Discussion on self employment

Having accepted an invitation to a “Freelancers and Remote Workers” evening in the city, I met a whole bunch of people who were at the very start of their freelancers journey, whereas I am almost 10 years down the line.

The whole question of self employment ties in with another topical subject of “Will I ever get a pension?” and “Will I have to work until I die?” The reality is starting to look gloomy in this respect but as a seasoned networker, I have seen many people change career from a career that has become too mentally or physically demanding to a self employment career that they can adapt to in their later years.

The beauty of self employment is that you can choose something that you actually love doing, that you are passionate about and turn it into a decent living, perhaps even better than you had before. Of course turning your hobby, interest or idea into a money making venture is something that takes a lot of patience, a lot of time and a lot of peaks and troughs. It is unlikely to be all plain sailing so it is important to weigh up the pros and cons. Hire a business coach and get some help with a marketing plan who will help you decide whether your business is viable, how you find your target market and the most efficient way of getting yourself known

Without a doubt today’s youngsters will have to be enterprising and decide how to subsidise their old age but against that, they were given much better opportunities from the start. It doesn’t matter so much these days that you come from a disadvantaged background, have a regional accent, whether you are a woman, or if you come from a different culture. We all have different skills. Different opportunities await you and it’s never too late to take up a course, follow your dreams and change direction.  Whatever life throws at you, be positive and embrace change. It doesn’t matter whether you are 25 or 55, our future is in our hands. This government will not help us, the state will not help us, it is up to us to help ourselves and for many of us, enterprise, entrepreneurship and self employment is the answer.

With that in mind I asked my Fabulous Women group “What piece of advice they would give somebody starting their journey into self employment?” We were a group of just 8 self employed women but a whole range of answers came from a short session with that tiny discussion group.

The first thing to consider is your “Why?” – Why do you want to change? Why do you want to become self employed. If your only answer is to earn money – stop now!!! With patience it will happen eventually but if money is your only motivation, that is not enough. It really helps if you love what you are doing, that you really believe in what you are offering, that you have the right resources, that you fill a niche and that you are offering something unique, at least in your local area.

So what route do you take? You may work in a trade that you already know and love but find working for a large company absolutely soul destroying so you need the resources to move. I took a franchise which means that many of the start up costs, licences, admin and running costs are done for me but that means I divide a share of the profit but have less of the headaches. You may take on a product like Utility Warehouse, Arbonne or Forever Living which can at least initially run alongside your day job and give you the opportunity to work out if you can indeed make a living from it and if that’s really where your future lies going forward. You may need to retrain which would involve investing in a course or may simply have a great idea that will make you a millionaire one day.

Next you need to consider your target market, who you are selling to and in what area. If you need a shop, is there one already one there are has there been one and it’s closed down. It helps if you make some enquiries and research how well your business will work. A business coach can help you assess your viability and costs and also market your new business so it’s a very wise future investment.

There are other start up costs to consider so it does help to have a few thousand put aside or a small bank loan so you need to consider whether you can afford it. You are unlikely to get rich quick and it does take an average of two years to get a decent cluster of clients. Initially you will need to consider an office space, office shelving and furniture, stationery, business cards, a decent website which should be done professionally or at the very least use a copywriter to make sure it sends out the right messages and is likely to be found, you will need a decent laptop, equipment and work tools, smart clothes if you have to meet clients, a business coach, accountant, somebody to help with your marketing, advertising or networking costs, administration or virtual assistant, you may need liability insurance, you may need special licences, you may at some point need to take on extra staff or a virtual assistant to help you.

So who else do you need? Well you definitely need clients. Where do you get those from? Make a list. Friends, family, clubs you belong to, where you used to work, social networks, business networks, its surprising how many people you know or could know with a little effort. You do need to ask for help along the way. Asking for help is not a weak option, it is the first step towards collaboration. You cannot do this on your own. One day somebody will ask for your help too.

And what else do you need. You definitely need commitment, you’re on your own now, nobody is your boss. If that means long, unsocial hours that is something you may well have to get used to but make sure you also have time for fun, time to exercise and time to eat properly. You need to be self motivated. You need to be organized, work out a strategy, make sure you keep a diary, meet clients deadlines, tax deadlines and you must be reliable and deliver what you promise. You need to move on quickly from failure or disappointment and never let it get you down. You need to think and dress like a professional. You need to follow leads. You need to hand out business cards at any opportunity but in doing so you must show interest in the other person too.

When you start up do so with the future in mind. Is this your business for retirement? Can you sell it? Will you wind it down as you get older? Will it expand? If you apply for a bank loan they will expect you to be aware of this.

So lastly I hope this has given you some food for thought and hope for the future. For me it has opened up new avenues. I have learned to love my job and enjoy life, to have a lifestyle that wasn’t possible before, to meet new people and gain a lot more confidence. Business is steady and I can live comfortably. I have a career that could take me into my seventies so a pension is a bonus but the thought of having a 9-5 job for a boss in an air conditioned office being told what to sell is a thought that fills me with dread, a life I could never go back to even if I were employable which I no longer am but it was a life that suited me at the time and was “the norm” at the time. I got the training I needed and a decent salary so I can’t complain.

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