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View Full Version : The trials and tribulations of being self-employed



Layla Nahar
04-04-2015, 12:09 AM
So, I want to be self-employed because I hate that as an employee someone else controls your time. But ... if I look deeper, heck - I just like loafin'. I just wanna loaf all my days. But I can't do that. You have to not only do the work of your business, but you also have to do the work of making yourself work if self-employment is going to be a success. I used to go to a bike shop where the owner had a coffee mug that said 'My Boss Is An Asshole'. It's pretty funny, but after a second you go - oh yeah.

So, my main hope is that I become more efficient. Then I can loaf more. So that's where I am with it, self-employment. Just wondering if anyone else out there has any observations, whining, etc about being your own boss.

Pyekett
04-04-2015, 12:28 AM
If you're self-employed, any vacation you take is a double hit financially. There's the cost of the vacation plus the fact that nobody is bringing in income for that period of time, unless you have special arrangements.

Taxes. God, sorting out the taxes.

If you employ others, there is drama. There is always drama. And if you don't bring in money, then the people dependent on you cannot pay to feed their kids.

On the plus side, you can decide with whom to work. That's worth a helluva lot. You can also fix things that aren't working. That's pure gold.

Layla Nahar
04-04-2015, 12:32 AM
If you're self-employed, any vacation you take is a double hit financially.

Zomg! That's a good point!

Pyekett
04-04-2015, 12:33 AM
It is profoundly painful. You save up twice as long for the same trip.

Parametric
04-04-2015, 12:37 AM
The vacation issue is a real killer. There's nobody to take care of my clients if I'm not working, so I'm always worried they'll ditch me and find someone else. But I can't do my best work without the occasional break. There are a lot of employment benefits I'd love to have - not just paid vacation, but pension, sickness cover, etc.

shadowwalker
04-04-2015, 02:31 AM
There's also the possibility of the feast-or-famine income. One month you've got masses of money - the next you're wondering how to eat.

ishtar'sgate
04-04-2015, 02:57 AM
I'm self-employed with a home office and for me that means the office is NEVER closed.:rant:

Maze Runner
04-04-2015, 03:08 AM
Yes! To the above post. You're never off. You own the business and it owns you. But for me it's preferable to putting my life in the hands of people who are undeserving of it. Most often, I found, the people you work for, whether a supervisor in a larger company, or the owner in a smaller company aren't going to care about you. But, the work, the work! you work harder not less. Loafing you do at your own cost, but I still find time to loaf.

You might give it a shot Layla, see how it suits you. Try to do it in some business that you have some interest or capability or contacts in. And try to do it in a business that won't require a big start-up investment. So, in case you go bust, it won't be the end of the world.

Brutal Mustang
04-04-2015, 03:12 AM
I'm a self-employed freelancer artist/Jane-of-all-trades, after years of working for someone else. I don't think I could work for a boss again. I love the freedom.

On the other hand, there's the taxes. The no vacation pay. The need to be self-disciplined and not loaf (it helps if you really love what you do; there's no feeling in the world to me like being engulfed in a painting for a few days because it's fun, and then selling it to buy groceries and pay bills).

Maze Runner
04-04-2015, 03:14 AM
I'm a self-employed freelancer artist/Jane-of-all-trades, after years of working for someone else. I don't think I could work for a boss again. I love the freedom.

On the other hand, there's the taxes. The no vacation pay. The need to be self-disciplined and not loaf (it helps if you really love what you do; there's no feeling in the world to me like being engulfed in a painting for a few days because it's fun, and then selling it to buy groceries and pay bills).

This is the ultimate. To be able to do something you love that also pays the bills, well, I guess that's why we're all on this forum. I don't love what I do for money, but I don't loathe it either. The best I can do for now.

Jamesaritchie
04-04-2015, 03:26 AM
Like every other type of work, it depends on how much money you make. You may write one book and become a multimillionaire. Most do not, but it's always possible. If you want to loaf, however, that, or a lottery ticket, is your only real chance.

I do take vacations, but most of them are working vacations. I can write five hours per day while on vacation, and still enjoy everything there. I do take a couple of non-writing vacations each year because I believe in refilling the well, but these are a slow cost as I can make them, and almost always close to home.

I really don't know what to say about loafing. Loafing and making money seldom go together. In order to make a lot of money, I think you have to really love what you're doing so much you wouldn't stop doing it, even if you made a billion dollars. Dean Kooontz is sixty-nine, earns twenty million per year, and still write from sixty to seventy hours per week. And I think he's taken only a couple of vacations in his life.

Really, how many retired writers do you know?

