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Mumsnet users share their experiences of being self-employed or running their own business

65 replies

YanaMumsnet · 24/09/2020 13:53

This discussion is now closed. Thank you to everyone who took part.

Starting your own business or taking the leap to self-employment can be an adventurous risk and much desired income independence for many. From having the brilliant business idea or right set of skills to start with, to managing the day-to-day paperwork and admin, being on your own is not always easy.

With that in mind, we want to find out more about your challenges and success stories with being self-employed or a freelance worker. If you’ve started or are starting your own business, we’d love to hear from you too.

So we’re asking you to think about the following:
-How much of your time goes to managing admin tasks and responsibilities? Which are the ones you hate doing the most? Do you have anyone helping you with them?
-If there was one task that you would never do again, what would it be? Do you have any hacks or workarounds to help you with less enjoyable admin tasks?
-What led to your decision to become a self-employed or freelance worker in the first place? How did you prepare for that step? What kind of support did you seek and who or what was there to support you?
-As a business owner or self-employed individual, how do you plan financially and decide on your goals? Do you feel financially secure in the current business climate?
-And finally, what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Whatever your experience, we’d love to hear it, so please share on the thread below. All MNers who post their stories will be entered into a prize draw where one will win a £100 voucher for a store of their choice (from a list).

Thanks and good luck!
MNHQ

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Mumsnet users share their experiences of being self-employed or running their own business
OP posts:
mallowa · 28/09/2020 16:51

-How much of your time goes to managing admin tasks and responsibilities? Which are the ones you hate doing the most? Do you have anyone helping you with them?

Accounts, accounts, accounts, tax returns etc. Email is annoying! Such a time drain.

-If there was one task that you would never do again, what would it be? Do you have any hacks or workarounds to help you with less enjoyable admin tasks?

All admin, if I could banish it forever it would be great! I tend to do short bursts of things I hate doing frequently e.g. 5 mins accounts a day - that way I stay on top of it without losing the will to live!

-What led to your decision to become a self-employed or freelance worker in the first place? How did you prepare for that step? What kind of support did you seek and who or what was there to support you?

I got fed up of being told what to do and hate being part of an office hierarchy. To prepare I got some business training from a free govt scheme - was so helpful.

-As a business owner or self-employed individual, how do you plan financially and decide on your goals? Do you feel financially secure in the current business climate?

Things are very precarious but I'm used to it and I am also very proactive in terms of looking for work and making new contacts. I have a strong reputation and lots of clients so I don't think it's too bad. Here's hoping at least!

-And finally, what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Self confidence issues - it's taken years of slowly building this up to feel secure in my skills. Also being a lone parent - as well as running a business - so challenging! Nursery helped a bit but being flexible on my hours and also realistic with my clients has helped.

Anazowmilo · 28/09/2020 21:59

I have been a freelancer for a number of years, alternating between shot jobs and clients. A lot of my time is spent on admin (keeping receipts, tax releases, invoices, emails, calendar coordination etc) but I take this into consideration when I quote hours and costs to clients.
.
I hate doing the invoices and chasing money the most. This is the most time consuming and vital otherwise we won't get paid. I don't have anyone helping. I tried to have someone help but it ended up being more work for me...so I do it all myself.
.
I don't feel worried in the current climate because my work is mainly digital and will continue despite the pandemic. The hardest thing is making sure we have enough money to keep us going through the work breaks...some months are busier than others and if I don't work I dont get paid. Also planning for the future is exhausting in terms of private pension, investments etc.
.
My biggest challenge is knowing my worth and quoting appropriately. In the beginning I would do a lot of work for very little money. I also struggle with working all the time...even in the evenings and weekends. You become a bit of a workaholic when you are a freelancer.

Nameagain · 29/09/2020 10:52

I've recently set up as a sole trader so that I can do some freelance work offered by a friend. I lost my job during the pandemic, and have found another part time job, but am earning less. The freelance work is a great way to top up my salary, and I'd like to do more, but haven't worked out yet how to develop it.

