn’t throw money at me quick enough when they heard what I did for a living and I was inundated with credit card offers. I knew that if I took a holiday or was ill I’d be paid. I’ll soon be speaking to more experienced freelancers to see how they cope.
I’m a self-assessment virgin. I’ll be doing my first one this year. Perhaps one day I’ll be one of those grizzled professionals who shake their heads sadly at us newbies. ‘Oh you just wait,’ I’ll say, ‘you’ll soon see.’ I’ll look wistfully into the distance as other gnarled freelancers shake their heads in sympathy. I know it’ll be a shock when I realise just how much of my hard earned cash I’ll be sending off to the greedy nice tax people.
I miss my colleagues. We had a great time in the office where I used to work. We all worked really hard but managed to have fun too. We had a social secretary and one year decided to celebrate the world’s main festivals and went out for Chinese at Chinese New Year, a curry at Diwali etc. The office social life mostly revolved around food. I made a promise to myself to make sure I meet with friends, colleagues and clients for coffee on a regular basis so I don’t get lonely and of course I have a whole bunch of new school colleagues at the moment. I’ll blog about professional relationships as a freelancer soon.
5) Workin’ nine to five
I’m not quite sure why we describe jobs as nine to five any more- I don’t think I know anyone who works just those hours. I guess it stands for reliability and boundaries. In my previous job I had a certain amount of holiday and filled in a holiday request form. We also got a few TOIL days for time off in lieu. Now I’m self-employed I find myself working really strange hours. I am also learning how to manage my time better: I spent so many hours on one of my first projects I worked out that for the price I was paid I was earning about 50p an hour. Oops. I now keep a record of the hours I work on a project and ask for more time if needs be. Oh and you have to be really firm if you want to take a holiday. And there’s no pay packet waiting at the end of it.
6) No distractions
When working at home it’s all too easy to be distracted from getting on, especially with the internet. I find myself just taking a peep at Facebook to see what’s going on or checking my watch list on eBay. I’ve found myself sometimes cleaning the hob rather than getting on with what I’m supposed to be doing. I was never tempted to run the vacuum round at the office or rearrange my spice collection. It’s hard to stay focussed ad…ooh look is that a spider’s web?
7) Looking for the next job
I was given a good piece of advice about projects: always be on the hunt for the next one even when you’re up to your eyes in the present job. It’s tricky though when you’re busy juggling your current commitments and can’t wait for a bit of a break. It’s really worth it though- I’m learning to look to the future while taking care of the present.
8) This time next year we’ll all be millionaires
If you’ve ever found out how much those bloody consultants who come in and tell you how to do your job get paid, you might think you can chuck in your job and have a shot at the big time. Some do but most of us are in for the long haul. 51% of small businesses fail within the first year, according to Businessplan.co.uk. Owners of new small businesses forget their vision, don’t have systems in place and don’t have a marketing strategy. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the day to day job that you forget where you’re heading.
9) Doomed to failure?
The Federation of Small Business (FSB, Self-Employment: Stimulating Economic Growth) cite lack of confidence one of the main barriers to working for yourself. I worried that nobody would hire me. I still worry that nobody will hire me but we freelancers can’t sit sobbing into our laptops. We have to learn to market ourselves and be our own Max Cliffords and that’s hard work but the chances are that someone out there needs your skills so keep at it.
10) Hate admin
In the same FSB report, further barriers to starting a business were things like finding an accountant, finding the right insurance cover and dealing with VAT. Well before we get our knickers in a twist about VAT we first have to worry about common or garden tax and National Insurance. In other words, admin. In my previous jobs I’ve always managed my own work admin and sorted out receipts but had a line manager to sign them off. Now there’s no barrier between me and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Self-employed admin is a necessary evil and consists of folders, spreadsheets and lots of going, ‘Oh crap I forgot to get a receipt for that.’ If you need to know how much people hate admin, a quick peek at Dragon’s Den should do it. The Dragons only have to ask about business figures before the budding entrepreneurs melt in a puddle of their own sweat.
So none of these points should really be a deal breaker but it’s always worth considering the pros and cons. Good luck, fellow freelancers!