Is being a self-employed with young children as flexible as it says on the tin?
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Is being a self-employed with young children as flexible as it says on the tin?

by
Suzanne Murdock

As the founder of The Hub Newry, a coworking-space in Newry, N. Ireland I’m lucky to get to peek into the lives of other entrepreneurs, freelancers and owners of micro businesses and see how self-employment actually pans out in real life scenarios not just in their pipe-dreams! It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted! 

I see a lot of people come into our coworking-space who have previously been employed and just started up their own business as well as those who are currently employed and thinking about taking the leap out into the big wide world on their own. Being the master of your own destiny is a gamble that may or may not pay off in a variety of ways. Let’s just define – what is self employment v employment? 

“Self–employment is earning a living through doing something by yourself. … Self–employed people generally find their own work rather than being provided with work by an employer, earning income from a trade or business that they operate.” Wikipedia. As a result of this there’s also the big question of job security, having to win your own work as well as doing the work and running the business operations, having said that, does being employed these days give you anymore job certainty? 

As a parent or a carer, this is no joking matter! With BREXIT looming and so many unknowns it poses even more questions about job security and indeed, any form of continuity for self employed families! 

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons for individuals and families in self-employment and by the way, I’ve either lived through or am constantly managing every one of these factors and so do most people I’ve spoken to about going out on their own: 

Pros: 

-Set your own schedule 

-Work life balance (debatable) 

-Taking holiday when you need 

-Children off school sick, just take a day off 

-Flexible working base, work from home when you need to, cowork when you want structure and community 

-Claim business expenses 

-Get to pick who you work with & your clients 

-Adapt your abilities to your skills sets and develop your business accordingly 

-Get to set your own goals and targets (be-it income / productivity or happiness led) 

-Build your brand into something long term and leave a family legacy 

-Delegate or subcontract out things you’re not so strong at to other experts and concentrate on what you love doing 

-Take the kids to work in the holidays 

-Manage your tasks depending on what your frame of mind is that day 

-You get thanks for the work you do! 

-Wear what you want when you want 

 

Cons: 

-Having to be everything to everyone: marketing, sales, financial expert, operations front runner, delivery of actual work, Office Manager, HR Manager 

-You have to supply your own equipment, software, desk, car etc – 

-Working 24/7, long hours, irregular pay, if your sick you can’t just take time off if your mid project 

-Losing the division between work & home-life (walking out the door at 5pm doesn’t mean you just switch off) 

-Often lack of business support and start-up policies around the sector of work due to the niche nature

-Often a family businesses so reliance of only one income 

-Taking time off for unexpected events isn’t always realistic (with client deadlines and meetings and no-one else to cover for you). Similarly, it’s very common to take calls and answer emails whilst on holiday. 

-Losing the division between work and home time – home working can also mean your home becomes an office 

-If you work alone, you can become isolated and jaded 

-Cashflow is what it is, if there’s no money in the bank then unless you have a magic money tree suppliers won’t get paid and there isn’t usually a finance department to help bail you out 

-Without at least 3 years accounting records and a solid track records of sales and success it’s not as easy to secure funding and credit with suppliers 

-No pension benefits/medical unless you organise one yourself 

-Get to have the delightful job of doing your own tax returns and assessments 

-The need to take constructive criticism and make sure your business constantly evolves and adapts. 

 

So is it for everyone? Well only you can decide that…..and by the way, it’s just like starting a family, there’s no manual that comes with it and educates you about everything from both sides of the story. A great piece of advice was given to one of our coworking members by a businessman he really respected: “Buy a yearly planner poster, stick it on the wall and stroke out 28 days at the start of the year that you want to break off from it all” “It’s hard to take time off when self employed, it can seem like wasting time but it is essential to rebuild and give your head space to figure out things in the back of your mind.” 

The question is how to balance the pros and cons?

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