My greatest concern is that the client company is US based, and I haven't been able to get indemnity insurance. I'm copy writing (not as high risk as some professions) bit still I wish I had a way of covering my arse insurance-wise.

doadeer · 29/09/2020 23:21

-How much of your time goes to managing admin tasks and responsibilities?

It depends. Part of this I'm paid for my client so that's a normal part of job and my own admin can be consuming but overall I'd say 10%


Which are the ones you hate doing the most?

Oh definitely accounting things! Like paying bills or sending through info to accounting. Plus doing invoices for clients.

Do you have anyone helping you with them?

I used to pay my teenage brother to do lots of boring jobs for me which was good but he was a bit sloppy! So I had to check it all a lot.

-If there was one task that you would never do again, what would it be?

There isn't one single thing. It's the combination of items needed to create corporation tax statements etc. It's all time consuming and boring.

*Do you have any hacks or workarounds to help you with less enjoyable admin tasks?
*
A good playlist! A Google doc and good folder system. For some of the businesses I run I use stripe for payment which makes statements really easy. I like Zapier to connect tech platforms together and reduce admin
*
-What led to your decision to become a self-employed or freelance worker in the first place? *

I got a lot of work done in a 9-5 and I wanted the option to work 8-2 if I was fast enough so I could have more time to do things I like. I knew I was organised and efficient and liked being my own boss.

How did you prepare for that step? What kind of support did you seek and who or what was there to support you?


Absolutely nothing I just quit my job one day and gave myself 2 months to set my business up. If it didn't work I'd go back in house. I was fully booked after 2 weeks thankfully.

-As a business owner or self-employed individual, how do you plan financially and decide on your goals? Do you feel financially secure in the current business climate?

At the moment I follow the money rather than the projects i love. Need to be sensible. But my industry is actually booking during covid so there's a lot of work.

-And finally, what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?


Maybe learning to trust work will come. And learning to work with my toddler around me and no sleep!

doadeer · 29/09/2020 23:25

Booming not booking *

rincewindspotato · 30/09/2020 12:05

I’ve been self employed for 8 years and I’ve managed to par my admin down to almost nothing by using invoicing apps and a running list of items/clients on my phone Note app.

I hate doing my taxes. The actual job itself takes minutes to complete. It’s the ridiculous gov website that is absolutely rubbish and I can never remember my details so it takes me hours just to get into my account, grrrrr.

My decision to become self-employed came from a realisation in my mid-twenties that I was never going to be paid fairly for my work unless I took out the middle-man(agement). I still don’t get paid fairly (think maternity/sick pay) but at least I get to do things the way I want without fear of (overt) discrimination. I didn’t seek/get any support and I didn’t seek/get any help with finances. I learned on the job and the money I made went straight back into the business. Luckily my overheads were very low.

This year has been very hard. There isn’t really adequate support out there for self-employed women at the best of times. My biggest challenge is how to manage having a baby when my job is extremely physical and I work alone. The fact is, it’s not possible, and I will lose all my clients and have to start all over again once the child is old enough. Wish I could be a Dad instead. I’ve got the van for it.

Moominmammacat · 30/09/2020 15:23

-How much of your time goes to managing admin tasks and responsibilities?
I went freelance 36 years ago and never regretted it for a moment Former journalist, now running media consultancy.

Which are the ones you hate doing the most? Do you have anyone helping you with them?
Anything financial, I do leg work, accountant does important bits.

-If there was one task that you would never do again, what would it be?
Chasing invoices ... why don't people .... especially big companies, ... just pay up

Do you have any hacks or workarounds to help you with less enjoyable admin tasks?
Put some nice music on and drink tea


-What led to your decision to become a self-employed or freelance worker in the first place?
Didn't like agencies taking cut, wanted to chose my hours/pay

How did you prepare for that step? What kind of support did you seek and who or what was there to support you?
Nothing. Just crossed fingers.

-As a business owner or self-employed individual, how do you plan financially and decide on your goals?
I don't. Covid has left us with 1/10th of normal earnings. We take what comes in and don't advertise.


Do you feel financially secure in the current business climate?
Yes, but only because I'm at the end of my career

-And finally, what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?
Finding freelances who are up to the job ... still haven't managed it.

wellingtonsandwaffles · 30/09/2020 21:36

Freelancer here, but a bit unusual as I have a stable contract with one client.

