BEING SELF EMPLOYED and all I have learnt along the way
I became self-employed back in 2016 when I gave up university and set up Made by Leah and it was the BEST thing I ever did. I’m writing this blog to let you all into the world of being able to wear PJs for work and do whatever hours you fancy and give you all the pros, cons and tips I have spent the last 3 years building and learning. Hopefully if you’re self employed or thinking of becoming self employed or even just curious as to what someone who is self employed does all day, you’re in the right place!
Here are some rules I follow for my work life:
1: ALWAYS wake up and have a routine, even if you don’t feel like it. When I first became self-employed I used to lie in here and there and take breaks and finish early. This was OK at the time because I had less work on than I do now and I could actually afford to do that but now I’m busier and have more to do than a 9-5 allows, I have had to learn to be more disciplined and stick to normal hours. I find it easiest to work whenever my husband works whenever I can, so that helps me be normal and keep a routine. I have weekends off when I’m not at an event, I think it’s important to have days off in a working week for sure. I do reply to instagram comments and messages still when I’m ‘off’, but I don’t go to the studio/post office/bring my laptop home. We deserve that Friday feeling too!
2: Keep up to your accounts! You can’t avoid taxes and accounts if you’re self-employed. Whether you have an accountant or do it all yourself, it’s still very much there. I learnt the hard way when I didn’t do ANY for the first 6 months and had a long catch up. I now stick to one session a month of knuckling down and doing that months tax (For example, I did Aprils accounts last Friday morning, phew!). But yeah, make sure you’re on top of it ALL THE TIME. This thing happens when you run a business where you become an accountant, a cleaner, a marketing director, a social media consultant, an advertiser, a boss, a walking diary and every other possible job you can think of, it’s incredible really. You have to adapt to become EVERYONE a business needs... And all while eating what you like and watching Disney all day (I’m joking, that’s only some days…)
3: Enjoy the freedom. Always. I know as much as anyone that if there’s a job to do, you want to do it ASAP. But as far as being self-employed goes, enjoy life and flexibility as much as you can without it stressing you out! Routine is fab and being disciplined is important, but if you want to go for breakfast with a friend on a Wednesday morning or go swimming at 2 o clock on a Thursday afternoon or just watch a movie because you have a creative block one day, you ARE ALLOWED and absolutely should. Not everyone has that privilege. Here's some examples of me enjoying my freedom...
4: Don’t expect to cross everything off your to do list super fast.
This especially applies if you work for yourself and it’s only you as a one-man band! You absolutely have to learn that to do lists grow and grow and it’s rare to totally clear one! I’m always adding jobs and getting orders and I used to get really annoyed and overthink things if I went home with things not crossed off my to do list! Thankfully my mindset has changed now and if it hasn’t been done that day, it is allowed to be carried over to the next! You will stress out a lot less if you let the to do list go and focus on prioritising tasks and managing your time as best you can. You can’t do it all in one day, something that has taken me a couple of years to accept…
- Wear what you like/need to in order to work your best. This is not a one size fits all kinda suggestion. I used to wear PJ’s to work, literally. Every day. Or trackies or gym wear, but I found I was at my peak when I was wearing ACTUAL clothes. I still fail at this one quite often but honestly, if you feel normal and not slothy, you’ll work better I think! That’s what I’ve found personally anyway. This is a halfway house for me if I need to be comfy but want to feel like I'm dressed, are smart trackies a thing?!
- GET A GOOD WORKING SPACE FOR YOU. You have to be inspired every day. I’m lucky enough to work from a super inspiring and sizeable studio every day. I painted the walls, furnished and decorated the whole room exactly how I fancied and with things that inspire me. I have other small business artwork and products on my desk so I can look at other creative that inspire me as I work. I have a separate space for my computer and laptop and a different desk for painting and drawing and another separate desk for orders and packing up. Honestly, whatever space you have or whatever inspires you, make sure your workspace reflects YOU. Be you and you’ll be more efficient and enjoy work a lot more. Don’t be boring, be inspired.
7: Take good care of yourself, don't burn out. It's easy to love or be so committed to your job that you go full steam ahead. Remember to do things you enjoy that AREN'T work, you'll benefit so much from that.
PROS TO WORKING FOR YOURSELF OR WORKING FROM HOME:
- You can start and finish work when you like.
- You can change plans or workdays to work around commitments, super flexible.
- You get to be your own boss and work your own to do list
- Wear what you like
- Take breaks/eat etc. whenever you need to
- It’s all your own rules
- You know everything about your job inside out. It’s a project all for you and you learn how to run things down to a T.
CONS TO BEING SELF-EMPLOYED/RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS:
- You never switch off. It’s on your mind whether you’re at work or in bed or on holiday. It’s not a bad thing as your heart and soul is generally in it but it’s a strange feeling!
- You have to run every aspect of your job. You have to put on multiple hats multiple times a day.
- 9-5 goes out of the window a little bit.
- Money is never the same month to month so you always have to think about not having a regular consistent salary.
I hope this has helped somewhat, and if any of you have any questions about being self-employed I’m very happy to help or answer anything! I’m no expert but I’ve been doing it a few years now and have definitely figured things out over time. This blog could’ve been about 100x longer than what I’ve written but I figured I’d pick out some important parts rather than boring you all! It’s amazing and you’ll love every second of it if you’re thinking of becoming self-employed!
My favourite thing is that I get to do what I love every single day, and the contacts and people I’ve met along the way. It’s great! My business is my baby and I’m so glad I’m involved in every aspect of decision-making, designing and everything else in my studio. Enjoy the flexibility and unique working situation and ENJOY.