My Experience At Being Self-Employed

In the past, when I thought of being self-employed as a career, I had something different in my head to the reality. Not for the purpose of naivety. I just didn’t have an idea, just like every child has a different idea. But it wasn’t something tangible – I didn’t have a set idea of what being self-employed is like; it was more of a feeling.

When I look back at these assumptions, I realise just how different what I had in my head actually was. It’s a mimicry of what we imagine any situation to be; perhaps, it is even a mimicry of that idolisation of adulthood that children seem to be portrayed having.

Image result for childhood imagination meme

When I left my last job, fully with the intention that I would be having a summer holiday of about 4 weeks, I eased myself into working. Firstly, I had two weeks to craft and finalise my Asylum Steampunk outfits. I made my list from convenient Village Hotels (not a sponsor 😉 ) to-do lists I’d been given from work. I knew I already had a selection of personal daily options, such as an hour walk a day to keep my fitness level up, but I added to it an hour of writing/editing, a chapter of reading of one of the various novels in my Kindle app, and using the rest of my time to work on my outfits.


Thank youu, time off. 

Success achieved? There I think so. And I did manage to get some writing done in those twoish weeks.

When I returned, somewhat bleary eyes, as convivials and events do rather take it out of me (so, thank goodness Lincoln is only once a year!), I set in full motion my plans to move from that one hour on the checklist to doing a full chapter of editing a day. If I could. And it was a big if, having not been editing for a while.

There’s a reason being self-employed has to be a job, a copy (or so I thought) of working a full-time job like those who go to offices et cetera: emotionally, it takes up the same space in one’s brain. Ergo, my brain had been so filled with travelling to and from work and then the time in between when I was physically working, that when I returned home, I had cooking and cleaning and prep for the following days – not to mention any fitness or clubs I was doing in the evening – and my ‘leisure’ time became hardly that.

Self-employment? Seems like a breeze, eh, when compared with not having the burden of travelling to and from work on my shoulders?

Not quite.

Yes, checklists are something I can do—and love to do, but they are not the end-all of self-employed working.

Because my month break work from work turned into two months (the week and a half, respectively, of time off I would’ve taken anyway notwithstanding). As September – and the fact I didn’t have a starting date at work – loomed, I turned to solutions for productivity, to make my editing worthwhile every day.

I got the best of working on a somewhat 9-to-5 pattern, shifted rotas not counted, so it made sense to me that getting up at 7 or 7.30am, having my breakfast and morning entertainment and looking after my fur-daughters, would lead to my having time from 9am until 5pm to work on my novel/s and social media presence and anything else I fancied. My work time—time for me to do what I hadn’t been for so long.

Nope. I would sometimes stare at the screen, my mind blank, for a couple of hours before the words stuttered onto the page. Despite my previous thoughts, I couldn’t work 9-to-5 when self-employed.

And that was the most terrifying thing I’d experience since being told that I no longer had a job.


Something did help, though.

It’s one of those cataclysmically simple things that one never thinks of until it’s standing, taunting one right in the face. I’d been caught up in trying to do 9-to-5 hours that only when the job centre has ordered 35 hours per week of job searching (which falls into the equivalent of being a full time job) did I realise that I could use the same mantra for writing work. 35 hours per week, split for me across 7 days, seems more than reasonable. After all, that’s 5 hours a day, which is more than doable for editing.

Of course it’s tough. I would be a liar to say it was the best job in the world. I would be a liar to say that it’s not worrying to be back in the unemployment trenches when I thought I had a job lined up. To do what I love, but at a cost. Is there a balance? I’m not sure.

But it’s good practise for if I ever do decide to start my own business. What I am most afraid of about not having a 9-to-5 work job is that I will fail to achieve what I set out to do, even if I feel like I’m working hard.

Heh, maybe self-employment is convincing yourself that you are achieving things even when the statistics might be jolly dire.

Many writers may achieve more than what I have set out above, and I do admire them greatly for that. But I am not the writer who sits next to me. Just like with any career, we all have different goals and different trials. One employee/writer may be happy to miss family gatherings and their weekends/dinnertimes or not need to travel to see the people they love (as opposed to those they merely tolerate); another may be happy to do as much overtime at the office as possible, to push themselves hard to beat their targets.

With my physical and mental health in the balance, though, that’s not something I can do. I can’t afford to make myself ill.

I’m still learning. Every day I’m developing what I know self-employment and personal working style to be. Even the idea of working from home, whether for myself or for a company, has its pros and cons. It’s truth: we cannot, after all, be perfect at everything, as long as we are true to ourselves. I can only try; and that is something new I have come to understand about self-employment.


One thought on “My Experience At Being Self-Employed

  1. Abandoning the idea that a job is 9-to-5 can make self-employment much easier. For example, I find it much more pleasant and efficient to go shopping at a time other people aren’t, so 9:00 am is the ideal time because it’s after the last people rushing to grab something before work but before most people who aren’t on any particular schedule; initially, it felt wrong, but as soon as I embraced the idea I could set my schedule to start work at 10 am rather than 9 am and work through until 6 pm instead of 5 pm, I felt like I was not only working but working efficiently (and, as a pleasing symptom, because I didn’t have a commute, stopping at 6 pm was around the time I’d previously been getting home from work anyway, so I didn’t actually give up a noticeable amount of free time).

    Another useful mental trick is accepting that the tasks are all that matter: while there is no one to hand out tasks and make sure they are done, there is also no one monitoring whether one appears to be working for the entire day, so the absence of “busy work” and reporting requirements means that one can sometimes work fewer than 7 hours on a weekday and still achieve equal progress to an employed position.

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