Written by: Joanna Stokes, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
In October 2019 I quit my permanent full-time job in Further Education and became self-employed. It was the best decision I have ever made. This article is for you if you want to change your career and are wondering what it’s like to be self-employed. It links to my previous article self-employed.
According to ONS data, there are 4.2 million people self-employed in the UK in 2022. That’s a lot of people! I don’t know how they all feel about working for themselves but read on to find out why I love it.
Since leaving my permanent job, I have qualified as a professional coach with Diplomas in Personal & Corporate Coaching under my belt. I have learned how to have an online presence and not to worry about it, I have become a Firework licensed career coach and I have started my own business in the middle of a pandemic and have never been short of work since colleges re-opened in October 2020.
People often ask me if I would ever go back to working for someone else – my answer is always the same – NEVER!
Why is that I hear you ask? Well let me tell you about what I love about being self-employed and you can read for yourself.
What I relish about working for myself:
I choose who I work with. In the early days, I said yes to everything, which allowed me to decide the type of work I enjoy doing. I decided that I wanted to focus on the FE sector providing coaching to individuals and training people to be coaches. This is now the bulk of what I do and I love it.
I choose when I work. This has taken me 3 years, but I now only work 3-4 days a week and never on Fridays. I have at least 6 weeks off over the summer (who wants to work when it’s sunny??) and I always take 2 weeks of complete downtime at Christmas.
Flexibility of working hours. I never start before 8.30 am and I usually finish around 3.30 pm. Although I have the flexibility to work until I want to finish. Being able to be flexible on your working day is one of the best things about working for yourself.
I do as much self-development as I want (as long as I have the money to pay for it).
I don’t have to ask anyone if I can do anything
I control my diary
I can diversify my business if I choose to
I can work from home as much as I want. This is a big plus for me and has given me more freedom.
I enjoy going out to work when I get the opportunity. It’s such a novelty going into an organisation and putting work clothes on.
I take breaks during the day when I want to.
I make all the decisions about purchasing and have control of my budget!
What I miss about being employed
When I came to write this article I thought I would have a small list of negatives about working for myself but when I thought about it I couldn’t think of any. Some people ask if I miss the regular salary each month. My answer is no because I do have a regular salary each month. It may differ slightly in the amount each month, but I always budget to have sufficient money to cover months when I am off over the summer and I have a contingency fund if I hit a lean period.
My top tips for you to consider when becoming self-employed (these are all things I didn’t know when I started but have discovered over the past 3 years)
Make sure you keep sufficient money in your account to give yourself a salary even in lean periods. This removes the worry about regular income.
If you are a sole trader rather than an LTD company then you don’t need to pay an accountant, sign up for accountancy software. I use Quickbooks self-employed and it’s so easy to do your self-assessment return using this. It takes very little admin and is easy to use.
Take time to work ON your business as well as IN your business. Don’t forget you are the marketing department, finance officer, and CEO. You need to allocate time each week/month to work on how you run your business, plan your business, and make sure it’s generating business.
Give yourself permission to take time off. One of the big perks of working for yourself is you can have as many holidays as you like, why restrict yourself to 4 weeks a year? If you don’t want to work on a Monday or a Friday then put your out of the office for those days so nothing gets booked in.
Join a membership or community. It can be lonely working for yourself and I do miss working alongside others and being able to bounce ideas around or have a chat about my work. I am a member of a paid membership group called The School of Facilitation whose members are all coaches, trainers, or facilitators. We meet up online and face to face and have a social media channel.
“If you do a job you love you will never do a days work”
I am 52 years old and there is more and more talk amongst my friends about retirement. So many of them can’t wait to retire and are counting down the days. I don’t think about retirement, it’s not in my vocabulary. I am doing a job that I love and I work on my terms – it doesn’t feel like work. I will continue to coach people until I can no longer do so or no longer want to.
I can honestly say I have never looked back. It may be a bit scary at times working for yourself, but all the positives outweigh any negatives. I hope this has inspired you to take the leap into self-employment. If you need help making the career change then contact me and we can have a chat
Joanna Stokes, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Joanna Stokes is transformational leadership and career coach and a trainer and mentor to further education leaders. She has 18 years of experience in Further Education, and the last 8 years as a senior leader in a variety of organizations including the CEO of an adult education charity. She was an Ofsted Inspector for five years. After experiencing the powerful impact coaching had on her career, her mission is to spread the power of coaching across the sector. She coaches education professionals and trains workplace coaches and mentors. She qualified as a personal performance coach in 2020 and is now on a mission to help education professionals create the freedom to live the life they want.