Doing nothing but loafing sounds a lot like waiting around to die. Isn't there something, anything, you love doing more than loafing? Something where you can earn money, and enjoy your working life at the same time?

The sad fact is, unless you hit the lottery, or inherit it, making money is almost always about hard work, and a lot of it. This doesn't matter in the least, if that work is something you love so much you don't think of it as work.

But I really don't know what to say, except if you want to loaf, writing is not the profession for you.

Have you thought about moving to a place where you can be a full-time beach bum? The retirement plan sucks, but you should get your fill of loafing.

WeaselFire
04-04-2015, 04:06 AM
Then I can loaf more.

Planning to loaf is planning to fail. Self employed means you are always on the clock. If you seriously want to loaf more, win a lottery, marry rich or become a criminal. Plenty of loafing time in prison... :)

Jeff

juniper
04-04-2015, 05:39 AM
My husband has been self employed for about 7 years. That means for 7 years I have been working at a job that provides health insurance, even though the job is not to my liking much of the time.

Also, my job means we have a steady income, to make sure the mortgage gets paid each month, no matter what does or does not happen in his business.

It took him about 4-5 years to get to the point where he was making a decent income. Of course, that depends on a multitude of things - what industry, how hard you beat the bushes, what you consider a decent income, and a bit of good fortune.

He says he'll never work for someone else again. That pretty much means I will be doing that, unless his income doubles ... and sometimes that causes a bit of stress between us. :rant:

Brutal Mustang
04-04-2015, 08:38 AM
I really don't know what to say about loafing. Loafing and making money seldom go together. In order to make a lot of money, I think you have to really love what you're doing so much you wouldn't stop doing it, even if you made a billion dollars.

This is very true. I work sixteen hour days, seven days a week, largely because I love it. There are days I wish I could have time off from painting and sculpting. But the fact that I love what I'm doing makes this kind of grind bearable.

Weirdmage
04-04-2015, 12:20 PM
As juniper mentioned above, money can , and most like will, become a problem in a relationship where only one person brings in the cash. I think the lottery is a better bet to finanvce loafing.
Maybe the best bet is if you have actually managed to be born in a country with a good social security safety net. But that can be psychologically stressful, and they might make you do things that cuts into your loafing time. And it's called a social security safety net so it is not designed for loafing anyway, it's designed for not being able to get employment.

If you really want to work as little as possible, then you have to be prepared to live on a minimum amount of money. If you are happy with just money for living expenses and food you can probably get by on two days a week working (on an average). Best bet there is either temp work for x weeks at a time and using money just for living/food, so you can have periods of doing sod all between jobs. But if you do that through a temp agency, they'll usually give teh jobs to those who always say yes. Saying no to work could mean getting no work later.

If you don't have a huge inheritance coming around the corner, there is so much luck involved in being able to have enough money to loaf around that I don't think you can plan for it. The closest I can think of is educating yourself to work in a high paying industry, then working close to 24/7 for 10-15 years before retiring. If you want to loaf around without working for the money first, I think you are most likely not going to be able to do that.

Putputt
04-04-2015, 12:56 PM
You pretty much have to be the Jack of all trades. I worked as a wedding photographer and it was hella tough the first year and a half or so. I foolishly thought it would just be me taking pictures (yay!), but nope. I had to:

-Be responsible for my own website (enter Mr. Putt, and even with his help it was a pain). The website was pretty much the biggest headache for us. We had to do SEO and, when the business grew, we had to learn how to add stuff like an online shop where people could buy prints etc. The first time we did it I managed to fuck it up and had to reprint am entire batch of pictures. Ouch!)

-Taxes. Enough said.

-Marketing. You're responsible for the growth of your business. The amount of time you put in can be directly linked to the growth. I researched endlessly and reached out to other photographers in my area to network, as well as other wedding vendors etc. If you participate in a fair, for example, you're responsible for everything: fliers, pamphlets, goodie bags, the showcase itself and so on.

-Costs. Your business will have start up and on going costs. Insurance, travel, equipment, and so on.

-Difficult clients? Well you're SOL. You can turn them away, and I have, but if you're like me, you'll probably wonder "What if...?" until you get another booking for that date. And if you don't turn them away, you only have yourself to blame when shit hits the fan.

-YOU are your own brand, so you have to make sure you go above and beyond to make your clients happy. If they're unhappy, trust that they will tell all their friends about it and you will definitely lose out. I made sure to under-promise and over-deliver and I often threw in a couple of unexpected freebies like a mini album, which cost me less than $100, if I felt like the couple was the type to recommend me to their friends. It worked, but it does cut into your profits a little bit. (Worth it though!)

