Self-Employment & Self-Preservation
Maybe it's because I'm a child of the eighties, but I really do believe you can nurture the tiniest seed of an idea to fulfilment. There's a chance that I watched too much 'Why Don't You?', 'Blue Peter' and 'Tomorrow's World', but that entrepreneurial spirit has always been a big part of my personality. My dad has been a very successful self-employed sparky since 1975, so I suppose that made my own journey to self-employment inevitable, because he made it seem possible to believe in your skills, set up your stall and make your own money. As of July 2018, the BBC reported that self-employment was up and now accounted for 15% of the workforce. Choosing to be self-employed brings autonomy, endless opportunities to learn and a lot of pride, but it can also bring with it a unique challenge to a person's metal health and wellbeing.
As a child, I never got the impression that our family struggled. Talking to mum and dad, as an adult, who now understands such things as mortgages, household bills and interest rates, I know that they found it hard to make ends meet some months whist dad was in the early stages of building his business. I remember my mum used to work nights as an auxiliary nurse to help with cash flow. Goodness knows how she had the energy to look after us and fulfil all the domestic tasks facing a young wife of the 80s! She used to leave a pink post it note on our pillows when she left for work, saying 'sleep tight & God bless xxxxx' and I'd always worry about her driving all the way to Milford Hospital on lonely, dark country roads.
As a child, you have no real concept of how hard your parents are working or how consuming the business of paying the bills day-by-day can be. Looking back with the knowledge I have now at how they managed to hold it all together, I feel a great sense of admiration for them both. It has been very inspiring and empowering growing up in a household kept afloat through self-employment. It proved to me that a person could rely upon the strength of their own skills and talents rather than having to graft themselves onto a corporation or institution. Perhaps, due to my parents' example, self-employment was always a goal for me at some point in my life.
Self-employed can be the zenith of creativity and control, but it can also be the nadir of self-esteem and resilience. It's the paradoxical nature of self-employment which inspired me to write today's blog. From my own experience, and from listening to my fellow entrepreneurs, self-employement can be a defining moment in their lives: the moment they've dreamed of for years. However, it can also bring with it a great many unique challenges that being in a salaried role doesn't, and these can affect a person's mental health in a different way to someone who knows their paycheck is coming at the end of the month.
1. You are EVERYONE in your company:
One challenge of being self-employed is that you ARE the company. You have multiple roles to play, some of which you may never have had experience of before: you are your secretary, your accountant, your web developer, your marketing team and your front of house all at once. From my own experience, being everyone all of the time can be tiring and daunting, since you become accountable for everything; there's no-one to pass the buck to for things that go wrong or for things that aren't done. Keeping your energy levels up to ensure you can fulfil your various roles is challenging. I was certanly well practised from spinning metaphorical plates from my career in teaching. Self-employment is a very steep learning curve. Having said this, taking the plunge can make you realise that you can cope with far more than you ever thought you could. For example, anyone who knows me knows I loathe maths. I've hated maths ever since I had to have 'special lessons' for it at middle school. But, since going solo, I've succeeded in running my accounts and filling in my tax form without catastrophe. Okay, so my spreadsheet has stopped adding up, and I've no idea why, but it's a matter of taking small steps!
- Don't be afraid to ask for help from the experts lurking in your friendship group: for example, a friend of mine in HR was able to teach me how to set up and use spreadsheets
- If you can afford to outsource something, then do it - some things deserve to have a bit of money spent on them, such as your photography and your marketing
- Look into creating passive income streams, such as downloads, merchandise or selling products related to your business - you could even invent something new for your occupation. This will help you to earn money without having to be physically in front of a client, in turn combating exhaustion
- Block out time during the week for self-care: on a Sunday night, I use the Everyone Active app to book a yoga class and, as least, one cardio class in for the week ahead and my clients' sessions are then booked around these. As the saying goes: you can't pour from an empty cup
2. All aboard the self-esteem roller coaster:
Being self-employed is full of potential peaks and troughs for the sole trader's confidence. One moment, you can be celebrating the freedom, autonomy and pride of launching your business , and the next you can be wondering where all your customers have gone, worrying how much you're going to make by the end of the month, and agonising over why Mrs Smith never replied to your quote. Working in a department or an office, you have other people to lean on for support and to lift your spirits when you're feeling low. When you ARE the office, you only have yourself to rely on for recognition and praise. Being a sole trader can be a great test of your resilience and self-perception.
- I've found the prinicples of LOA (The Law of Attraction) really useful here, and I've used it to ensure that I am keeping my 'vibration' at a healthy level: instead of feeling desperate and sending lack out into the universe, I focus on the clear goals I've set myself and expect to meet them through a series of concrete actions
- Keep a notepad by your bedside so you can keep a 'gratitude diary' in which you celebrate what's gone well in the week, filling it in either at the end of each day, or at the end of each week<