If you’re self-employed or a freelancer, like me, you know how frustrating it is to constantly deal with everyone’s misconceptions about how you work. You’re in a special category of the workforce… which often makes you feel like you’re not really a part of the traditional workforce at all.
If you run a SMALL business, it’s even harder. Some people think you’re lucky, some think you’re crazy… the truth is often somewhere in between. Check out my 16 truths about being self-employed and see if you can relate!
1. You learn just how undisciplined you really are.
Of course, you should wake up at 6am. And the alarm did go off at 6am. You must have set it for a reason. And you’d get so much done if you got out of bed right this minute. Right? Probably…. not. It’s a good thing that blessed snooze button is so easy to find.
2. Your boss never lets you rest.
Being your own boss is rough. It means that your boss lives with you. You go to bed and your boss calls you (she always has your private number, no matter how many times you change it). She micromanages you. She knows everything. She is everywhere. You can’t escape her. She reminds you of that one thing you should try to get done before tomorrow. When you’re done with that one thing, it’s 2am and your boss knows that you won’t make it to work on time tomorrow. So you might as well get some of tomorrow’s work done right now. Sleep? What’s that?
3. You don’t get paid holidays, or sick days, or maternity leave, or anything…
There’s no great company deal on gym memberships or health insurance. There’s no built-in retirement plan. If you’re sick, tired, pregnant, out-of-shape or looking to retire, you’re on your own!
4. Sometimes you don’t get paid at all.
Especially if you provide a service, rather than a physical product… Nobody has a 100% reliable client portfolio. Clients flake. They pay late. Sometimes, they don’t need you at all so for a while, you might have NO clients. No clients means no money. Hello Frosted Flakes for breakfast and Ramen Noodles for dinner… :/
5. You learn to budget or you go bankrupt.
Rainy days happen in any business. When you get a huge payday, you know you can’t blow it all on designer shoes and gourmet meals… It could be your last big payday all year. So you do some math, determine what your average monthly living expenses are, then you try to always live within those limits. This pretty much means that you’re always broke, even if your bank balance doesn’t say so…
6. You’ve learned to work in random places.
Typing emails at your son’s football game… Handing out business cards while out for dinner with friends… Skype calling a potential client from the ladies room… Drafting a proposal at the hair salon… It’s never the wrong place and it’s never the wrong time.
7. You’ve done the ‘business on top, bedtime below’ thing.
When you’re Skyping a client from your home office, you might have on a nice, tidy button-up shirt, because you know they might see you from the waist up. You might even wear some lipstick. But you’re still wearing pyjama bottoms and bedroom slippers. You are still at home and there’s only so much you’ll do for the sake of propriety while in your own bedroom.
8. It’s hard to plan anything too far in advance.
A big contract can fall into your lap at any time. Gotta be available! Thankfully, your finances are under control… you think. Pretty sure they’ll still be under control in nine months. So…. That wedding next summer in Italy? Yup. Definitely maybe. Depends on how things go…
9. Most people think you never work.
Between that uncle who always asks you “When are you going to get a job?” and the assorted friends and family members who believe you ALWAYS have time to run errands for them because you really have nothing better to do… Sometimes it really makes you want to tear your hair out. You fantasize about finding a way to make people REALLY live your life for a day.
10. Some people suspect that you secretly have piles of money hidden away.
Usually it’s the ones who are dreaming of becoming self-employed themselves. They see all the perks and few of the downfalls. They think you’ve got it MADE. They watch with fascination and sometimes envy as you painstakingly go through your financial spreadsheets – not realising that half of the time you might just be trying to make a dollar out of fifty cents…
11. You have no working hours or weekends – you can work any day, any time.
This is not a liberty that you always relish. It means that when people moan and groan that it’s Monday… you really couldn’t care less. It also means that when they happily post TGIF Facebook statuses, you might feel just a little less thankful, because maybe you’ll be working on Saturday AND Sunday….
12. Your circadian rhythm is all out-of-whack.
Because you don’t HAVE to wake up every day at 6am. You don’t HAVE to wait until Monday morning to start that project. You don’t get to leave the office at 5pm because your overbearing boss lives with you. So you spend 26 hours in a haze of work-eat-coffee-repeat then fall into a coma at five in the morning and wake up ten hours later… Who made this crazy rule that days could only be 24 hours long anyway?
13. People have no respect for your working hours.
Well ok… you may not have actual working hours, but when you finally get to bed at 5am, set your alarm to wake you up at midday, then your phone starts ringing insistently at 8:30am because some friend or family member believes that you shouldn’t be allowed to sleep when the sun is so high in the sky… you learn that patience and coffee really can save lives. Thank you, coffee, for sparing me some serious prison time!
14. Staff parties, work dinners, secret Santa in the office… not a part of your life.
This may not seem like a big loss. Most of the time, it isn’t… but there’s a catch; any normal adult has some good friends they’ve had since they were teens, but quite a few friends or acquaintances they’ve made through work. When you work for yourself, particularly if you work from home, life can get pretty lonely because making friends is a challenge. Let’s not even talk about dating…
15. You’ve had to chase your pay cheques.
You don’t get to go to work, go home, repeat, then magically get paid a few weeks later. You have to count your hours, factor in your materials, pay suppliers, invoice clients, do the accounting thing (or pay someone else to do it) then beg, hassle and nag people to pay you on time.
16. The end of the month means nothing to you.
Clients aren’t all going to pay you on the 26th like clockwork. You get paid all throughout the month… or sometimes not at all. If you even remember what time of the month it is (I always forget) you may be less likely to hit the pub, supermarket or cinema at the end of the month because of the insane increase in human traffic you’ll have to navigate through in these places!
Being self-employed is no walk in the park, but I know I wouldn’t change it for the world!
Does this sound like you? Share this list with your family and friends… maybe it will clear things up for those in your life who still just don’t get it! 😉