Saturday, 18 November 2017

When your passion becomes your job - coping with the negative aspects of self-employment

I know I am super lucky that blogging is my job. So many people aspire to be in this position - I can work from home around my kids doing something I love which is honestly THE DREAM. I've just passed two years of full-time self-employment and before this, I juggled working part-time with blogging for around 4 years.



Blogging is something that I am hugely passionate about - I think to be successful in small business you do need to have that passion as it is what drives you through the tough times and what will push you to hit deadlines, ensure you continue to learn and not allow you to rest on your laurels. I love, love, love blogging with all of my heart but there are some serious downsides to working for yourself and I think it's important to talk about those too so here we go.

1 - Financial Struggles

I was fairly sensible and before I left my employed job I made sure my blog income surpassed my employed income for 6 months straight. Not having a monthly wage is something that I don't think I'll ever get used to. Some people will pay on receipt of an invoice, others will pay within 30 days and quite often, payment for projects will take longer than 30 days and you'll find yourself having to chase payment. Over the summer I had 4k worth of invoices that were overdue and it wasn't pleasant. Trying to budget when you're self-employed is really tough but something you just need to try and get used to. It's super stressful when a bill needs to be paid, your bank balance is zero and you are owed money and something that will always be a worry for me.

2 - Parent guilt is still there

Before full-time self-employment I had a vision that I'd be able to visit every school assembly and open day, never miss a Christmas show and be able to look after my children if they're sent home from school ill. 99% of the time this is the case and I love that I can be there to take the kids to school ect...... However your business is what pays the bills and you will have deadlines that interfere with family time. I tend to catch up on emails from 4-5:30pm when the kids are home from school and 9/10 will feel guilty about this as I think I should be spending time with them. School holidays are also tough - I have no help with childcare so often the kids end up playing on their X Box for hours while I crack on. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of family time too but when you're self-employed I think it's a real struggle to achieve a proper work-life balance and it's something I do often feel guilty about.

3 - Stress is at an all-time high and you will feel overwhelmed and alone

My typical day is this - take the kids to school (a 45 minute round trip walking) and then work from home 9:15am - 2:45pm. 5.5 hours is not a lot of time in which to complete my work but I usually manage. 4-5:30pm is email catch up time and then I need to make a start on cooking, cleaning ect... I can be working on 15+ projects at once and it's really hard to achieve any sort of headspace.

When you're passionate about your job - you think about it 24/7 and it can be an obsession. Sleepless nights are the norm for many self-employed people and I've lost count of the number of times I've had to get out of bed at 2am and start working as I can't switch off.

Other well-meaning folks will often say, take an hour off and go for a walk but when you only have 5.5 child-free work hours in your day, this is easier said than done as you need to prioritise this time for work. When you have so many projects on the go, it's difficult to switch off anyway. I'd still end up thinking about my deadlines and what I should be doing if I'm sitting in a spa and if I'm busy, I'd just much rather be working.

Trying to juggle a heavy workload with looking after three children, taking them to and from school, various after-school clubs, taking care of household chores, dealing with ALL OF THE CRAP that comes with sending your kids to school - so many forms to complete, special days to remember, homework to complete, packed lunch boxes to make. Ah! At least once a month I do almost have a meltdown and feel like I can't cope. Steve is fab and helps where he can but he works long hours too and is often out of the house working so 9/10 it's down to me.

When you're self-employed you don't have anyone to share the workload with or a colleague you can ask for advice or help from - at the end of the day it's all down to you and you need to learn to cope with this, deal with the pressure and prioritise both your workload and your life.




How I cope with the negative aspects of self-employment 


I have a few mechanisms which have certainly helped to deal with the pressure that comes with self-employment.

1 - Take proper holidays


I didn't really take holidays from my blog when I was still working in an employed role as well but now that I'm self-employed full-time , I have realised that it is SO important to do this. Time out is much needed to get some headspace and I promise you'll come back refreshed and your work will be better for it. I recommend a couple of weekends a year with a Social Media ban too. We did this at Dundas Castle and Cuba earlier this year and will do the same for a few days over Christmas too.

2 - Reply to emails during office hours 

I used to reply to emails in the evenings and over weekends - there is the odd exception but now, I tend to leave them until the following morning and now only respond to emails between 9am-5:30pm Monday-Friday. The world is not going to end if you don't reply immediately and I think it's important to realise you are not at the beck and call of your clients and to set clear boundaries from the outset. Changing my mindset and not replying to emails straight away has really helped to relieve the pressure and I no longer feel like I'm constantly in work mode.

3 - Take time out where you can

Sometimes when you're feeling stressed and overwhelmed, taking time out is just not possible. Your deadline is not going to go away. But it is possible sometimes. If you spot a space in your diary where you can schedule some time off, do it. If you can free up time for lunch with friends in your diary, do it! Don't fall into the trap of thinking you have a quiet day and just spend your time faffing about on Social Media or just working on bits and bobs but not really being productive......make every second of your day count and if this means scheduling in downtime then so be it.

My top ways to spend some downtime are taking a lunch with family or friends, spending the afternoon in a pub with Steve, reading for an hour, taking a bath or turning off electronics and watching some trashy TV for 45 minutes with a coffee and no interruptions. You definitely can't afford to do this every day but on the days you can, just do it. You'll feel so much better for it I promise.

4 - Build a community

You don't have to go it alone. There are some fab online communities and networking opportunities for those who are self-employed. I've made so many friends this way. Whether it be through Northumberland Mumpreneurs, The Inspire Network or #DoDigital groups or other blogging groups such as North East Bloggers and PRs, I think it's really important to build a network of people around you who get what it means to be self-employed. These people are those you'll share knowledge and contacts with, will use as a sounding board and who will boost you up when you need it and share in your successes too. They'll understand you in a way that your family and friends won't and you need people like this in your life.

5 - Don't work with those who cause excess stress or are persistent late-payers 

Honestly, it's just not worth it. If you find a particular client difficult to work with, just move on. There are plenty more fish in the sea!

I share my day-to-day life on my Instagram stories - you can follow along hereI'd love to hear how you cope with the negative aspects of self-employment. Let me know in the comments. 


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3 comments

  1. My guilt is a vicious circle I can't sit down to work until the house is done and family taken care of because my earnings aren't the main household income but they never will be until I put the blog first?!!!!

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  2. Yeah i get a lot of where you're coming from here. Money is still probably my big worry, I had a similar situation to what you've described above where I had £4k of overdue invoices which then puts stress on my wife to take on overtime to cover until the invoices are paid. I'm nearly into my 4th year of self employment now, and I still have a few "so Sh*t" moments. I think I plan better now to overcome that, and know that it (more often than not) works out in the end.

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  3. Good advice. Only people in business understand some of the struggles that go with being an entrepreneur. But it's important to me to spend time with people who won't let me talk shop as well as those who I only talk shop with!

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