Do you have to be self-employed to have the flexibility you want?

This is something that often comes up when I’m talking to clients who feel like there is no other way to get the flexibility they desperately want.

But is it the only way?

The honest answer is no, its not the only way, although it is often a choice that people decide to take. For some people self-employment brings total flexibility – the power is literally in your hands to decide where, when and how you will work, even what kind of work you will do.

But as they say – with great power comes great responsibility.

When you work for yourself you become your own boss and that’s not always a good thing. Being self-employed means it can be easy to not switch off, to work those extra hours, to feel like you should be doing more because there is simply no-one else to do it and, if you are not winning work then you are not earning money.

Which means that you can actually become the worst boss you’ve ever had.

I’ve done this myself over the course of this year. I’ve taken a total of one week off, I’ve worked late into the evening, I’ve worked early in the morning, I’ve had times when I’ve stuck the kids in front of the TV so I could ‘just do this’ and I’ve had times when I’ve been replying to emails on my phone whilst playing with them.

This year has, I’m hoping, been an exception. A one-off where I have had to work with the kids at home with no childcare support at times. But as I reflect on how I feel about being self-employed I think the honest truth is that I would have done some of these things with or without the added pressure of Covid.

Why? Well two things – because I’m passionate about what I do, about the change I want to see in the world and about showing up for the people who need to hear my message about the flexible working revolution. But also, because I want and need my business to be a success which means I do need to put the hours in, learn how to run a business, chase new leads and serve my clients.

So, how can you be your own best boss?

  • Set boundaries for yourself – when will you work? When are you available to your clients? How will you fit work around your life and not the other way round? It is even more important when you are self-employed to set your own boundaries. Because there is always work to be done. But you are no good to anyone if you are working 24/7.
  • Ask for help – As your own boss, its easy to feel like you should know how to do everything and at times you can find yourself feeling alone. But you are not – there are so many people out there who are good at the things you don’t know, and who are happy to help. Speak to an Accountant about how to do finance if that’s not something you’ve done before, speak to a Marketing specialist to learn how to spread the word about what you do, don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Learn patience – setting up on your own is not easy, and you want to see the fruits of your labour quickly. But it doesn’t work like that, especially if you’re starting out on a new path. It will take time to learn about yourself and how you work best, and to learn about what works for you and your business
  • Have a community around you – get to know other self-employed people and business owners – through networking, your local co-working space, online communities. I cannot tell you how invaluable it has been for me to just be able to talk to others who understand what its like to be self-employed and the pressures we can put on ourselves. It’s also important to have a community of people who you can share your successes with.
  • And the most important one – never forget why you decided to take the leap into self-employment in the first place. For me it was to be able to spend more time with my little people before they go to school. And they act as a constant reminder of why I need to put the phone down, switch off and go have some fun with them.

Going it alone can definitely bring you the flexibility you want but it also comes with a responsibility on yourself to make sure that you stick to your own boundaries. It’s not always the easiest way to have flexibility but from personal experience, you can have a lot of fun along the way too!

And if you want to know how to get the flexibility you want without being self-employed watch out for my next blog which will be ‘How to negotiate the flexibility you want in your job for 2021’.

Nicola Pease is the founder of the Flexible Working Revolution who is on a mission to change the world of work – she coaches women in leadership to have the career they want and the flexibility they need and advises organisations on how to make flexibility the norm.

If you are thinking about a change in 2021, get in touch to find out more about the Re:Ignite your Career Coaching programme – nicola@ignite-coaching.org

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