Self-employment 6 months on: the good, the bad & the ugly

 |  Personal, Work

It’s roughly 6 months since I registered as self-employed and told my mostly-fantastic (he’d kick me for the mostly part) boss of 6 years that I was going to leave. Now’s as good a time as any to give you an update on how that’s going.

The Good

I have spent the past 6 years protesting about interacting with clients, thinking that talking to people was something I was no good at, something I needed someone else to guide. One of my biggest worries about being responsible for myself was that I would not have the motivation to talk to people, to sell myself to them, to help them choose me. Despite this I have managed to secure 2 ‘big’ website contracts, ongoing work with a local company I’ve been working with over the past 6 years and multiple small jobs offline and through social networking.

The Bad

I’ve made mistakes: mistakes that have cost me money. Two ‘big’ ones that spring to mind (that could have been worse, thankfully):

Mistake 1: I entered into my first job, albeit a small one, with no contract or list of what I would and wouldn’t be doing. I had to wait for nearly 2 months to be paid. It ended well, but more out of luck than judgement.

Mistake 2: I have underestimated the amount of time I would spend on back-and-forth communications with clients. Getting specifications finalised, agreeing development schedules, bug testing and feedback, etc. I know this stuff ate a lot of time when I was employed, but when you’re working 9-5 it’s easy for it all to blend into the background. I need to make sure there’s more time for this so that deadlines are not abandoned later on as unrealistic. This brings me to…

The Ugly

I have yet to meet a set deadline. It’s not all been my fault: client hold-ups (deposit payment, tweaks to original spec docs, changing of minds etc) are a big factor — not a problem but ever present nonetheless — but I seriously underestimated the effect that juggling kids and work would have on my ability to a) concentrate and b) get something done. Oliver’s daytime sleep “problem” has been particularly damaging to my estimated timelines! Thankfully, everyone I’ve worked with (or am working with) has been fantastic & supportive. I can only hope that this continues, and that I can use this knowledge to create more realistic schedule in the future.

Jem Turner +44(0)7521056376

9 comments so far

  1. Audrey said:

    I’ve thought about what I’ll do if I have a baby (5+ years away) in terms of my career. I have a college degree, which I’m paying off, so using it earn income is important to me. Also, I like my lifestyle which requires a two adult income. At the same time I’d want to be a stay at home mom at least the first two to three years, if possible. Not because my partner, family, or society insist this is best (quite the opposite) but because of the many articles I’ve read about these early developmental stages.

    Your post gives me some helpful perspective that I’ll definitely think back to when/if the time comes for me. Hopefully I’ll be in a place career wise that I can make such a choice.

    • Jem said:

      Thanks Audrey.

      I think this decision will really come into its own after 12+ months – the stage I missed with Isabel because I was working all day 4 days a week. I have not decided whether or not Oliver will go into nursery yet, but certainly for the foreseeable future he’ll be at home with me. I just need to get past THIS stage and still be earning. Fingers crossed!

  2. Meggan said:

    This update is great. I could write a novel in response but I’ll try not to.

    OMG YOU HAVE TO HAVE A CONTRACT. You know this already, I know, but I read that and panicked. ALWAYS HAVE A CONTRACT. I don’t care if the site is for your best friend, contract contract contract.

    And oh god, the deadlines. I majorly biffed one this year, mostly because I work 24hrs/week out of the home, take care of Wesley the other days, and try to squeeze in freelance work time in the midst. Plus, I vastly underestimated the time necessary to input products (it was an ecom site) and it took MONTHS because it was on top of all the other design / development / project management stuff, AND they weren’t the only project I had ongoing. It makes my chest tighten just thinking about it.

    I have a really, really hard time working all day and then coming home to… work some more. I really think the key to “working from home” is to outsource the childcare – for me, at least. It’s nearly impossible for me to get anything done if I’m simultaneously supposed to be handling childcare. KUDOS TO YOU for managing it as well as you have!

    • Jem said:

      I’m not managing so much as juggling client expectations during the day and getting as much done as possible in the evening whilst sacrificing my relationship and any hope of ever having a social life again ;D

      • Meggan said:

        Hahhh yes, the social life + relationship does suffer. It’s hard. I get really resentful about it – I’ll want to go to the park with Wesley, but what I NEED is for Daniel to take Wesley to the park without me so I can get something done, so I miss out on all the fun times. Horrible.

  3. mumblies said:

    Although you will have to contend with fussy clients that change their minds and various other setbacks I know you will get through that stage and produce great things. I have faith in you and anything you set your mind to. Going from employed to self employed has to be a big change but I now despite Ollie’s efforts to drive you insane you will get there.