After seven years of working for other people, I finally decided to take the leap into self-employment starting from the beginning of 2020. The appeal of working on your own terms and the potential financial rewards are incredibly alluring, yet the financial insecurity and the potential loneliness can be intimidating to say the least. Thankfully there is a never ending bank of wisdom to be passed on from those who are more seasoned in the world of self employment than myself. Having recently been on the receiving end of some of this advice, I decided to pass on some of these wise words from a few particular individuals.
Jonny Elwyn (https://jonnyelwyn.co.uk) is the author of ‘How to be a freelance creative’, blogger and Video Editor. We connected recently after I read his book and he gave me the following advice…
My biggest piece of advice would be around networking. I have coined the phrase, ‘net working is not working’. It's slightly cheesy but it couldn’t be more true. Too often when you attend a networking event someone approaches you and starts a conversation they are simply trying to work out if you can help them in some way. Seven seconds into the conversation you are getting the vibe they think you can’t and they have already moved on. This is not the way I think business should be done. The key to networking is to be out to give rather than take. You must think long term. You are not working, you are sowing seeds that in time, may be fruitful and by not just being worried about what you can get out of it.Taking this approach to networking will also be far more enjoyable.
The other piece of advice that I would give, is develop more than one source of income. Obviously I’m not suggesting that you retrain in a completely different profession, but rather would suggest that you find a flexible side-hustle that is linked to the main focus of your career. For example, I write articles about video editing. This keeps me up-to-date with the industry, connects me to new people and demands that I learn new things. These are all helpful elements to furthering my career in post-production. It’s also flexible enough to fit around my other work commitments, which makes it an ideal second source of income. Having a flexible side-hustle will help with cashflow and can also be a lot of fun as well.
Alastair Humphreys (www.alastairhumphreys.com) is a self employed adventurer, author and keynote speaker. He has cycled around the world, rowed across the Atlantic, and most recently busked across Spain. After reaching out to him a few years ago, I was lucky enough to help him create his latest video in which he takes on his great fear of playing the violin in public. You can see that video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dYQk1s4bW8.
He gave me the following advice...
"The biggest bit of advice I would give is to get an accountant. It sounds simple, and you may think that it's an unnecessary cost, but I wish I had got one when I started out, it would have saved me so much time and stress. The other main piece of advice I would give, is to find a space to work that is not at your kitchen table or on your sofa. Again, it may seem like a money saver, but you will not produce your best work if you work from your sofa. You are only one bad decision away from watching daytime television in you pyjamas! It's nearly impossible to switch off when you are not working if your work space and your relaxation space are the same place.’
Jonty Herman is a film-maker and a fountain of wisdom on self-employment. He is an old friend of mine and has a ridiculously impressive network of contacts. He even recently met the Pope.
He gave me the following advice…
The first thing that I would say is to make sure that you look after yourself. You, your brain and your skills are obviously the biggest assets in your one-man company. The instability of self-employment can be incredibly stressful and disorientating, so I think its incredibly important to counter that by keeping good routines. Try as hard as you can to stick to regular bed times and regular times of work, the payoff for your mental health will be worth it!
The second thing that I always advise people is to choose which projects you work on based on relationships rather than money. It’s important to think about the type of person that you want to be and the kind of people that you want to be around in ten years time and choose clients based not that. It’s easy to end up prioritising money over relationships and personal development, but personally I would advise against it.
The last thing that I would say is to tend to your online portfolio of work meticulously. I never get asked about my degree by potential clients and that took me four years to complete. However I only spent a day or two organising my portfolio of work which is the dealmaker for most of my clients. Make sure your Portfolio is easily accessible and as high quality as possible.
Whilst these pointers are incredibly helpful, I also appreciate there is still an endless amount of helpful information to learn about the world of self-employment. If anyone else has any wisdom they would like to share with me, please do get in contact. I would love to hear from you.