WHAT 12 MONTHS OF SELF-EMPLOYMENT HAS TAUGHT ME IS A GUEST POST BY GAYLE STEWART-AIRS
It has been a year since I first took my little sideline gig full-time as a career path.
As a 30 something Mum of 3, I most certainly had a ‘moment’ where I wondered what I was doing with myself stuck in a ‘safe’ public service position that did nothing for my soul. 5 minutes after this ‘moment’ I had hatched a plan to leave, and one year later I did just that. That may all sound a little brash. But it wasn’t. There was lots of thoughts, talks and decisions surrounding my wanting to leave the job security I had established many years before becoming an entrepreneur.
My plan was to work from home. Establish a solid social media and website content client base and be more flexible with my kids. Everything seemed to make sense, and everyone I spoke to told me just to do it. Jump. So I did.
Not one person or thing prepared me for the fear that fell upon my shoulders two weeks after my resignation was final, however.
The responsibility was entirely mine to earn a living each and every week so that my family would survive. The pay just wasn’t placed in my bank account once a fortnight, unless I went out and chased it.
In the beginning, some weeks I didn’t earn a whole lot (given I was also recovering from an unfortunate car accident that happened at the beginning of my new career) but I tried very hard to be of valued service to my clients. Eventually, I started to see that my good nature and cheap rates were meaning I wasn’t able to balance my work family and personal health very well. Something had to give, and it came with the letting go of some projects that were costing me more stress in the way my bank balance was looking due to spending too much time on them.
Eventually late one night I realised I had to start taking myself more seriously if I were to continue and that involved a lot more of time spent nurturing and valuing me and my business. This is some of what 12 months of self-employment has taught me.
Give yourself an hourly rate and not the sort of hourly rate that makes you think, ‘well if nothing else I am cheap’. Because being cheap won’t earn you a good living. It will make you work harder for less, and the wrong type of people will come your way that don’t value your skills either. It is ok for some people not to be able to afford you. If you still really want to work with them, there are creative ways you can do so without selling yourself short.
Even if you don’t have the added responsibility of a family, you still need to rest and play. Being an entrepreneur means you can choose your hours. So choose them wisely. Work smarter, not harder and switch off plenty. Make sure your clients are aware of your work times also. Even sending one email at a time when you don’t wish to be contacted by them can and will start them contacting you at all hours.
Now if you’re working from home, a coffee date can sound fabulous but tread carefully. If it’s a coffee date to ‘pick your brains’ or ask advice you may wish to rethink the invitation. If you work in a consultative position like I do, essentially you could be selling yourself short for the sum of a coffee. Use your discretion though if it could be some benefit to you or a future project. Let me ask you this however, would you ask a physiotherapist to give you treatment for an injury and hand them a coffee as payment? Nope and neither should you.
Watering Your Own Garden
Establish a time each week to tender your space. Whether it be to tidy your desk and send invoices, update your website or project planning for the future. Watering your garden is so very important and something I often failed to do. I would happily sit and work for hours on client tasks and then forget to invoice them. NB. People like to be invoiced. Especially when they love the work, you’re doing for them.
Making time to look after your business will enable you to reassess what you’re doing and if you’re happy with doing it. Remembering the most important aspect of working for yourself is that you love what you do.
I managed to work in my PJs’ for the first 2 hours of my day, juggle school holiday shenanigans and complete about 4 hours work for my clients with a little bit of planning done on a new project for my business also. 12 months later, I have achieved my initial goal of work/life balance without a doubt and my family love me being more available to them. Yes there has been lots of bumps in my journey this year but I don’t think I would change any of it. It all made me stronger and a better business woman. Something only cold hard experience was going to teach me.
Gayle Stewart-Airs is a blogger, and a Mum, but not a Mummy Blogger. Her new blogging venture The Daily Recovery is a place of inspiration, encouragement and down-right awesomeness. Gayle works with brands to create their best online presence and reach their ideal customers through social media.