Being self-employed can be a thrilling, yet daunting prospect. The idea of going it alone – of completely shedding the traditional employer-employee structure and starting to make your own way – is both liberating and intimidating. There’ll be a whole lot more responsibility on your shoulders; you’ll have to deal with business structure and bringing in work yourself, not to mention not being able to hand off difficult clients to colleagues or other staff members.
There are so many challenges for self-employed people that it can be hard to know how to survive on a day-to-day basis, but we’re here to help. Here are 10 survival tips for self-employed people.
1. Consider all financial sources
If you find yourself in short-term financial trouble, you should consider all avenues available to you for helping yourself out of it. If you’re lucky enough to own your own home, for example, you could look to a second mortgage loan to give you the quick cash injection needed to get through a rough patch. Alternatively, you could lean on family and friends, or sell clutter that’s building up in your home. As a self-employed person, you need to be clever about how you make your money.
2. Establish networks
When work dries up, it helps to have a reliable network of people you can turn to. Try to maintain contacts as you work and keep people’s details on file, because you never know when past clients or co-workers could be helpful. Even if they don’t have work for you at the moment, just keeping up the rapport means they’re more likely to consider you in future if work does come in. Don’t underestimate the importance of maintaining professional relationships when you’re self-employed.
3. Make sure you get paid
As an employee, it’s not usually your responsibility to ensure that you are personally paid for the work you undertake. However, when you’re self-employed, that responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders. It’s up to you to submit invoices to clients, chase them up to make sure they haven’t been forgotten about, and handle the money when it does eventually come to you. It might take some time, but you need to assert yourself when it comes to getting paid.
4. Don’t turn your nose up at work
Unless work is morally questionable or doesn’t gel with your core values, you should consider taking it on. While the client may not be the type of person or organisation you’d normally work with, money is money, and you never know when work can be beneficial for building your portfolio and attracting other customers. You should, of course, have standards and hold yourself to them, but it’s also important not to dismiss opportunities out of hand.
5. Say no sometimes
Even though you should consider all offers of work, it pays to occasionally be unavailable or to reject offers. The more undesirable offers you accept, the more will come your way, and before you know it, your brand is irreparably damaged. In addition, it can look good to prospective employers or clients if you’re too busy to take on work right now; it makes you look like you’re in demand, and therefore like your work is worth waiting for.
6. Be proud of your brand
It’s important to project an air of confidence when it comes to your brand as a self-employed person. This will cause others to feel like their trust in you is well-placed, and that will improve your chances of getting work in the future. This does also mean constantly working on your brand to make sure that it’s something you can be proud of, but you should be doing that anyway in due course, so it’s no extra hassle for you. Pride is important when designing a brand for your business – make sure you love what you do!
7. Stay in contact with friends and family
The life of a self-employed person – especially if you’re a freelancer – can be incredibly lonely at times. Without colleagues to surround you and provide constant background noise and a source of conversation, your working life can feel isolated. That’s why it’s crucial to keep in touch with friends and family. Why not strike up a conversation with a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while? Reach out to a family member and see if they want to meet up soon. These connections can be life-savers.
8. Don’t overwork yourself
Sometimes, if you don’t have passion for a job, you can reach a state where you’re just clocking in, doing the minimum amount of work possible, then clocking out. Self-employment can sometimes result in the opposite, where you’re taking on way too much work and burning yourself out. It’s important to recognise the telltale signs of overwork – stress, tiredness, headaches, et cetera – and act quickly before your workload threatens to overwhelm you.
9. Build a business plan
One of the most important things to have in the world of self-employment is a concrete business strategy. You should know who your demographic is, how you’re marketing to them, and what your end goal should be. When things start to flag, refer to that business plan and see if there’s somewhere you went wrong. What could you be doing differently? Does the plan need to be altered? The document isn’t set in stone, after all, and it could be your business plan that’s steering you wrong.
10. Be ready to walk away
Everyone has that twenty-four-karat idea for a business, but sometimes, reality gets in the way. It’s not always someone’s fault when a business fails; perhaps the market just isn’t in the right position, or maybe a run of bad luck left you with less profit than you thought you would have, and you couldn’t weather the storm.
Unfortunately, that can sometimes happen, and it’s best to be ready to walk away so that you don’t feel too devastated if your self-employed adventure just doesn’t pan out.