Self-employment has boomed in recent years; it’s no easy option but deserves careful consideration to ensure it’s the right choice for you if you’re thinking you want to be your own boss. Self-employment offers a route to independence, enables you to take charge of your own destiny while you pursue a meaningful career path. Want to be your own boss? We outline key considerations as well as how to take the plunge.
Be your own boss: The basics
As of April 2022, there were around 4.21 million self-employed workers in the United Kingdom. The largest percentage of those are between 45 and 54 years of age, with the 35-44 age group representing the second largest group.
For some, it is a lifestyle choice achievable by:
- setting up a business, either on a full-time basis or alongside a part-time job;
- working as a freelancer or contractor;
- buying into a franchise.
There’s a high level of commitment involved in starting a business, so you need to take a careful and realistic look at yourself to see if you are ready for such a challenge. Auditing your skills and personality and building a support team of family, friends and advisers is as important as your idea and motivation.
Important things to consider before taking the plunge to be your own boss
In traditional employment it is usual to work on a predetermined range of tasks and projects. As an entrepreneur, all the work falls to you. Do you know what tasks you will need extra support with? Can you handle the finance, accounting, IT issues and all the related administration?
You will probably have to work long hours with limited financial rewards, at least at first. There may be times when you doubt yourself and the wisdom of embarking on this venture. A support system helps you through tough times and may be a big factor in your success.
You need to be someone who can meet and deal positively with challenges. With plenty of confidence in yourself, and the energy and mental toughness to get to cope with difficult times, which you will inevitably face.
Most people go out to work because they like meeting people; when you work for yourself, until you are successful enough to start taking on staff, you have to do the scut-work as well as the executive decision-making and all without the water-cooler moments. If you need regular feedback and validation, if you find it hard to motivate yourself, self-employment may not be your best option.
Be aware, it’s hard work when you end up doing the VAT at the weekend – it’s this sort of thing that can drive people back to traditional employment. It can take 18 months or more to establish yourself, and a large percentage of small businesses fail in those first months. All the decisions and responsibility will fall on you; you will have to sort out all the mistakes and problems.
The most cited drawbacks are social isolation and insecurity and those who give up self-employment so, by and large, for these reasons:
- Insecurity and unpredictability of income;
- Missing the sense of identity that a role in a corporation provides;
- Lack of the social camaraderie that an organisational role provides, this is very significant for many people.
Plan and prepare
If running your own business is a serious ambition, start planning as far ahead as you can. Work on developing skills which are relevant to self-employment and focus on building the skills, experience and contacts you will need. You will have to rely on your own entrepreneurial energy to win work and to establish new income streams, while building your value proposition.
If self-employment is a potential option then you should consider:
- personal and financial assets and liabilities;
- lifestyle aspirations;
- support systems and commitments.
Do a risk assessment, it takes commitment to succeed. People who are self-aware and know when they need to call on others for help, support and guidance are most likely to succeed as entrepreneurs.
Be your own boss: Taking the plunge!
Think of the many benefits of self-employment – as your own boss, you work when and where you want to work, and you work for those you want to work with control of your time, energy and life.
If you can identify your USP, are professional and resilient, and confident with the skills to build your client base, perhaps it’s time to think about registering with HMRC as self-employed. You’ll need a business bank account and insurance. You’ll have to decide on a company structure, acquire accounting software and design a marketing strategy.
Launching a business may be a good career move. It’s not without its challenges, but if you reflect on your needs and work preferences, research your options and assess the challenges and benefits of setting up your own venture, you’ll be well equipped to make an informed decision about being your own boss.
Liz Sebag-Montefiore is the Co-founder and Director of 10Eighty, helping individuals and organisations to maximise their potential. To excel your career., improve performance and give a sense of focus in terms of career direction why not get a coach? Find one here.