Is being self-employed a double-edge sword?

(53 Posts)
stickygotstuck Wed 20-Aug-14 11:08:51

I am sick and tired of being self-employed - I think! And I was just wondering if anybody else is seriously thinking of leaving your self-employed work and swap it for a 'normal' job. Has anyone gone from self-employed to employed and not regretted it? Surely I can't be the only one who finds the flexibility rather a double-edge sword!

For some background, the last 5 years have been tough. Sure, I have been 'functioning' but it's been a long list of loss, including bereavement, DH being made redundant twice and being in a shit job which pays 1/3 less, falling rates in my sector and undiagnosed PND. I am prone to depression anyway and I don't handle the constant worry very well at all.

The bottom line is I do a lot of juggling and have little energy left, I'm sick with worry that work will dry out, I'm in tears most days and have been struggling for years now. DD is now 5 but I still struggle with the pressure of the stupid hours and feast or famine nature of self-employed work. Plus DD, plus housework, plus finding some brain space to handle the black dog sad.

I am wondering whether being employed would make life easier. The difficult part is that I probably earn what I would earn in employment after taking childcare into account, as now I can take DD to school and pick her up. I'm even managing to work while she's on holiday (see?!)

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Pinkfrocks Wed 20-Aug-14 12:10:34

It surely depends on whether the work you do is transferable from a freelancer to being an employee- not all jobs are.

If you want a regular income with no hassle about finding the work then surely being employed is best?
If you want the flexibility of being self employed but can also cope with the uncertainty of income then stay with it.

stickygotstuck Wed 20-Aug-14 12:28:17

Thanks Pink.

Skills are partially transfereable. Just looking at applying for a job I could do, but it's a looong commute.

My main issue is not just the uncertainty (done this for over 12 years so I'm used to it). It's more the juggling of work at evenings and weekends. I struggle mentally and I am frazzled most of the time. I am so exhausted all the time that I have no energy to think about anything other that the immediate stuff (work, what to have for tea, stop work on time to pick up DD). Let alone job prospects or what I actually want to do with my life.

I am hoping having a clear-cut 9-5 (or 10-3 or whatever) job which I leave behind when I close the office door will alleviate all this.

Also not coping well what I see as the 'loss of status' of my job. There is a current trend to think anyone can do my job (so falling rates are joined with falling professional respect). I do a skilled job which I trained for, and I have worked long and hard for years to establish myself. It all seems to have been a waste of time now due to changes in the industry.

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Pinkfrocks Wed 20-Aug-14 12:52:08

You a writer? smile

I just wonder if it's all about being s/e or employed though or more about time management?

You see if you swap roles and go for a long commute then you will be away from home much longer every day surely?

Why are you needing to work weekends and evenings ( is this when you see clients?)

Can you not stick with being s/e but impose normal office hours onto yourself so you have more structure?

Pinkfrocks Wed 20-Aug-14 12:54:33

p.s. You might be being a little unrealistic about any job nowadays being 9-5, but without knowing your job it's hard to say.

I don't know anyone with a 'responsible' job who works 9-5, especially in the SE- they all seem to stay at work until deadlines are met. Just mentioning because as you've been out of the workplace for so many years you might be looking at it with rose coloured specs.

stickygotstuck Wed 20-Aug-14 13:31:04

Thanks again Pink.

No, not a writer! But I wouldn't mind (way back in cloud cuckoo land!)

Not sure it's time-management. I am good at that. I just find it hard to say no (fear of the famine phase, not wanting to upset clients). In fact, I just said no to a new client and felt awful, which is what prompted this post grin.

That's exactly it. I don't want a 'responsible' job. I already have one of those! - I produce the work, I market, I research, I train, I set deadlines, I manage projects, I deal with the IT disasters, I negotiate and I stay as late as I need to stay and work as may hours as needed. That's what I want to get out of. I am the company. Life is too short and I don't want to be my work. I want a 10-3 job! wink

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pinkfrocks Wed 20-Aug-14 13:39:28

I understand all of that. BUT be careful it's not a case of the grass is always greener.

