Is being a self-employed with young children as flexible as it sounds?

by suzanne

Working for yourself isn’t just another job it’s a way of life, chances are you’ll be doing the work that you love!

The flexibility of self employment clearly depends on your profession, your situation (where you’re based relative to home, family, friends support network, ages of children, are you juggling childcare in the school holidays), in fact there’s a whole host of things it can depend on!

I’m self employed as Founder of The Hub Newry, a coworkingspace in Newry, N. Ireland so am lucky to get to see how other freelancers & self employed members have developed and how self-employment works for them and their families. It’s definitely not for everyone! I see a lot of people come into our coworkingspace who previously been employed and just started up their own business and being the master of your own destiny is a gamble that can pay off in a variety of ways.

Let’s just define – what is self employment v employment?

Selfemployment is earning a living through doing something by yourself. … Selfemployed 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.

Let’s take a critical look at the costs and benefits for individuals and families of turning to self-employment

Pros:
Set your own schedule
Work Life Balance (debatable)
Taking holiday when you need
Children off school sick
Flexible working base, work from home when you need to
Claim business expenses
Get to pick who you work with & your clients

Cons:
Can have a negative impact on homelife
business support and start-up policies
Long hours, irregular pay,
often family businesses so reliance of one income

  • 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
Pros;
1. You can be at pivotal events in your child’s life without the need to ask for time off work. Which you probably wouldn’t get in 90% of jobs.
2. You can be happier doing a variety of jobs when working for yourself, mixing it up during the week. Organising all your face to face meeting one after the other the same week.
2a. You can wear what you want, after wearing shirts ties and blazers for 14 years in school and during industrial placement it’s nice to rock up to work in your jeans trainers and T-shirt.
3. You can sub contract jobs when busier or jobs you don’t like.
4. You can build your name/brand and Cømpany long term, knowing that your efforts will be compounded into something greater at some stage.
5. You get the thanks for the work you do. Unless your a subcontractor.
Cons
1. You have to supply your own equipment and software desk car etc – if your sick you can’t take time off if your mid project.
2. It’s difficult to get a mortgage and other financial products.
3. You have no pension benefits/medical unless you organise one yourself.
4. Self assessment tax returns are a nightmare.
5. When you walk out to door at 5pm you don’t actually stop working. Any moment of any day you can be called upon for work. I once got emailed about a website issue on Christmas Day and had to deal with it.
I must add that at 22, I became self employed by accident.
I got what I thought was a job but the shrewd employer basically coached me into becoming self employed so he wasn’t responsible for PAYE OR pensions, holidays etc.
After the main contractors contract expired. I tendered for the new replacement contract myself and won it, but the public sector always kept me on a rolling 52 week contract, dangling the chance for a permanent position over me like a carrot for 3 years. But other things came along, I did websites in the evenings while working in the public sector during the day. The difference between the public and private sector is huge but I learned skills in both areas.
So at about year 7 or 8 into self employment –  I said to myself you can’t give up now.
The best advice I got, was from a business man I 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 SE, 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.

Conclusion:
Becoming self-employed is a lot to take on, but by taking things step-by-step and getting advice and support when you need it, you can make your new business work for your family.