The ups & downs of self employment…
As I sat down to write this, an email came through from my daughter’s A Level art teacher, telling her class how impressed she has been with how hard they have all worked this year. She included the above quote from artist Georgia O’Keeffe and went on to say “It does take courage to keep going, because creativity can be tough”! My immediate thought was just how apt and timely this message had arrived in my inbox, my second thought was just how right she is. When you are self employed, in whatever field you are in, it is imperative to remain creative with fresh ideas and approaches to what you do. As the landscape around you changes over time, you have to find ways to adapt, and absolutely the most important thing is the courage to keep going, if you know it’s right for you.
My husband Nic & I took the leap in to self employment 18 years ago. We had both worked in retail, which incidentally is where we met, and had dabbled in some hobbyist buying and selling on ebay, and so because of this we felt confident enough to give it ago. We started selling online, from home, on the ebay and Amazon platforms, later moving to the high street for several years, with online selling alongside. We have now come full circle, working from home again, selling online. Those 18 years have been eventful. We’ve been scammed, broken in to, vandalised, and experienced very tough financial periods. At each of these points in time, at least one of us has declared that we were ready to give it all up and find a job working for someone else. Whether it be sheer tenacity, stupidity, a deeper love for what we do, or one of us carrying the other through, we’ve ridden the storms and found our way back to calm waters.
I can recall so clearly the aftermath of the worst shop break in, where we waited all through the night for someone to arrive to board up the now non existent door. I sat on a stool staring out into the night, watching people come and go whilst it felt like our world had caved in. Nic lay on the floor next to me, and declared, ‘I’m done’. Of course he wasn’t, we pulled through, pieced everything back together, and carried on.
The pros have always outweighed the cons, and we have kept going for mainly two reasons. The first is the fact that we value being our own boss and creating our own lives very much, the second is that we have been able to adapt. When the waters get choppy, we have the ability to ride the waves.
Having said that, it is certainly not easy navigating the tricky and sometimes worrying times, and the answers, at the time, are not always clear. It’s sometimes no more complicated than simply putting one foot in front of the other, but it always helps to keep your creative juices flowing, to keep inspired, and to consider alternatives when redirection seems unavoidable.
Looking back, despite the tough times, I don’t regret a moment of being self employed. On practical levels it has allowed us to be our own boss, set our own hours, and to be full time parents to our daughter. We’ve been so grateful for family and friends who have helped us out in so many ways and supported our vision over the years. Working for ourselves has meant more time to give to them, as we can take time out of our days, or go away to visit or be with family at short notice, and we’ve had more time to give to our daughter as she’s grown.
The other upside is that there is no limit to what you can achieve and how much you can earn, it all depends on your vision, your approach to it and how much time and energy you give to it. There was a time we worked flat out for a few years in order to pay off our mortgage, and now we are able to relax a little knowing that we have a roof over our heads and we are comfortable. Working for yourself means that you can tailor earning money to your lifestyle, rather than working for a set salary to pay for someone else’s. There are times when it is hard to keep motivated and the days can feel like a slog, no-one is immune to that. Ask yourself what does motivate you? Why do you want to be self employed? What do you want to achieve? My motivation is simple. I don’t want to work for someone else again. I’m motivated to remain self employed because I enjoy working for myself. I also love the challenge to keep forging a life of my own creation.