-You'll have to know when to delegate. When I first started, I did everything myself. But when the business grew, I couldn't possibly edit every picture myself, so I hired an editing company. You have to be very firm, because like I said, you own your brand, so I'd still look through every single picture the editing company edited (over 1000 per wedding, sometimes 2000) until I felt like my eyes were going to fucking burst. If I felt like a particular picture needed precise editing, I'd have to do that myself.

I didn't have too much trouble with vacation times. I just went when it's low wedding season (read:winter) and I knew I wasn't losing out on too many weddings anyway.

Um...so yeah, being self-employed is great because if the freedom it gives you, but tbh I ended up working a lot harder than when I was working for someone else. Also, by the time the business grew to become nicely profitable, I decided that I really hated weddings. :D I loved taking pictures of people in love, but screaming aunts, drunk groomsmen who don't get the meaning of "not interested, also, I am WORKING", brides and grooms who aren't talking to each other because they had a fight the night before, apoplectic grooms who can't stop raging about HOW DARE THEY SEND THE WRONG FLOWERS DO THEY KNOW HOW MUCH IT COST US IT WAS TENS OF THOUSANDS OF POUNDS while the bride cries in the corner...yeah, no thank you. I'd say 80% of the weddings I did were awesome, but that 20% is enough to make me start dreading my job.

shakeysix
04-04-2015, 05:25 PM
I grew up in a self employed household. I remember two vacations in twenty years, both times my dad was on the phone-- pay phones in filling stations--all the way to and from Colorado. My mom and dad both worked at our store, one spelling the other off, so I have memories of evenings meals with my dad or my mom but seldom both together.

Taxes were always a surprise. The money was never predictable--it came in gluts and droughts. September until Thanksgiving was always tight. Christmas and harvest were great. Our grandparents had cattle and gave us a butchered cow when we needed it. We had to take it whole--in little white paper wrapped packages. No freezers in those days. The meat was kept in a locker at the butcher's so we had to drive and pick up what we needed. We ate a lot of beef, down to the shanks. Steak when we were starving and couldn't afford anything else. Hot dogs from the A&W were an expensive night out.

Dad said self employment was kind of like farming, we had to constantly save for unforeseen crises. We didn't buy stuff on credit because we couldn't be sure we could make every payment. When you are self -employed you have to pay your bills or people won't pay you. We even bought cars with cold cash.

There were jars and stacks of money everywhere. There was a huge barrel bank that held loose change--no pennies allowed. The pennies were rolled and banked monthly. When the the barrel bank was full and only Dad could pick it up, we would roll the money and buy something for the house. Our first color tv was paid for with loose change. It also bought a ping pong table, our musical instruments and Mom's first electric organ. When times got tough the barrel bought the groceries. (Sometimes the barrel treated kids to the movies but that was a guilty secret.)

There was also a stack of twenties under Dad's razor case and a stash of five or six one hundred dollar bills in his binocular case. That stash was for medical emergencies only. My birth and delivery cost only 49$ so 500$ was a decent medical nest egg in those days. In 1959 my sister was hospitalized for rheumatic fever and wiped out the whole binocular case. Dad had to go back to work on the oilfield to replenish the medical fund. Later, when we were teens, he went back to work as a driller while mom ran the store, so we 3 kids could go to college. Luckily he was working for an oil company when Mom was diagnosed with cancer. He had health insurance, forced on him by the company and something he bitched about monthly, but Mom said if he hadn't had it we would have lost the store.

My parents were ...well, the word irascible comes to mind but I'll say eccentric instead. They were extremely intelligent but Dad quit high school to enlist in the marines the day after Pearl Harbor. Mom married dad after only one year of college, her major was music because she was rich and never thought she'd have to work. There wasn't a lot they could do to earn an upper middle class living. Dad hated farming, Mom hated it worse, but neither liked to take orders. They were both quick to point out stupidity when they saw it. I could not see either working all their lives for someone else. From time to time they took on second jobs. Dad went back to the oilfield as a hand--good wages but very dangerous. Mom played the organ at a family restaurant--yes, she was the loopy seventies lady belting out "Tie the Yellow Ribbon." (God, how we all came to hate that song!) dad liked to hunt and fish. Mom liked to play the piano and the organ, read, sew clothes--neither loafed but they did have time to do the things they liked to do.

Self employment is risky. Loafing has nothing to do with it but temperament does. Some people simply cannot work for other people. My sibs and I have that problem. Try as we might to be civil, we have to correct stupidity in our superiors when we see it. I am glad that Dad and Mom managed their money well enough to get my sister and me through college. We both do jobs we like and if we don't like the people we work for, we can find another job. I speak fluent Spanish as well as teach English. My sister is a special ed. teacher. We do our loafing in the summer.

