From employment to self-employment

A guest post from Becky Demmen. This was first published on Advocate & Create, and is reproduced with Becky’s permission.

After I finished my internship I struggled to find that next step job that I wanted. I come from a background where a lot of my family were self employed. Seeing this as I grew up instilled a want to be self employed too. There is something about being in charge of yourself that really appealed to me. So, as my struggle to find my next job continued I thought I would try it out.

In this post I will be exploring the process that I took to move to self-employment. This is by no means a guide - it's just my experience and the things I considered on the way. Keep an eye open as I plan to highlight a lot of different jobs and opportunities in the creative sector on this site in the future.

Who you know.

I started by writing a list of all of the contacts I had built up over time. Years of volunteering and meeting people. It became clear that I had built up a list of really useful people. Include everyone. Even if they aren't within your field you never know who you may need. Being self employed or freelance isn't just about working in your field. You never know if one day you'll need website advice, tax advice, social media advice, a cleaner etc. The list goes on. You will be in charge of everything and may come against something completely unrelated to your field that you need to outsource. 

What you know.

You probably have an idea of what kind of service/business you want as a freelancer. I knew I wanted to continue my creative work. 

Look at your CV. Look at every job you have had (both in your field and not) write down everything you did there. For every job, from a shop job you did for three months to your first job in your field. - what were your responsibilities? What did you do? What did you achieve? - Once you have this list use it to work out what skills you have gained through your work life. What skills are transferable to what you want to do now?  

An example: I had a temp job in a shop. During that time I had a front line customer facing role. Transferable skills? Absolutely. In this one temp job I gained skills in selling, relating to customers and I also arranged the shop window displays. 

Whilst these things are not exactly what I want to do in my business they are very important. Part of my work is Arts Administration - I have to be able to talk to people, relate to them and, although I may not be selling as such, I am often  convincing people of the value of artistic work and advocating. So even a job "unrelated" to my core field can be relevant.

All of this work will be useful when you come to create your website. Speaking about things you have already done is  great way of letting people know you can handle work. It also helps with your confidence. Even if you haven't had a job in your field before there are plenty of things you have done.

How?

I started to reach out to companies and people I already knew. People I had volunteered for and people I had worked for. Just a courtesy email letting them know what I am up to now. 

I also set out one day a week that could be used for further volunteering. That was really useful for me and has helped me meet new people and build contacts. It has also helped me to diversify my skill set. 

Once you start to meet people and show them examples of your work it's amazing how that can turn into contracts.

Will this work for me? 

This is something I thought about a lot. I had just completed an internship which I really enjoyed. I enjoyed working in an office with other people. It's no secret that working for yourself can become a little lonely. I get to meet a lot of people through my freelance work but at the end of it all I still spend days at home where I don't interact with anyone. 

Organisation is a big part of freelance. Scheduling everything in my diary can be a lengthy process. Keeping track of paper work and banking can take up time too. 

Work/life balance - I find it very difficult to keep a work/life balance. There is ALWAYS something else you could be doing. It's taken time but I have just started putting in organisational structures to ensure that I take more time for myself. I have found that pushing myself to do a 16 hour day doesn't actually get much more done than a well structured 9 hour day. 

These are all things to consider when thinking about if self employment will work for you. (There will be future posts of time management) 

Part time.

I now combine my freelance work with part time work. I really enjoy this balance and my part time employers are able to be flexible enough that I haven't had to turn down any freelance work. It provides a safety net financially and also helps with my morale. I am not working on my own everyday. I am building my experience and getting opportunities it may take years to get through self employment. My current part time job is connected to my freelance work in every way and really supports my work and keeps me inspired. The amount of times I have been at work and finally figured out the solution to a freelance problem is wonderful. It gives you space away from your freelance work for your brain to get a reset, solve problems and become reconnected to what you want. This has also given me time to look into the personal projects I'd like to do. So this is also worth considering. 

As I said at the beginning this is not a guide this is just a few things that i considered and the process  I took to become self employed. If you want a guide of the nitty gritty of becoming self employed then get googling or consider getting in contact with the Princes Trust https://www.princes-trust.org.uk - I did their entry course and it was extremely useful for understanding the other parts of business I knew nothing about. 

There are so many things to consider and it is about working out what is best for you. There may be a lot of trial and a lot of error but if it's what you really want then, trust me, it's worth it.

Audio Version of this post here.

Blog written by Becky Demmen, first published on Advocate & Create.