Being your own boss: How to make the dream a viable reality
PUBLISHED: 06:00 08 August 2018 | UPDATED: 08:31 08 August 2018
Setting your own hours, choosing your own clients, no workplace relationships to navigate your way through – from the outside there seem to be plenty of upsides to self employment.
But those who have taken the gamble can tell a different story.
The potential pitfalls include long hours, the pressure of having to be your own finance and IT department, and – at least at first – the struggle to keep working coming in.
As well as these pressures sole traders do not receive the same benefits as employed people.
There is no sick pay, holiday pay or workplace pension.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) recently launched a campaign to lobby government for more support for the nearly five million self employed people in the UK, claiming their lot needs to be improved.
But how are self employed people in East Anglia faring? We spoke to a few to find out about the pros and cons of being your own boss and the lessons it has taught them.
‘Understanding your strengths and weaknesses is important’
Penny Morgan is a professional freelance photographer, based in Eye in Suffolk and focusing on people, animals and commercial photography.
But in her journey through self-employment she says she has discovered that being a good businesswoman is as important as being a good photographer – if not more important.
“I found – and still do – that understanding your own strengths and weaknesses of personal leadership is very important when working predominantly on your own,” she said.
“Find what you are extremely good at within your profession as well as learning how to evolve with the industry, to stay up-to-date with its technology and how best to achieve what people want.”
She added that properly marketing a business is key to maintaining a regular income stream and breaking the “feast and famine” cycle experienced by some sole traders.
‘It is a case of being flexible’
After two years of self employment theatre producer and performer Simon Floyd says he would “much rather” work for himself.
He founded Floyd Performance in Norwich to help support his own theatre writing.
“It is a constant battle between strategising and doing things you want to do,” he said. “I want to write theatre about local issues and get paid for it but at the same time I have to pay the rent.
“It is a case of being flexible but also directing your business in the way you want it to go. You can get blown into all sorts of areas that you can work in but do not want to. It is harder for small businesses who can diversify to strategise.”
He said self-employment requires you “to be your own PA”. “You change from being a practitioner to an administrator. It is easy to be exploited,” he said.
‘I would not go back to working for somebody else’
After being qualified as an electrician for a matter of months, Chantelle Browne decided to launch her own company.
She said “frustrating” experiences with her previous employers caused her to take the plunge. She has runs her business Girl Power Electrical Services from her home in Thorpe St Andrew, serving customers around Norfolk.
According to national figures Miss Browne is rare as a female electrician – and even rarer as a self-employed one.
“It is scarier as you have to think for yourself and everything is on you, but I wouldn’t change it now. I wouldn’t go back to working for somebody else,” she said.
Self-employment has opened another door for her – she is set to start lecturing in her trade at City College Norwich from late August. She said: “The college have some ideas in the pipeline for me to take students out on the two days I will still be working, to give them some practical experience.”
‘It is not for the faint-hearted’
Christina Lister is a marketing consultant who went self employed in 2013 after 10 years in the marketing and PR industry.
From her base in Norwich works with clients including the Science Museum Group, Colchester Arts Partnership and Norfolk Museums Service.
For her the major plus point of self employment is flexibility. “I feel in control of my career and have the flexibility that works with raising a family,” she said.
“It is important to view yourself as a business, invest in things like training and also recognise how important looking after your health and wellbeing is.”
But Ms Lister said being responsible for all aspects of your business can be trying. “If you don’t win enough work you won’t get paid so it’s not for the faint-hearted,” she said. “Despite numbering almost five million in the UK, the self employed don’t have access to the same support and benefits as employed people.”
‘I had some very altruistic support’
HR consultant and employee engagement specialist Cassandra Andrews went fully self employed about three months ago.
She had previously worked in HR for big companies including John Lewis Partnership and Kettle Foods, and had also run her own child care franchise.
She runs her business from home in North Walsham, but says this can be “isolating”. “Norwich has some good facilities in terms of places to go and work but to have more opportunities for co-working with like-minded individuals would be fantastic,” she said.
“The issues we have with mobile phone signal can be frustrating. I have to think about where I am going to be when I want to make phone calls and as I am doing a lot of networking at the moment that is particularly frustrating.”
She added that the Norfolk business community had been “incredibly supportive”. “I had some very altruistic support. I hope I am able to pay the support forward when my business is successful.”