The ups and downs of going it alone

Self-employment can be a dream come true for independent types who like to set their own goals and manage their own schedules. But it brings a unique set of challenges - variable income, loneliness and fear of taking time off among them. Read more below and sign up for the helpful Work-Life Balance workshop on 13 May.

Here are some excellent insights about self-employment from our friends at Business Gateway East Dunbartonshire.

“What do you do?”

“I run my own business” is a response that usually invokes a huge sense of pride amongst respondents and often much admiration, and occasionally slight envy from the person posing the question.

People set up their own business for many reasons: they spot a gap in the market for a product or service, they are made redundant, the appeal of being able to manage childcare whist making a living, wanting to make a difference to a particular section of society, reaching a milestone birthday or experiencing a life-changing event.

These are some of the most common reasons that prompt individuals to seize the opportunity to live their dream and become an entrepreneur.

Businesses can be set up in all sorts of forms - including sole trader, partnership, limited company or social enterprise - but, no matter the legal status, there are many advantages to being your own boss ... and equally there are challenges.

Plenty of plusses...

Here, in my opinion, are some of the pleasures:

1. Be your own boss

You don’t have to answer to anyone – you are the master of your own destiny. No need to explain your absence or reason for appearing late, you can start and stop working whenever it suits you.

2. You can work the hours you choose and book time off when you wantUndoubtedly the flexibility of being able to work the hours that suit you rather than the hours contracted by an employer has huge benefits, particularly for people who have family commitments, eg children, when they can work during school hours.

3. You get to keep all of the profits

You reap the rewards of your hard work, the profits aren’t shared out amongst directors and shareholders who you rarely see, if at all.

4. You can fulfil a dream

Perhaps you have a lifelong ambition to run a business that’s something that you genuinely love, whilst being paid for doing it.

5. Open yourself up to lots of opportunities for self-development

Undoubtedly whilst running your own business you have to acquire new skills and learn how to undertake new tasks, as well as delivering the product or service you’re launching. This is a great opportunity to engage with all aspects of running a business, such as marketing, sales, finance and social media.

6. No commute

Particularly for the home-based self-employed, being able to work at home brings huge advantages, from saving time and money getting to and from your place of work to being able to dip into work as and when it fits around home life. Working from home also negates the need to find appropriate premises and pay the associated rent every month.

But there are challenges too...

Conversely, there are pitfalls which can bring all sorts of anxieties and stresses for the self-employed:

1. The financial commitment

There is no regular wage being paid into your bank account - you get paid when people buy your product or service. The worry of “have I got enough to cover the mortgage, etc” is often a very practical concern and source of anxiety. There are often no funds to cover sick pay or maternity leave, other than the statutory payments.

2. Sometimes the need to work longer hours

Unlike regular employment when you can usually leave at the end of the day, when it’s your business and the buck stops with you: you have to work to make the deadline, usually with little, if any, support.

3. A lonely life

Being self-employed can often make people feel isolated - there’s very often no company whilst you’re at your place of work, with no opportunity to chat to colleagues in the office, communal kitchen, staff room or canteen.

4. Jack of all trades

In order to run a successful business, you need to acquire all sorts of new skills which can be extremely stressful and time consuming. From identifying and understanding your target market and their buying process, and promoting your business to them, to setting up systems for logging sales and expenses, what IT equipment to buy, designing a website … the list is endless. Some of these tasks can be outsourced when budget permits, but particularly in the early days, they have to be undertaken by you, so there’s a lot to learn and think about.

5. The distinction between home and work

Very often the lines become very blurred, particularly for those who work from home. When you run your own business, you eat, sleep and breathe it … it’s always at the back of your mind, even when you’re not physically at work. When your business is based at home it is very difficult to close the door and remove yourself from the constant reminders of your business.

6. The challenges of becoming an employer

When a business expands and there is the need to employ staff to fulfil the requisite rise in orders, etc, this can often be testing on the employer. The stress of knowing your employee is now depending on you to pay them so they in turn can pay their bills brings huge responsibilities. There are many issues that a business owner does not want to discuss with employees, so this again brings feelings of loneliness and isolation.

There's help at hand

Business Gateway East Dunbartonshire supports both people who are setting their own business and existing companies in the area. We provide a range of services, all of which are free, including one-to-one practical business support, a wide range of workshops, and advice on sources of financial and other support available throughout the enterprise network. We also have two very active networking groups in the area, ED-Net and East Dunbartonshire Women in Business, which provide the opportunity for local businesses to meet up, network, share ideas and support each other.

Business Gateway East Dunbartonshire has set up a workshop that will assist with addressing work / life balance and build resilience. It joins Bearsden Festival up with East Dunbartonshire Business Week on Monday 13 May.

To book your place go to:

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