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19 September 2018

#ThinkSelfEmployed blog: Freedom or Shackles?

Guest blog from FSB member Alexandra Smith

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My own decision to go self-employed was a gradual process of an idea forming followed by sudden change.

I worked for a number of years in sales and two distinct incidents, one involving the company I then worked for and the other relating to one of my customers the latter of which was so serious that the employer was forced to close made me realise that there were people and businesses out there that needed a special kind of help and the idea for CareerCheck was born. 

A pre-employment and background screening service designed to ensure that both employers and existing employees did not fall victim to unscrupulous or even violent new work colleagues.

Initially I did nothing to follow the idea through but it sat in my subconscious,  giving me the occasional nudge.

The change came when the directors of the company I worked for decided to retire and sell out to a larger competitor. I had previously turned down a job with the new owners and did not feel it was a company I could work for so I realised that it was time to make a new start.

I had over the years taken management courses and understood the concept behind the need to have a clear business plan with targets and goals but the one thing I quickly learned was that you can plan as much as you like but at the end of the day you just have to take a deep breath, throw yourself over the edge of the cliff and hope the parachute opens!

Well now I was a business women in her own right! I made the decisions, right or wrong and I stood or fell by my own actions.

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of self-employment is that you create the process and methods by which you work and you tailor them to  your own personality and comfort.  You do not have to take the desires of co-workers into consideration.

I also discovered that there were a lot of people and organisations out there ready to offer help from friends and business contacts to local groups such as the FSB and less formal gatherings.

To be successfully self-employed you must, to some extent, have the nature of a hunter and when you capture your prey you have the satisfaction of knowing you did it all by yourself!

Of course, there are distinct challenges with being self-employed. 

Most self-employed people work longer hours and take fewer holidays than those in employment and there is no back up if you are taken ill.

With no co-workers it can be hard to maintain motivation and it can be very isolating. You need to have great belief both in yourself and in the service or product you are promoting combined with the ability to roll with the set backs and come out fighting.

Keeping up with changing rules and legislation is a minefield and very time consuming and finding accurate information sometimes difficult.  This is where the likes of the FSB are invaluable in providing clear and unbiased data.

What I can say is that benefits or challenges, being self-employed is like a giant roller-coaster, there are ups, downs and water chutes but at the end of the day the challenge is exhilarating.