Our brother is a machinist. He does the work of an engineer but is paid as a machinist because he dropped out of college before he earned an engineering degree--a degree my parents were paying for while they paid his child support so he could go back to school. (It was a piece of cake but he could not see it.) From time to time he has these hare brained schemes to go self employed, like prospecting for gold or free lance engineering on pirated soft ware. (Ukrainian soft ware is not good for your computer and they stop speaking English when you want a refund.) They never work out because he thinks the whole thing out and then loafs the opportunity away. --s6

Calla Lily
04-04-2015, 06:15 PM
My folks owned a gas station with 2 repair bays for 40 years. They were up at 5 am M-Sat and worked until 6-7 pm. People called them at the house number in the middle of the night to come start their cars (until they got an unlisted number). Our house was next door to the station on the same property. People knocked on our door on every single holiday because even tho the station was closed, they figured that we'd come out and work on their car or give them gas anyway.

Outside in all weathers. Plowing out the station 3X a day during winter storms. The regulations. The fees. Anyone remember the gas crisis from the 1970s? People pulled guns and knives on my father and grandfather, demanding gas.

To the OP: You want to be self employed so you can "become more efficient, and then loaf more"?

If you go into self-employment with that goal, you'll lose everything within 5 years, max. Your house, your savings, your car, everything.

If you're not driven and dedicated and a textbook self-starter, don't do it. Trust me.

WriterBN
04-04-2015, 06:33 PM
I was self-employed from 2000-2007, went back into the corporate world when the economy collapsed, and back into self-employment in 2012 when we decided to relocate. All the while, I've been the sole source of income in our family.

As others have mentioned, think about it really, really hard if you're planning on going down this road. The financial ups and downs are not for the faint of heart. Not to mention the double whammy of paying for very expensive health insurance and paying higher taxes.

I don't regret the decisions I made. I'm much happier than I was when I was employed by someone else, even though I'm making less money. I work 12 hour days, 7 days a week in some months. In others, I can take a weekend in the middle of the week if I need to. The flexibility is worth it for me.

juniper
04-04-2015, 09:55 PM
Try as we might to be civil, we have to correct stupidity in our superiors when we see it.

Yeah - that makes it hard to work for someone else, or with others, if you don't respect them. I live that nightmare everyday. My tongue is quite sore from all the biting on it. And I still let some slip through, or roll my eyes, or shake my head ...


The flexibility is worth it for me.

And this is one of the best parts of being self-employed. I have to put in for vacation time months ahead - and it still might not be approved - but my husband just ups and goes. He may take some phone calls while on vacation, but he doesn't have to get approval to go.

Jamesaritchie
04-05-2015, 04:53 AM
Well, one thing no one has mentioned. You can always become a politician. I've known a few, and most did as little as possible, except when election season rolled around, and even then I'm not sure you could call what they did "work".

Jamesaritchie
04-05-2015, 05:18 AM
As juniper mentioned above, money can , and most like will, become a problem in a relationship where only one person brings in the cash.

It shouldn't be, assuming the one job pays enough to support both people. One income families are the traditional norm, and millions still live this way.

Not having enough money to go around is what causes most money issues. If all the bills and monthly needs get paid, if a percentage goes into the bank for the future, and if there's a sizable chunk left to give both people a pretty fair amount of not only of what I need money, but also a good chunk of what the hell money as well, one income doesn't matter.

mccardey
04-05-2015, 05:24 AM
As juniper mentioned above, money can , and most like will, become a problem in a relationship where only one person brings in the cash.


It shouldn't be, assuming the one job pays enough to support both people.

And assuming the relationship is founded on really strong ideas of respect, equality and sharing. But that can get tricky. I've seen a lot of families where one parent ran the home and family - and then got shafted. It shouldn't happen, but it does.

Jamesaritchie
04-05-2015, 05:25 AM
Taxes have never bothered me as a writer. I have to pay quarterly, which is a bummer because of the time involved, but nothing is very difficult to do, primarily because I always have more than enough put back in a tax fund.

I don't like having to pay both halves of the social security tax, and teh medicare tax, because that's something like 13.3% right off teh top. A little better than it used to be, but still a pain.

Anyway, taxes are one area where I think writers get a bit of a break.

Jamesaritchie
04-05-2015, 05:31 AM
And assuming the relationship is founded on really strong ideas of respect, equality and sharing. But that can get tricky. I've seen a lot of families where one parent ran the home and family - and then got shafted. It shouldn't happen, but it does.