Presumably if you go from something skilled to something that's not a 'responsible job' you will have to take a pay cut?

Might you underestimate the satisfaction you get from having a responsible job to being a small cog in a bigger machine?

How do you feel about office politics, less holiday, being a minion, basically?

Could you not do a half way house, which is to cut back on what you do now, so that it fills office hours, and reduces your income presumably, and see how that feels?

MrsMargoLeadbetter Wed 20-Aug-14 23:00:07

It sounds like a tough few years. Well done for keeping going.

I struggle with the feast & famine nature. It can be difficult to appreciate the flexibility, as the downs/rollercoaster ride is all consuming.

What about giving yourself a break and find a contract? Could be a way to test going back to the corp world? You probably will need childcare, which could make this plan difficult but it might give you the break from the negative aspects you mention?

stickygotstuck Wed 20-Aug-14 23:39:59

Thanks both,

Yes, I am thinking that a part time job would be just the thing - then I can try the world of employment again without fully letting go of my profession.

What I'm afraid of is that it will be just the opposite - something else to juggle and will still find it difficult to turn work down.

I know the grass always seems greener, but surely sometimes it must be, statistically! grin

It would be nice to hear positive stories of people who have done it and not regretted it!

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CustardFromATin Thu 21-Aug-14 02:40:54

Have you looked into part time opportunities in your field?

In my field freelancing can be tough but suitable part time jobs are rare as hens teeth, so I've gone back to the corporate world but have had to move to 5 days, which is exhausting and I miss my babies! In time this should make me eligible for part time role within the company, but not sure I would have made the move if we'd realised how much extra work is involved in the logistics of child care drop offs, sick days with 2 full time workers, having to leave earlier than others and look less committed (but still work at home at night).

MrsMargoLeadbetter Thu 21-Aug-14 06:40:34

OP - it might be worth posting on the Employment Issues board too? There are probably more employed types on there, hopefully some that have moved from freelance etc.

stickygotstuck Thu 21-Aug-14 08:16:35

Custard, sorry to hear it's tougher than you thought. That's what I'm afraid of.

Thanks Margo, I'll do that.

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Pinkfrocks Thu 21-Aug-14 11:33:44

I can't understand why you don't cut back on what you do now, so then you'd have the best of both worlds?

stickygotstuck Thu 21-Aug-14 15:03:38

Hi Pink,

It's hard to do that. I cannot afford to drop too much of my income and if you say no to a client once too many it's a slippery slope to losing them altogether.

Thing is, it could be because of my personal situation/frame of mind but I have convinced myseld that the world of freelancing no longer offers me anything good. The cause is irrelevant, but I think I was expecting people to say I am right and yes, being self-emplyed (mostly) sucks! hmm

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SaskiaRembrandtWasFramed Thu 21-Aug-14 15:23:36

Yes, self-employment can suck. I feel similar to you at the moment - especially having to combat the idea that anyone can do my job and having to compete against enthusiastic amateurs who charge far less, or even do it for nothing.

stickygotstuck Thu 21-Aug-14 16:21:30

Saskia (love the Rembrandt reference!), sorry to hear you are also having a tough time. But glad that I am not alone, IYSWIM. We probably work in the same field...

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twentyten Thu 21-Aug-14 16:30:26

Freelancing can be lonely- do you have professional support network? I remember being told to treat my dd like a customer and juggle commitments to customers accordingly- it did work.
Sounds like you need to invest in your business assets- I mean you!! Time out/ renewal. September is a good time for that. A bit of business planning. And good flexible part time jobs are like gold dust. Good luckthanksthanks

OwnerOfAnInsanePuppy Thu 21-Aug-14 16:40:07

Have you thought of trying a virtual assistant to take away some of the juggling?

Pinkfrocks Fri 22-Aug-14 13:29:52

I've thought hard about going back to being an employee and always decide 'no'.
I am fortunate that my income is not essential any more for us to live, though it does provide a nice boost to the pot.