-How much of your time goes to managing admin tasks and responsibilities? Which are the ones you hate doing the most? Do you have anyone helping you with them?

At the start of each month I do last month’s admin, invoicing, timesheets etc. I use a template a friend gave me. There’s not much really, though my day to day work has admin but that’s part of the role.

-If there was one task that you would never do again, what would it be? Do you have any hacks or workarounds to help you with less enjoyable admin tasks?

Tax return..... I hate them! A hack would be an accountant but alas not tried yet.

Less enjoyable tasks I will set time limits, lists and then try and blitz. Sometimes if it’s mindless I’ll put some music on. Nothing revolutionary.

-What led to your decision to become a self-employed or freelance worker in the first place? How did you prepare for that step? What kind of support did you seek and who or what was there to support you?

I was struggling to find employed work and someone suggested freelancing. Little preparation, had to learn on the go. Negotiating day rate new to me but had to sell myself at what I’m worth. Lots of googling Advice sites in setting up in the first month.

-As a business owner or self-employed individual, how do you plan financially and decide on your goals? Do you feel financially secure in the current business climate?

Luckily I don’t need to work to survive financially but I want to work for my own mental health. So I’m fortunate not to worry too much. Though wanting future planning is almost innate and so I put some aside in case my current client change their mind!

-And finally, what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Being on your own, with no one to Share workload with. Not being managed is sometimes challenging when you have to make every decision!

digitalteacher · 01/10/2020 12:28

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trevorandsimon · 01/10/2020 17:01

How much of your time goes to managing admin tasks and responsibilities?

Probably at least 15 hours a week

Which are the ones you hate doing the most?
I hate thinking of social media posts. And doing finances and spreadsheets.

Do you have anyone helping you with them?
Nope, just me!


-If there was one task that you would never do again, what would it be?

My tax return and precise financial reports. It takes d sad I long even though I have software to help but it's boring.

Do you have any hacks or workarounds to help you with less enjoyable admin tasks?
Software to calculate figures.

-What led to your decision to become a self-employed or freelance worker in the first place?
I was made redundant.

How did you prepare for that step? What kind of support did you seek and who or what was there to support you?
I started my own business and did my own research. I'm a savvy googler so learnt by figuring things out. A mentor would have been good! I now know a good support system is helpful so after selling my business that I started I bought a franchise.
-As a business owner or self-employed individual, how do you plan financially and decide on your goals?
I hope for the best a lot of the time! And plan for what I can plan for.

Do you feel financially secure in the current business climate?
Not really.

-And finally, what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

I did it all on my own. No one made me work, I push myself. No one helped me, it did it all.

BraayTigger · 01/10/2020 20:18

How much of your time goes to managing admin tasks and responsibilities?

  • I am terrible at keeping my accounts up to date. It probably takes me 4 full days a year to sort them out



Which are the ones you hate doing the most? Do you have anyone helping you with them?
  • Accounts - yes an accountancy firm


-If there was one task that you would never do again, what would it be?
  • Accounts!!


Do you have any hacks or workarounds to help you with less enjoyable admin tasks?
  • outsource what you can. Try and stay on top of the admin and get started early on tax returns etc


-What led to your decision to become a self-employed or freelance worker in the first place?
  • More money


How did you prepare for that step?
  • I had a supportive partner with a stable good income so new we'd be financially Ok if I was out of work for a duration. I also worked as a FTE in the role for 7 years prior to freelancing so had the skill set and experience


What kind of support did you seek and who or what was there to support you?
  • just my partner and some colleagues who convinced me I'd be OK as a consultant!


