Recently a good friend of mine asked me to summarise five of the best things about working for myself, and also five of the worst things. As well as a cleansing and thought-provoking exercise for myself, I thought it might be useful to share, so that other start-ups might benefit, or at least empathise, with my thoughts.
Five best things
Not having to be at a desk at 9.00 am if you DON’T want to. Working from home if you DO want to. Things work a lot better with family – school-runs, parents evenings, open mornings. You obviously still have to ‘do the work’ but you can choose when to do it, within reason.
Full time positions used to frustrate me, because (wrongly) the times I got to meet clients, suppliers, copywriters etc were often few and far between. I was generally tied to my desk eight hours a day and rarely let out of the building. Now I love meeting my clients, potential new clients, fellow creatives, copywriters, web builders etc. I enjoy fostering relationships with these people in a way that I was never “allowed” to do in the past. I also love presenting my work to people and seeing their (hopefully) happy faces.
The thrill of the chase
A lot of people hate this, but I now enjoy the thrill of trying to find work and the euphoric feeling when you win a pitch all on your own, or someone commissions you to create work for them. There’s so many new business tools at our disposal now, with social media for example, that new business can be enjoyable. You’re not just limited to writing a letter or phoning someone up nowadays.
I never worked anywhere for more than four or five years in a row, but eventually the lack of variety always got to me. Whether it was in an agency who specialised in the financial services sector, the technology industry or internal comms. Eventually I got tired of always working within similar boundaries. Now, my work is immensely varied. Charities, technology, a session musician agency, a poster for a short film, an identity for a florist – anything could (and has) come my way!
Running your own schedule
There’ll always be clients who throw a sudden curveball, but generally I can plan exactly when I’ll do the work, how long it will take, when I’ll present back to the client and when I’ll work on the feedback.
The five worst things
You generally should earn more working for yourself – in the creative industry anyway. However, waiting on invoices to become due, or chasing clients for payment, often leaves you a little short some weeks.
Revel in the four weeks paid holiday a year (or more!) of a permanent position, because when you work for yourself, you don’t get paid when you’re not working and it’s very hard to relax when you do go away – unless you have ‘spare’ money in the bank.
It’s very hard to switch off
Even when you have switched all the computers off and tablets off (which is equally hard to do!), you’re brain is always thinking of things you need to do, not always creative either. Things you need to pay, insurances you need to sort, people you forgot to contact or reply to, that portfolio and website to update, that blog post to write. Even when you have no official ‘work’ there’s always something needs doing.
You still need people around you
If you do, literally, work for yourself, it can be quite lonely sometimes. This is why I got myself a desk space where I’m surrounded by other people. They’re not necessarily like-minded, or in a similar industry, but they are great company. I found I still needed to chat a bit, make tea for someone and have it made for me back. You also need people to sanity check things, my wife and I use each other, but this often turns into a lot of work chat at home. Beats talking about the kids all the time though!
I constantly feel guilty about having to turn work down, even when I genuinely can’t fit it in. I also feel guilty about doing work during the day that’s not officially paid work (creative) such as new business, accounts, portfolio stuff – even though, deep down inside I know it’s completely valid and worthwhile. This is easing a bit, but still gets to me. I used to do the creative paid work during the day, then do the ‘other stuff’ in the evenings – don’t get into this habit, it’s rubbish and life-ruining!