1.Grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way.
Having been self-employed for nearly 4 years now, I think it is safe to say that I have grasped the general gist of it through mistakes and accomplishments. Each year has been a necessary set of learning curves and positive increase in all aspects. With the increase of self-employed young people or even those with a side business that they balance alongside working, I think that there are some home truths that need to be shared, as it may look picturesque but at times it’s not. Not to say that it isn’t great, it is but it is also considerably hard work if you are ready to take it seriously. Here are a few gems I have picked up along this journey that I wish someone had told me:
- You are to be held accountable for every penny that you spend. If you provide a service, every penny including your travel needs to be noted so that you can calculate your true profit. This includes restocks, postage fees and everything. If there is not much profit then you need to re think your prices or methods. Sourcing cheaper alternatives is common when you want to increase your profit bracket but you must be sure that you don’t compromise the quality of the product or service.
- At the beginning stages, you may very well be your own social media/content manager, promo team, customer service, recruitment team, auditor, accountant and dispatch team. It will be a handful but if you manage your time and efforts effectively you will get through it. With social media, scheduled and planned posts go a long way, also checking your emails at a certain time or certain times every day saves a lot of time during the day or having a specific day of the week or time in the day when you go to the post office will offer you some sort of organisation and consistency to your brand. There are some really good social media or digital marketing courses on groupon and wowcher also to prep you.
- If you are talking in terms of time, contrary to common belief, having a 9-5 is not always worse than being self-employed. Being a freelancer or self-employed sometimes means 12 or 18 hour days, less sleep, early mornings and less time to spend doing what you like. Be prepared for when your business soars because this often means more workload.
- Choosing to be the face of your brand means that you need to be relatively on point. Although it has its many benefits as some customers like to put a face to the brand in order to build a relationship- if you are prone to problematic tendencies especially drunken rants or offensive posts etc it may be best to disassociate yourself from your brand. Like don’t openly affiliate yourself if possible just so that you don’t attract negativity to your brand. Also so that your customer queries go to your customer service email or account rather than your personal account.
- To save your reputation, you will have to be willing to accommodate the customer. Even if they are wrong, try and be as compliant as possible because word of mouth spreads like wildfire. If the only things that people hear about you are complaints or lack of enthusiasm then they may very well avoid coming to you especially if your business is a service where they have to meet you face to face. Be nice and inviting, people feel comfortable and relaxed when you are happy to answer questions, smiling, chatty at relevant times and overall just warm person, don’t be stroppy or offensive.
- You will have to register yourself as a company and pay tax eventually. You cannot evade the system for ever.
- You will struggle to find a balance if you work at a job and have a successful business. Some people find a balance and some don’t. The balance doesn’t just come. You may actively have to create time to do things. Life gets busier especially if you are a single-man team. You may need to pay more attention to your business, or try and create a team to help you to spread the load more effectively.
- There are going to be dry seasons, there always are, however eventually as you gain popularity, they will lessen, have less impact or disappear. But as a “baby” your hustle may not flourish immediately. There is always a journey, in the dry periods. People will cancel on you not knowing the impact that it has on you. This was me in my first year of freelancing, but I pushed on and now dry seasons are rare. Resilience is key. You can’t be desperate when starting a business because it grows in its own time depending on the time you put into it, it is best to try to have a back-up part time job on the side rather than start a business with a desperate state of mind.
- Having said that, when freelancing, having a job at the same time may prove difficult especially if you work at a job that has a fixed rota, because you may have bookings on the days that you work, and there is only a limited amount of times that you can call in sick, request days off, swap shifts or write important dates for your “Dentist appointments” in the work diary. Eventually you may need to leave your job, bang it out and let your dream flourish. The vulnerability of no financial security can scare you or make you work harder. Do you want to build your dream or someone elses?
Being self-employed takes courage and consistency, you will not get as far as you want to be without these two things.If you are willing, please go for it. Half-hearted-ness is not good enough. Every business that you see flourishing or any person that you see freelancing with continuous bookings, got to that place with hard work. I always pray for God’s hand and grace in my ventures because without him I don’t know how I would manage. Throughout University I was up and down from my University town to London for bookings weekly and it only got worse in my final year. The tears and fatigue that ensued made me feel as though it wasn’t worth it. But that was my only source of income to sustain my living costs and to be financially comfortable so I made an effort to make it balance, small things like not taking too many bookings (if I took bookings at all) during important deadline weeks made a difference, or deciding not to work if I could afford to, or even just not doing midweek bookings. Although my business is my baby, I still prioritized University first and foremost especially during my final year because that was a closer goal that I needed to achieve. And thankfully, I achieved it and have now finished my degree, Business intact and growing.
Blessings and encouragement,