-As a business owner or self-employed individual, how do you plan financially and decide on your goals?
  • I am an IT consultant with limited company. My husband and I take money out of the company for big purchases / house improvements etc


Do you feel financially secure in the current business climate?
  • yes but only because husband has stable income. I have enough savings so am not overly concerned but am worried my current contract may not be extended past XMas due to Covid


-And finally, what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?
  • believing in myself and having the confidence to know I was doing a good job. Overcome by working on my confidence / presentational skills. If I'm honest having children also helped - it out so much in perspective! Nothing is THAT important, kids come first. Work hard, do the hours then enjoy home life
flowersanam · 01/10/2020 22:12

Does not apply to me

Sid98 · 02/10/2020 01:05

None of these

MsMarvellous · 03/10/2020 17:53

-How much of your time goes to managing admin tasks and responsibilities? Which are the ones you hate doing the most? Do you have anyone helping you with them?

Well I'm a Virtual Assistant so everything I do is admin. It's something I enjoy so doing the tasks for my own business isn't too much of a chore.

-If there was one task that you would never do again, what would it be? Do you have any hacks or workarounds to help you with less enjoyable admin tasks?

Accounts, but I am fortunate enough to have an excellent accountant who does that for me.

-What led to your decision to become a self-employed or freelance worker in the first place?

I took voluntary redundancy from my last employed role while on maternity with my second child. I started to bring a little cash back into the home. It's built from there.

How did you prepare for that step? What kind of support did you seek and who or what was there to support you?

I just had myself and web forums like mumsnet. I just jumped in really.

-As a business owner or self-employed individual, how do you plan financially and decide on your goals? Do you feel financially secure in the current business climate?

Lockdown has been hard and I lost a lot of client work. I stayed in touch though and slowly things are starting to pick back up.

-And finally, what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Working from home on school holidays. It's really hard working around a family. I managed by lowering my cleaning and home standards and being very rigid about my work hours.

DoAllMeerkatsComeFromRussia · 04/10/2020 18:55

Hubby and I work together and run 90% of our business online with a small sales presence locally. My personal responsibilities are admin, logistics, book keeping and customer relations. Admin takes a lot of time and tends to be the type of jobs I'll happily shelve for another day then get mad at myself for doing so.
My worst job is the weekly accounting/book keeping. I need full focus to get my head around it and that is tough when I find myself trying to manage other things at the same time. And no, no-one helps me!

There's nothing I really wouldn't do again. As for hacks for less enjoyable tasks- I wish I did! I tend to multi task so I do a bit of one thing then a bit of another, although I think that may well make me less efficient overall.

We kind of became self employed accidentally. We were both professionals working long hours close to London, had two of our three children and moved further north as we could afford a bigger house basically. I was a SAHM for a bit and my husband did some freelance work in our original profession with the intention of getting another full time role asap but quite a bit of the freelance stuff could be done from home so realised we could both work from home and juggle child care and work. Our current business evolved from this and is mainly sales based, selling a product that we used to use in our freelance work but struggled to get hold of affordably.

We didn't ask for help or advice when starting up because we originally did this as a small extra to our freelance work but it gradually grew and evolved so that we phased out the freelance work and dedicated ourselves fully to it.

We have done well this year and have worked fully throughout. Business hasn't slacked off and is slightly up on a year ago. Having goals is something I strive towards but my husband is very ad hoc about where the business takes us. I would love to be a bit more organised and focussed but it's just not his style.

I think the biggest challenge is working together and work always being here. There's almost never a day when at least something work related gets done. In fact I don't think I can remember a day. DH has mental health issues which is another reason working from home and working together is a good thing for us. He can arrange his hours around how he feels, although with work here all the time, he struggles to have a cut off point at times. But being together 24/7 can be very challenging, especially when he's having a bad day and I'm tiptoeing round him on eggshells. But overall it is the best way for us

FannyFernackerpan · 05/10/2020 00:17

To respond to some of the questions:

I honestly don't spend much time on admin. The main thing is I don't have an accountant and I've always done my own accounts. I spend about half a day a month on them, and then obviously at the end of the year, I file my tax return online etc. It's second nature to me now, even though I didn't have a clue when I first started.

There used to be a lot more admin - paper invoices and so on, plus filing of important documents etc. I used to have an 'in' tray that I was always struggling to get through, but that's all gone now - everything is online and it's just a case of keeping the computer desktop tidy with clearly labelled folders.

