By Jo Middleton
Being self-employed is a double edged sword for me. On the one hand I love the flexibility it gives me; I can be around for school plays, sick days and to ferry in the inevitable forgotten PE kits, and it’s brilliant not to have to be forever letting Belle down because I can’t get time off work.
The flip-side of this though is that it can be difficult to establish that elusive work life balance. To make up for the time I have off with family and home commitments, I often find myself fretting about work in the evenings and trying to get a head start on work emails over the weekend.
School holidays are tricky too. Unless we are actually away, I often find we spend day after day in a sort of limbo, where I’m working from home out of guilt at going into the office, but Belle is still left to her own devices. Taking proper holidays can be hard too - no one pays for your time off when you work for yourself and overcoming that feeling of of losing out on valuable income puts the pressure on.
I’m about to embark on a new project, (which I plan to finish before the summer holidays), with Direct Line For Business. It’s going to cover not just the practicalities of self-employment, like business insurance, but also some of the emotional difficulties, as well the logistics of keeping everyone happy when you work for yourself.
As part of the project I’ll be hosting a Twitter chat and creating a video with one of Direct Line For Business’s experts, asking for their top tips to help successfully manage your own business. I’d love to know what issues you struggle with, and what advice or support you would find useful.
To kick things off, I’ve come up with five things to think about if you’re self-employed or are thinking about setting up your own business:
Where are you going to work?
I’ve done the whole lot - working at the kitchen table, loitering in Starbucks as well as casual and permanent office space. Although you might initially like the idea of being able to work in your pyjamas, the novelty quickly wears off if you’re a people person; it can get very lonely at home, especially if you’re tied to the house in the evenings too. Do you know any other freelancers who be keen to share some office space? Are there any co-working spaces nearby that you could investigate?
What equipment do you need?
When you work as part of an office you get used to having things like a photocopier on tap, so setting up a home office can be pricey. Think carefully about what you actually need; don’t waste money for example on a top of the range printer if you only ever need to print black and white documents. Ask other business owners for tips and shop around for the best deals and don’t forget to keep your receipts.
What insurance do you need?
Speaking from personal experience, this is often something that business owners don’t think about, but it’s vital to protect your business. What would happen if someone came to your office or home, tripped on a cable and sued you? How about if you gave some social media advice that damaged the company’s reputation? Find out what you need and make sure you’re covered. (Direct Line for Business can help with this of course.)
Are you good with figures?
One of the things that puts a lot of people off running their own business is the thought of financial record keeping and tax returns. These don’t have to be complicated if your business is small - just make sure you keep records of everything. HMRC run workshops for new business owners that cover the basics and if you really don’t fancy it, consider employing an accountant; this will often save you more money than it costs as they will be able to help you manage your tax bill efficiently.
How many hours do you want to work?
And how much time off would you like? There is a tendency as a business owner to feel obliged to say yes to everything and take on as much work as possible, but this isn’t really necessary and kind of spoils the point of being self-employed. Instead, try to think about the bigger picture - how much do you need or want to earn annually? Factor in holidays - how much do you need to bring in every week or month to average out over the year? Have these broader targets in mind and you’ll feel much happier about taking time off as you’ll know it’s covered by the weeks you do work.
Are you unclear about the types of insurance your business needs? Maybe you want to work for yourself but are worried about financial record keeping? Perhaps you like some tips to help you work more efficiently and not get distracted by reading blogs??
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