It’s easy, from the outside, to think that being self-employed is all sunshine and rainbows and, honestly? It has a lot to recommend it. For one, you get to decide your own hours; you get to work from home, in your PJs if you decide that’s your poison; you get to take lunch when you’re hungry, and not when someone else decides; and, any money you make, you’re making it for yourself. Those are pretty big ticks in the pro list.
But, like anything in life, there are cons, too; there are days when being self-employed feels tougher than you ever thought it would, when you doubt your decision to go it alone and when you wonder if this might just have been the worst decision you ever made. Moments like when…
There’s no team in “i”
In other words, you’re on your own. There’s a lot to be said for having work colleagues, who’ll have your back and be there to bounce ideas off. When you’re self-employed, at least in the initial stages, you’re totally alone, When things go wrong (and they will), you won’t have anyone to comfort you – at least not in the immediate vicinity – and, when you’re feeling vulnerable, no one’s got your back. You’ve got to have your own back, 24/7, and that is easier said than done.
You end up doing all the chores
This only applies if you work from home, but it is seriously tough to create boundaries between “work” and “home” when your work is your home, and vice versa. Being self-employed means it’s impossible to ignore the pile of laundry that you simply wouldn’t see if you were in an office, and when the sun is shining, well, very few Irish people could waste a day of good drying. As a result, a lot of the arguments in my household are now about unequal division of household labour – but a lot of it is my own fault because I do it during the day, when “it’s just there staring at me…”
Snacking becomes a serious problem
This is probably not purely related to being self-employed – for example, I imagine Facebook and Google employees have similar issues – but having easy access to snacks, at any time of the day, can be problematic. In an office which has a set break-time structure, I always found myself less tempted to snack at arbitrary moments. At home? There is no such structure, and any inkling of hunger is sated pretty much immediately. (Anything to break the monotony, right?)
It can be monotonous
I am the type of person who loves their own company; I really cherish my alone time and don’t mind spending hours, even days, without seeing other people. (It’s okay if you’re inserting the obvious joke here about how no one else minds my being on my own, either…) However, sitting at the same desk, day in, day out, with no colleagues to entertain you and zero chat possibilities can really get dull. It’s safe to say: being self-employed won’t be for everyone.
TV is a big temptation
One of the things I love about being self-employed is that you’re not working to anyone else’s schedule. When you work in any kind of creative career, it can be tough to “turn it on” at someone else’s behest, or to a particular timetable. When I don’t feel like writing – maybe I’m tired, or I don’t have any ideas – I can take an hour off to take a walk or make a snack (see above) or watch some Netflix. The problem is, of course, there have been many days lost to epic Gilmore Girls marathons that started with the honest intention of watching one episode. Nine episodes down, the sun has set, the dog hasn’t been walked and not a tap has been done.
You end up working way too much
I spoke last week at a Banter event on social influencers – what are we? What do we do? And why should you care? – and someone in the audience asked a really interesting question. “You all say you’re making a living from doing what you’re doing, but you also say you’re always on. Have you ever worked out how many hours you work per week, and what your hourly rate was?” It took me a second, but when I figured out what he was asking, I was gobsmacked.
Last week, for example, I worked 12 hours a day, six days a week. That’s 80 hours. If I did that every week – and I think I probably do – I’d be at more than 320 hours a month. Being self-employed means you answer calls at 7pm, and respond to tweets at midnight; you check Instagram while you’re watching TV; you Snapchat your breakfast, lunch and dinner. You never switch off. (I haven’t done what he asked me to do, mostly because I’m afraid I’d figure out that I’d be better off working 37.5 hours a week at minimum wage.)
But being self-employed has its plus points, too…
And I wouldn’t keep doing it if I didn’t love it. But just don’t believe anyone who tells you they’re living the dream; everything you choose has pros and cons, and what’s right for me won’t be right for you. Aren’t I feeling very zen all of a sudden?!
Shout-out to the Conrad Hotel, where we stayed for our Dublin city weekend vlog, for providing a deadly backdrop for my “Rosemary as Donald Trump” pics!