I became self employed after the birth of my first child. I lived in a remote rural area, had no family nearby, and childcare would have been impossible so I decided to take the plunge and start working for myself. I was lucky in that I had contacts through my job who were happy to give me work as a freelancer, including my ex employer (!), so I had a really good start. The only financial planning I did was to take out a private pension and make sure I starting paying my NI contributions!

I certainly don't feel 'secure' in the present climate, as sadly Covid19 has decimated my business, and I think it is unlikely to recover as all my work comes from the arts and entertainments sector - one of the worst hit. At least one of my major clients has closed down completely and I can see others going the same way. Fortunately I qualify for the SEISS grant and I have been surviving on that. I am using the time to work on something else - which may be able to replace my business as am alternative source of income, although it's going to take a few months to get it to that point.

The biggest challenge I've faced is what is happening now. In all the years I've been self-employed I've never been without work. I've had quiet times - the odd week here and there, but never like this - months without a single paid job. It's hard not to fall into a depression, and I would be lying if I said I haven't had a few sleepless nights wondering how its all going to end. However, I realise that thousands are in the same boat as me and I can either go under or try and adapt and change - which is why I am using the time to work on something new as a potential different way of earning a living in the future.

Strangeways19 · 05/10/2020 12:48

-How much of your time goes to managing admin tasks and responsibilities? Which are the ones you hate doing the most? Do you have anyone helping you with them?
I run a business and would say about 1 hour a day is spent on admin tasks. I hate dealing with bank and money the most, seeing whether customers have paid and chasing them up is really something I hate doing. I run the business as a partnership with my husband (who does the most boring stuff which isn't admin!)
-If there was one task that you would never do again, what would it be? Do you have any hacks or workarounds to help you with less enjoyable admin tasks?
Dealing with tax returns, We now have an accountant who helps us with these tasks, (this is the best hack for me), find a good accountant and a good report program such as quickbooks accounts, this has been brilliant for me and has allowed me to hand over my accounts responsibilities
-What led to your decision to become a self-employed or freelance worker in the first place? How did you prepare for that step? What kind of support did you seek and who or what was there to support you?
I feel like it wasn't really a choice - I find it really hard to work under someone, I am far too independently minded - after I decided to work home based I trained which took 2 years in my job, then I just did it, I had my husband to support me with allowing me to train in the first place, it has paid off though as he is now part of the business as its been successful
-As a business owner or self-employed individual, how do you plan financially and decide on your goals? Do you feel financially secure in the current business climate?
We have put money aside in case of another lockdown and this has had to be good enough, we don't really know what will happen but in our role, we know that there will always be a demand so aren't that worried about customers not being there
-And finally, what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it
It is very demanding and I was working lots of hours up until lockdown, I felt very tired and burnt out - this is the hardest challenge I have faced, we were closed down for about a month when there was a national lockdown, this gave me an opportunity to reassess my goals and rearrange my hours to make them more manageable.

Boofay · 06/10/2020 04:24

I'm a self employed, registered childminder and I also have a handmade children's clothes business.
For both businesses, I spend a lot of time doing my own admin. For childminding, it's daily risk assessments, child registers, covid cleaning schedules and daily checks. Monthly, creating and sending invoices and various emails to parents - including information about their children's development and information about my business. Then less frequently, I need to update my policies, complete training, fire drill paperwork, ensure my regulations and legislation is up to date. Annually, completing self assessments... I'm sure there's a lot more I can't think of right now.
There's a lot of hours behind the scenes completing admin. I suppose I enjoy things like invoices, and updating policies the least. I definitely do not have any help with my admin - it's all completed by me.
With my other business, there marketing, website editing, adding new product lines etc, social media, processing orders on the website, producing packing slips and postage labels, ordering supplies etc.


My tax return is the task I wish I didn't have to do. I hate doing it and it's take so long and is confusing. I wish I could hand it over to someone else to do. I have no workarounds sadly. Just sitting down and getting on with it. Setting aside a couple of days to focus on the miserable task!

The decision to become self employed was based around my children. I wanted more freedom to be around them and dictate my own hours. To be able to work from home and not need any extra childcare for them. Preparation involves taking courses, creating my own policies and procedures, ensuring the correct route of applying to be a childminder was met, making my home safe for others and sitting an interview of sorts with the inspectorate. I sought help and advice from PACEY - the childminding association, the local council services and from peers. Advice was practical in the form of courses and the offer of help with some paperwork.

