Taking stock before setting out on the road ahead

I am heading to the milestone of five months being self-employed. It has been a huge learning experience on many levels. There is a lot that is written about what to do before you go freelance or self-employed and how best to prepare for the change. Unfortunately most are from the perspective that things are perfect and there is definitely not a pandemic sweeping the world.

The reality is whenever you set up your business or go it alone will be a difficult time. So I wanted to share some of the reality and learning points I have had after a tough five months. This has been a rollercoaster so strap in.

First you need to have a good accountant who can talk you through the details, explain what you need to do and look out for your best interests. It is an additional cost at a time when you will be trying to reduce expenses but it is well worth it. A good accountant can reduce your stress levels.

Recognise what you are worth and charge accordingly. That is something that is easy to say but much harder to do. Coming from more than 20 years working in-house it is easy to overlook the skills and experience you have. It is also a different mindset to charge for that knowledge and experience. Find a way to handle this issue and ask others to help you when setting your hourly and daily rates.

Work out what money you need to pay the bills and survive and keep that as a target. Don’t expect to become a millionaire overnight. This is about a lifestyle and the freedom to develop in your own way, taking up new opportunities and doing different things. You need to pay the bills, but there are lots of things that you don’t need. I realised how much money I used to spend on buying things to cheer me up because of work pressures. It is helpful to go into this with a healthy bank balance, but really if you don’t you will find a way to survive.

Be clear what motivates you. Working for yourself is a real challenge so you need to be sure that it is what you want. A lot of soul searching is needed before you take the leap and there is no shame if you decide that it is not for you. But if you think it is then make sure you are doing what makes you happy, as it will mean you are doing your best work.

What really matters is that you have networks. These may be networks to help you develop the business, or support networks to keep you going when times get hard. Either way when you are working for yourself it can be a lonely place so you need to have people you can call upon. I have been incredibly grateful to those who have been part of my networks since I started this interesting journey five months ago. I have not yet reached my destination but am looking forward to the road ahead.

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