Working for yourself and running your own business can be hard. It can be stressful and overwhelming and incredibly lonely at times.
The cons of entrepreneurship such as not getting sick pay or paid holidays are well documented and often cited as good reasons why a steady and safe 9-5 job is the best option.
I am not saying any of these things aren’t true.
I have been working for myself for just over a year now and there have been times I have wondered if I should just go and get a job.
Those thoughts usually lasted about a millisecond. The reason being that even though working for yourself can be tough, the upsides for me far outweigh the downsides.
By about a million per cent.
One of the biggest benefits, in my book, is freedom.
If you have a job that allows you to do what you want, when you want, I suggest you do everything in your power to keep hold of it, because – to me at least – that kind of freedom is fundamental to a happy and balanced life.
Of course, there are times when I am tied to my desk, battering away at the keyboard, working hard to finish a project for my clients to a tight deadline.
But most of the time, I am FREE to organise my days how I see fit. As long as the work gets done, my clients generally don’t care (or even know) whether I’m doing it at 9am with my make-up and hair perfectly done or at 9pm in my pyjamas and slippers.
As a result, I can sometimes be found at my desk at 10pm or at the weekend, but you can bet your bottom dollar that’s because I have taken some time during “work hours” to do something not work related.
Here are some of the things I take time out of my working day to do which make life so much easier and more balanced.
1. Walk the dog.
Particularly as the evenings get darker, it is so much better for me to take an hour away from my desk at lunchtime to take Carter for a walk. It not only benefits him, but I get some exercise and fresh air and the time away from my desk helps clear my head and I often come up with new ideas or solutions to problems while I’m walking.
2. Meet friends.
Evenings and weekends for me often revolve around the kids, so finding time to grab a coffee or lunch with friends can be tricky. The freedom of my working day means I can meet someone for breakfast, lunch or a mid-morning or mid-afternoon coffee and take as long as I want. Not many jobs allow you to do that.
3. Go for a run.
Like taking Carter out, going for a run is harder when it gets dark by 5pm, particularly if the girls are at home and there’s tea to cook, homework to do and baths to run. It is much nicer to go out for an hour and get 5K under my belt during daylight hours.
4. Go to the gym.
As above. Being able to go during the day often means the gym is less busy and I get my exercise session in while the kids are at school.
I have discovered that an important part of growing my business has been growing myself. I now set aside a day a month to set my goals and look at my own mindset and things that are standing in my way. It’s also an opportunity to fill in any gaps in my knowledge and skills by doing some training. I am also part of two mastermind groups where I get together with other business owners to help each other with issues we are facing. Not many jobs include that kind of “me time”.
I guess this could be classed as “work” but despite being something I used to dislike intensely when I was employed, it’s now more of a social occasion and an important way to overcome the loneliness and aloneness of working for yourself. As well as making useful contacts and people who have helped me in my business, some of the people I have met have become good friends, so it is great to have the freedom and flexibility to attend any or all of the networking events I choose.
I don’t mean GP or dentist appointments as most employers will allow you to attend those during working hours. Many, however, might not be so impressed if your hairdresser rocked up at your desk and started cutting and colouring away, or if you swanned off for a couple of hours to get your nails done. My hairdresser is mobile, so I usually put work on hold for a couple of hours while my office becomes a makeshift salon, and every three weeks I set aside a couple of hours to go into town to get my nails done. As I see it, these things help me feel good about how I look so I have the confidence to be the face of my business. Not that I need to justify it to anyone!
8. School events.
Again, employer attitudes can vary wildly when it comes to allowing you time off to attend all the school plays, parent afternoons and sports days. I have two girls and it was bad enough when they are both in the same school and I only needed to get time off for one sports day or Harvest Festival, but my girls are now at different schools so there’s double the number of times I need a few hours off to be there cheering them on or applauding their efforts. When they were younger I missed way too many of the “little” things because of work and working late on busy deadline days. Now work doesn’t stand in the way and I can be there for all of them.
9. Be kind to myself.
You know those days when you are not poorly, poorly but you just don’t feel right. You have to make the tough choice of throwing a sickie or going in to work and battling through even though you really, really want to just go back to bed or cuddle up on the sofa with a book and your duvet. Working for yourself can mean exactly that – doing what is best for you! You can listen to what your own body or mind is telling you and be kind to yourself. Maybe a couple of hours curled up on the sofa is all it takes and you can get back to work firing on all cylinders, but in my experience not many bosses are down with that. Even though they are just as susceptible to the need for a duvet day as anyone else.
10. The other stuff.
One of life’s great truths is that shit happens! Last week I hit a pothole and damaged the wheel of my car and had to spend the best part of the day sorting it out and getting it fixed. Last month, one of the girls was poorly and needed to be picked up from school. Minor inconveniences for me but a bigger deal if you need to ask permission from your boss to sort them out during “work time”.
THE BOTTOM LINE…
Working for myself allows me to be a responsible grown-up who balances my work with living my life.
I get my work done, I hit deadlines, I go above and beyond for my clients whenever I can, but I also treat myself right. I treat myself like the responsible grown-up that I am!
I didn’t just become responsible or a grown-up, or get a life or a career I care about a year ago when I started working for myself.
I’ve always been and had those things, but “employed” life often doesn’t really recognise them.
Isn’t it about time that more workplaces started recognising that treating their employees like responsible grown-ups with lives outside the office will result in happier, more rounded, more loyal and hard-working and healthy staff?
I know that is what I have become. I work hard, perhaps harder than ever – but I am happy and I balance my work with my life, which makes me more rounded and healthy, physically and mentally. Because of those things I am totally focused on making my business a success – not least because its allows me to live the life I have always dreamed of for myself.