Sure, it happens, but the shafting can go both ways, and I don't think it's usually about the money. Assuming enough money is coming in where everything gets paid, and where each has enough money to do what they want, money is usually an issue only after there's a serious relationship issue.

At any rate, a relationship not based on these things isn't likely to last, anyway.

I've never gone through a divorce, or a bad relationship, really, but I've seen plenty of people get the shaft. Money was seldom the issue, until after everything else fell apart.

mccardey
04-05-2015, 05:34 AM
At any rate, a relationship not based on these things isn't likely to last, anyway.

That's true. To OP, the bloke and I have run our own business all our married life. I can't imagine any other way - it's been brilliant. Hard work, and a fair bit of stress, but hard work is good, and I'd rather stress about things that I can control than about someone else's decisions.

L M Ashton
04-09-2015, 05:11 AM
Not all self-employment is the same. Really.

I started in self-employment back in 1994, I think - give or take a year. I was an accountant back then (so yeah, taxes are not a problem). I became self employed because the company I had been working for was terrible - abusive and run by bullies. My first month of self-employment, I was making more than the last month of employment. And I had no clients set up when I quit that job - just one good contact who sent two or three clients my way that first month.

In employment, I was always that person who did the same amount of work as three or four other people. I'm freakishly good at accounting, at sorting out huge messes, at making sense out of chaos. And most of the clients I ended up getting through the years were in chaos when they hired me. So being lazy? Nope.

If you're not able to just get to work and get things done, self-employment won't suit you. If you're not able to get and keep things organized, you may need to hire an assistant. Whatever you do, if you can't do your own books, then hire an accountant sooner rather than later.

Things I've learned by doing the books for dozens and dozens of small and very small businesses:

1. Don't go into debt to start a business unless you have no choice. The more debt you take on=the more likely the business will fail.

I've seen businesses start with a huge loan, a brand new car, an office, a secretary, and so on. I've seen businesses start on a shoestring budget with zero big purchases and a home office. Guess which one is more likely to succeed? Spending money to make money does NOT always work.

2. Do a business plan. It doesn't have to be fancy. It doesn't even have to have complete sentences. But do it. Make sure you include a SWOT analysis and a marketing plan along with a budget. Really.

The point of a business plan for yourself is to help yourself figure out how to market your business, what kinds of goods or services to offer, what your competitors are doing, what won't work, what can work, and so on. It helps you hone the details of what you can do to increase the probability of succeeding where succeeding is defined as staying in business and paying you a sufficient amount.

3. Keep track of expenses and revenue from the very beginning. If you don't know where your money is coming from or going to, then how can you possibly know if your business is working well or if it could work better?


That's all I can think of off the top of my head.

My husband is also self-employed, has been for around a decade. He gets paid waaaaay more as a self-employed person than he would ever get as an employee. We know because he has head hunters approaching him and they never offer him as much money as he's already making.

Sure, there are risks on being self-employed. But so what? There are risks on being employed, too. Employed people have one income stream. You get fired - you no longer have an income stream. Self-employed people tend to have multiple income streams. One of those income streams fail - well, okay, but there are still so many other income streams still going, so it's merely a hiccup.

I doubt either one of us will ever go the employment route ever again. We prefer working from home. We like having no commute, having time to play, not being as stressed, eating homemade food where we know what the ingredients are and where we know it's healthy. We like being able to take off at a moment's notice (we've taken two trips in the last couple of months where we knew a week or so before that we were going - one for a client.) We like being able to see movies in the middle of the work day when the theatres are empty. We like doing our shopping - when we actually do go out - during the day when the shops aren't packed.

Living the employed life is not for us.

Living the self-employed life is not for everyone, though. It has different stressors, different requirements.


Edited to add: We've taken the husband's business from Sri Lanka to New Zealand, Singapore, and Malaysia. We've incorporated in multiple countries, and I've learned the tax requirements for both corporate and personal tax for each country, along with visa requirements that enable us to live in each of those countries. This adds an additional layer of complexity, but on the other hand, in our case, self-employment has meant that we've been able to live in multiple countries, which is always fun. For us, anyway. :)

absitinvidia
04-10-2015, 10:45 PM
If you're in the US and would only have access to health insurance under the ACA, I'd take a long, hard look at the available options before I'd give up group health insurance. Depending on where you live, you may or may not have access to an affordable health plan. The health insurance situation for the self-employed is a million times better now (at least for me; I'm saving 10K a year under the ACA), but it's still not great.

johnrobison
04-11-2015, 07:24 AM
Having been self employed for 30+ years, I think it took more hours/harder work to get established but now there is more freedom at work/work is easier. On the downside, as others have posted, vacations cost double as you pay a price being gone from work and you pay for the vacation