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Should I work for myself? Really…?

Three years into running my own business I’m reflecting on the journey to try and share my learnings. When I told friends I was setting up, their immediate response was ‘follow your heart and do it!’. But, when I expanded that I’d been offered a serious promotion in the US too this advice wavered and many said I should take that ‘security’. I can only assume many of them believed that doing your own thing is only really an end of the road kind of option.

So, which is best, in-house or working for yourself? Do I regret turning down the big job and instead battling to create and grow a new business? Below is the advice I wish I could have read.

Stuff I could have done without

  1. Is it form K18a or K19b? Year one admin is tough! The sheer complexity of tax, invoicing, setting up and learning to love (and refine) business development is exhausting! Lean on your accountant and especially any knowledgeable friends!

  2. Hello! Is it me you’re looking for? Unless you’re opening the door to a large concern, chances are that you’ll spend time alone, a lot of time alone. Whilst this is amazing for productivity, it can also be lonely. Maybe consider working out of a shared learning space or build in off-site work?

  3. Is that the Accounts Team? My biggest bug-bear is how long consultants often wait to get paid. Even if you’ve agreed one month terms, it seems to take twice as long to get the cash. Securing purchase orders and initial paperwork can drive you crazy. Remain professional and friendly but a bill due is a bill due and you have to chase!

  4. No honestly, I do think it’s the right step! For the first 6 months, I worried that I wasn’t a ‘real’ consultant as I couldn’t convert every great idea into a paying project. Eventually, I decided to be the consultant I’d want to hire back in the day and client satisfaction soared. Believe in yourself and maybe even ‘fake it till you make it’ a little!

Wonderful things that changed my world

  1. Sure I can make coffee on Tuesday! Being your own boss is amazing and the flexibility is truly liberating. This can change you as a person for the better so long as you remember to be ruthless with yourself and deadlines, create an effective office space and stay motivated.

  2. Does it come in space grey…? After nearly 20 years in major corporates I could finally choose the tech that supports my ways of working. I’ve come to love Apple, Voipfone and FreeAgent.

  3. Personally making a difference I reckon my rates are competitive but clients are still spending proper money when they use my services. This means they value my output more than in-house work (!) and so I’ve been able to make a difference, truly massive change, across many companies.

  4. Collaboration Even working in large companies still means that inevitably you see the same faces. Running your own business means you can break out of sectors and work in new, exciting, areas. Retail is still important to me but I earn far more now from other sectors and my knowledge and network has soared. I embrace this.

  5. Leave a message after the tone! I couldn’t believe how efficient I became overnight with a quieter office, no need to be the last to leave nor to have meetings about meetings. This time can be used to invest in work or to have a personal life and follow your dreams.

Would I do it all again?

It has worked for me so far. There have been some big challenges along the way, although from the outside this might not be apparent. I’ve learnt to re-value my time and especially that it is OK to not be working and instead have a meal with the family or go down the park (NB daytime TV is NEVER ok!). But, I loved working in-house too so if I ever decide to go back, I’ll be bringing these learnings with me! Watch out…!

If I could rewind time, I’d make the same decisions today.

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