It's really hard to advise without knowing the field you are in.

I do think though that if you have a successful business and are self employed you need to think long and hard- and the same again!- before chucking it all in.

If you no longer enjoy what you do that is different; if you find the managing of work and home hard that is something that can be sorted and it would probably apply more if you were employed- eg who would look after DCs if they were ill? How would you fit in time off for school meetings and nativity plays? smile
Is there a demand for people like you to work 10-3?
If so, then consider it but as I said it all depends on how many opportunities there are for your line of work.

Rinkydinkypink Fri 22-Aug-14 13:32:47

Yep I hate it as well op. Applying for full time jobs. Being self employed isn't all it's cracked up to be.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Fri 22-Aug-14 15:00:42

It's always a case of balancing your priorities. SE isn't easy. But neither is employment. It sounds to me like you are frazzled and still recovering from some major curveballs in your life - in that situation I can see that employment would look much more attractive to me - structure, proper holidays, someone else higher up the tree who essentially takes responsibility for stuff. Sounds ace!

Of course then you have to offset the things you'd lose.

However, I do think there's a middle ground - start job hunting. But only apply for jobs you really, really want, that tick 9/10 of the boxes. So the one you're looking at now with the big commute - sack that off. A commute is a PITA, and will add time and expense on to your day. But if something almost perfect comes along, apply. Why not?

Just don't start applying for every job you see, because then you'll get one, close your business down, hate the job because it wasn't right for you in the first place and end up worse off than you are now.

stickygotstuck Fri 22-Aug-14 15:31:42

I'm not sure a virtual assistant will be that much of a different, much of what I do cannot be delegated without major upheaval.

The problem is that my income is absolutely essential, which adds hugely to the constant feeling of pressure. As an example, I should have taken some proper time off during the school hols. Not taking time off has been a mkistake. In hindsight, we could have just afforded for me to take 3 full weeks off.

To top it all off, the childcare I had lined up for the summer let us down at the last minute too, and haven't had the energy or the time to find an alternative at such short notice. Also, I have got by this first school year without childcare, and that may have been a mistake too.

Sorry to hear that Rinky, sounds like you know exactly where I am at!

Lonny that's a very accurate comment. As a matter of fact, I cannot see myself being not frazzled every again. Truly. I struggled with life in general before DD, I cannot see it getting much easier.

Very wise advice about not applying just for anything. I think I will apply for the job with the long commute though. That type of job is rare, it is fixed term to cover a mat leave and the ad said they welcome jobshares. So if I got it, it would be a good way to testing the waters. Confidence is low though sad

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Pinkfrocks Fri 22-Aug-14 16:35:55

I honestly don't see what you will gain by being employed by someone.
Won't you still be working the same hours, with a commute thrown in - and you will still have the issue with childcare?

Most people IME go back to being employed because they either don't like the feast/ famine aspect of being self employed or they just don't enjoy what they do any more and want to do something that they can't as a sole trader/ consultant/ whatever.

stickygotstuck Fri 22-Aug-14 18:00:55

A major reason I think I mentioned in my OP is that the rates in my field are going down fast.

Although activity in the sector is (supposedly) increasing, I am concerned work will dry up sooner or later, as I cannot afford to work for the pittance some less experience entrants to the profession seem prepared to accept these days - usually young people with no ties or family responsibilities.

Since the onset of the recession, my invoicing has dropped by a third, and that is bad enough. Although in a roundabout way, it may have saved my sanity, as I am now working a more reasonable amount of hours.

It's a matter of jumping ship before it sinks, or wait until it does (if it does). Waiting may give me a few more years of flexibility, but I am 40 and I don't know how wise it is to wait until I am forced to jump. That's the may issue that's eating me up.

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twentyten Fri 22-Aug-14 22:39:36

You may not want to say but what field? Could you reposition yourself? Sounds like you are exhausted And worn out. What about taking a big of time out and think about your business?

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