Juggling self-employment with family – the pros and cons

by suzanne

Self-employment isn’t so much a job as a way of life, chances are you’ll be doing the work that you love but is it all a bed of roses and does it really bring continuity to family life?

Working for yourself 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), there’s a whole host of things that it can depend on!

As the founder of The Hub Newry, a network of flex spaces (coworking), I’m lucky to get to peek into the lives of other entrepreneurs, freelancers and owners of micro businesses to see just how self-employment actually pans out in real life scenarios!

Self-employment is definitely not for the faint-hearted! I see a lot of people come into our coworking-space who have previously been employed and have just started up their own business. I also see those who are currently employed and thinking about taking a 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?

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. 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 really has to be considered!

With BREXIT and Covid-19 added to the equation it poses even more questions about job security and indeed, any form of continuity for those who are self-employed with families!

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons for those with family who are in self-employment. By the way, I’ve either lived through or am constantly juggling every one of these factors and so do most people I’ve spoken to when they’ve set up their own business:

Pros:

  • Set your own schedule
  • Cohesive work life balance (yes and no)
  • Taking holiday when you want
  • Children off school sick, take a day off
  • Flexible working base, remote work / work from home when you need to or use a flex space (coworking space) when you want structure to your day and a business community
  • Claim business expenses against your VAT
  • Get to pick who you work with &  choose 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
  • Be able to constantly evolve, adapt and improve both yourself and your business
  • Be an example to your kids on what can come true if you dream big and work hard
  • Evolve, innovate and adapt the business and its revenue streams to suit you and your family

Cons:

  • Having to be everything to everyone: marketing, sales, financial expert, operations front runner, delivery of actual work, Office Manager, HR Manager as well as being parent / carer, finding time for yourself
  • You have to supply your own equipment, software, desk, car etc
  • Working 24/7, long hours, irregular pay, if you’re sick you can’t just take time off mid project and home based working can also mean your home becomes an office
  • Often 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
  • A family run businesses can be reliant on 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.
  • 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 yourself and generate the funds to pay for them
  • Having to take the hit face on is something like COvid-19 occurs
  • Get to have the delightful job of doing your own tax returns and assessments
  • The need to take constructive criticism, listen to your customers and make sure your business constantly evolves

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 wall chart, 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 the space to figure out things.”

The question is, how to balance the pros and cons? Becoming self-employed is a lot to take on but with the right support, structure and networks in place well then it’s much easier to manage. Be open with others and make sure you’re communicating how you feel, realise that others are experienced or are experiencing the same things as you so listen and learn from each other.

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