I plan financially by advertising ahead in year blocks spaces that will become available so I don't have long period where I'm not working at capacity. I have a monthly wage in my head and I make sure I have enough families on my books to ensure that. I definitely do not feel secure in the current business climate. Covid regulations could cause me to shut down immediately due to full lockdowns or isolation periods. Plus, families may need to give me notice at any time if their circumstances change, which has already happened.

The biggest challenge I've faced was surviving the national lockdown this year. It was scary, and still is scary. I survived it with some government help, support from the families and cutting my spending. I'm not sure I've fully overcome it to be honest. It's such a scary time at the moment.

Lemming20 · 06/10/2020 09:30

I have always thought about it as a side hustle. But to be honest the pandemic has totally put me off. Correctly or incorrectly, I am grateful for my employment and the safety that’s providing. Admire the bravery of freelancers!

alena6969 · 06/10/2020 15:46

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S00LA · 06/10/2020 15:51

The thing I hate with a vengeance is book keeping, I don’t mind most other aspects of admin. I don’t have anyone to help with it right now, but I’m thinking about it.

fishnships · 06/10/2020 18:06

Luckily DH is an accountant, otherwise I would have felt too daunted by the admin to even consider becoming self-employed.

LittleMissPips · 07/10/2020 00:15

I am on the verge of launching a new business to promote the importance of self-care and support that through offering a range of branded products that encourage mums to pamper themselves,relax and recuperate.

At the moment, I'm loving all aspects of it, although it can be difficult to manage eith having 4 children under 5 at home the majority of the time (thank goodness for nap times and that they all go to bed easily at the momen!!). I'm already dreading all the accounts related admin though...definitely a task I will need support with!

I decided to start this business for many reasons; I wanted something of my own, something to challenge me, something that works around my young family and allows me to work from home and avoid heavy childcare costs! But I also wanted to help mums make time for themselves...we give so much to our children and family but must remember to look after ourselves too.

Financially, it's definitely a worry that I am investing so heavily into something that may never pay off. We can only hope at this stage that I do get this business off the ground. I also worry that the current situation means people may be less willing to spend money on the sorts of 'luxury' products I am offering. Time will tell!

The biggest challenge is simply time management. What should be a 10minute task can take over an hour when you're trying to fit it in between feeding a baby, changing a toddler, playing with a preschooler and fitting in the school run, but, where there is a will there is a way and somehow I've managed to make it work this far! Wish me luck :)

Realitea · 07/10/2020 07:52

-How much of your time goes to managing admin tasks and responsibilities? Which are the ones you hate doing the most? Do you have anyone helping you with them?
I have two small businesses, one is education based and that is the one with the most admin. It takes about 20 hours a week and the worst bit is the accounts. I do have a book keeper but I do the majority of it myself.

-If there was one task that you would never do again, what would it be? Do you have any hacks or workarounds to help you with less enjoyable admin tasks?
I would say the accounts again! I would love to find some cheap software that tracks payments and when they've been missed to save time going through the bank every few weeks to keep track. I'm sure it's out there but I haven't looked in to it yet.

-What led to your decision to become a self-employed or freelance worker in the first place? How did you prepare for that step? What kind of support did you seek and who or what was there to support you?
It just happened really. I saw an opportunity and I wasn't working as my dd was very young and I saw I could work from home which was how I always wanted things to be. I read up on the gov website and that was it really, I was away! I have lots of friends who are self employed and they shared their advice which has really helped.

-As a business owner or self-employed individual, how do you plan financially and decide on your goals? Do you feel financially secure in the current business climate?
The businesses make just enough for me to get by on, they don't generate a huge income at the moment but I have faith that they will eventually. My goal is to have enough money to be comfortable.

-And finally, what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?
When the pandemic came along, that was a challenge. We moved out teaching online and with my other business (Hospitality) I just took the cut. It has bounced back but I don't know what winter will bring.

reignitingmyflame · 10/10/2020 12:51

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