The Myths of Being Self-Employed


“Oh you work for yourself? That must be so great! I’d love to work for myself…”

You would, huh? And why is that? Love figuring out your own taxes? Like going entire days without human contact?

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my job, and I haven’t looked back once since graduating from law school and deciding to forego the solicitor route to become a filmmaker, but it absolutely is not what it’s made out to be. The following statements are all things that have actually been said to me by real people….

But you get to do whatever you want! Your hobby is your career!

Yes, okay. I’ll give you that one. I am very fortunate in being able to pay my rent by doing exactly what I used to do in my spare time. That being said, I don’t actually spend my days doing what I want. It’s less doing what I want, and more doing all the things that nobody else is doing for me. For example, not only do I shoot and edit, but I also do the marketing, the accounting, the web design, the sales. I have to meet people, email people, send contracts, send invoices, post to social media, write blog posts, keep educating myself and improving my craft, and only then do I get to sit down and edit. When I started this company, I imagined my day going something like this: I’d get up, edit all day, make people cry happy tears, sleep, and repeat! What I didn’t factor in was all the hours of admin that running a business requires, all the stuff that just gets in the way of doing the thing I love. So yes, I do do what I want to do, but I also have to do a heck of a lot of stuff that I don’t.

Top view of notebook, camera, glasses and coffee. Business still life on old wooden table

 

Okay, sure, but you’re at least doing it on your terms!

Touché. I can market when I want, I can do the accounting when I want, I can edit when I want. And in-between it all, I can go to a café, or I can go for a walk, and I have nobody to answer to. I am the master of my own schedule… to a certain extent. And that extent may be greater for people in certain professions, but in this line of work, I’m much more restricted in terms of my schedule. For example, I have to work most weekends, because that’s when the majority of people get married. Additionally, I like to meet with couples beforehand, and they usually work Monday-Friday so can only meet on weekends, meaning that I have to work on those weekends too (although I use the term ‘work’ loosely: sitting down for a coffee and hearing people’s proposal stories almost never feels like work). 

Moreover, everyone else in my life is on a Monday-Friday 9-5 schedule, so it makes sense for me to be, too. For example, I get up with my girlfriend to go to the gym at 6am, and I’m usually at my desk working (re: answering emails) by 9am. Then I’ll finish at around 6pm so that I can enjoy my evenings with everyone else who finishes around then. Why would I want to work outside of those hours when that’s the only time everyone else is available?

But still, they’re right – it is all up to me – nobody is holding a gun (or the threat of redundancy) to my head, and I absolutely do value that freedom. There’s nothing like being able to go and meet a friend for a coffee in the middle of the day on a whim, and knowing that you can make up that time whenever you want.

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Look at all that money you’re getting, instead of making rich people richer!

Sorry? Money? What’s that?

I joke, I joke. But honestly, there are a lot of costs I didn’t factor in with becoming self-employed. There’s liability insurance, indemnity insurance, there’s the taxes (oh, you would not believe the taxes…). There are equipment costs, equipment insurance costs, editing software costs, client management software costs, music licensing costs, PayPal fees, card fees, drone license fees.

If I’m ill, or get injured, I’m not making any money. I recently saw a Facebook post by a photographer who had broken her wrist, and was therefore unable to use a camera. She had to hire people to cover her weddings for the entirety of June and July – the two most important months for any wedding vendor!

All that being said, it is fantastic knowing that every penny I earn (minus taxes), is going to me, instead of to some fat cat in a suit. 

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Dress down day is every day!

My flatmate recently responded to my making fun of his clothes by saying ‘you don’t even wear trousers!’.

It’s true, I spend most of my time sat editing in tracksuit bottoms or shorts, making sure I’m as comfy as I can possibly be – and that’s definitely a massive perk of working from home. Nevertheless, working from home also means a very lonely life, sitting in front of a computer day in, day out, with very little contact with other people. It’s unsociable – there are no after-work drinks, no Christmas parties, no sweepstakes or fundraisers. It’s just me and my computer, occasionally asking Google Home how the weather’s looking (P.S. you should DEFINITELY get a Google Home – it will change your life). I’m fortunate enough to have a flatmate that also works from home a couple of days a week, which keeps things fun, and having friends that are also available during the day is great for those spontaneous coffee breaks and lunches out. But ultimately, it can be alienating to go solo and work for yourself.

So to wrap up, those are my thoughts on the myths of being self-employed. If you’re thinking of quitting your job and jumping head-first into the self-employed life, I would say absolutely do it. I love it, I really do. But don’t kid yourself into thinking that it won’t feel like work. Forcing yourself to do something, even something you love, will always feel like work at some stage. Add into the equation the fact that all the stuff that goes along with being self-employed is time-consuming and stressful from the get-go, and you end up with a combination of factors that you should definitely consider before making the jump!