Thursday, 22 January 2015

Self Employed | How To Get Started On A Career Of Your Own Making

It's Work From Home Week this week, and though this doesn't just apply to people who are self employed, it's a good time to discuss it!

Ma Bicyclette: Self Employed | How To Get Started On A Career Of Your Own Making - Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new Albert Einstein inspirational quote

Ma Bicyclette is made up of 5 creative women from the North of England, and 3 of us are lucky enough to have created our own careers from the comfort of our own homes. So, we must have had some guiding light that showed us how to get it all right, right? Wrong. Mistakes and blunders should be expected, all you can do is learn from them and keep moving forward. We're here to give you a few tips on self employment before you're able to make mistakes - we're not miracle workers but we've been through it all!

Let's Talk About Money

Whether your self employment is product-based or service-based, it all starts at the same point. The first thing you think about is "how will I pay the bills?" which is a great question and to be honest there's no perfect answer than work damn hard and don't flitter away the money you do earn.

Self employment can be a slow start with little to no traction. What you have to keep in mind is that everything starts this way. With a LOT of planning and savings to fall back on, you shouldn't have much trouble. This is obviously a lot harder than everyone would like, but it's theoretically a great idea to have a month's wage in savings, or at least enough to pay for rent, bills and food, in case you get ill, your computer dies or there is just no work.

  • One really important thing you need to consider is what you spend money on that you really could hold back on. Think about how much you buy because you 'like it'. Everything you buy when you're tight for cash should be a necessity - this includes a new swanky Mac and work desk. See these items as a luxury that you will reward yourself when you're making serious money. 
  • No matter what your financial situation, do not get a loan. Things may be tough, but you can live within your means, it just takes some serious planning. Don't create more problems just to be financially comfortable. You will get there, you just need to have faith.
  • For those not lucky enough (or prepared enough) for savings, like Nicola and Steph B, you have to be willing to get stuck in on day 1. Forget those days of feeling sorry for yourself because you're poor, forget the fact that your TV is a metre away and your favourite episode of Friends is on, it's time to knuckle down and get into the swing of 9-5 work. Only you can get yourself to where you want to be, it's time to take responsibility.
  • Have a clear idea of how much money you will spend each month that you can't change (rent, bills, food). Times this by 1.34 and this amount will be your minimum monthly wage goal. The 0.34 covers tax you will pay on your minimum wage goal.
  • The more money you earn, the more tax you will have to pay, so you need to keep on top of this. Use this Income Tax Calculator to work out how much you will have to pay. Keep this in a seperate account ready for when you have to do your tax return.

Ma Bicyclette: Self Employed | How To Get Started On A Career Of Your Own Making - Focused, hard work is the real key to success. Keep your eyes on the goal and just keep taking the next step towards completing it. If you aren't sure which way to do something, do it both ways and see which works better. John Carmack inspirational quote

Add Structure To Your Day

9-5 may be what you're trying to avoid by going self employed, but let us tell you honestly, it may not be strictly those hours, but if you want enough money for bills and a social life you should be willing to work 8 hours a day - at least. The only situation where this may not be applicable is if your skills are worth £50+ an hour and you're in demand - but come on now, are you at that stage yet?

Although one of the perks of being self employed is the flexibility of when and where you can work, Steph H finds that it really helps when you give your day (and week) some sort or structure.

  • For day to day, the most important thing is to get up and GET DRESSED! Lazing around in your pyjamas may be comfy but it will only make you feel lazy. This may seem really obvious, but when you're in your own home and the kettle is calling to you to make a brew every half an hour you can feel a little too relaxed. So, get dressed and open those curtains.
  • Secondly, give yourself breaks. If you're working at a screen you should work in bursts of 25 minutes. Apps like ClearFocus (for Android) and Pomodoro (for iPhones) are great at reminding you when to give your eyes a rest and to stretch your legs. 
  • Have fixed times for bigger breaks, so 10:15am and 3:30pm you may take a 15 minute break to relax, read some blogs or scroll through Pinterest. At 12:30pm have your lunch away from your desk. Stand outside to get a bit of fresh air into those lungs and treat yourself to a cup of tea to perk you up for the afternoon. Breaking up the day into manageable chunks keeps you motivated, and setting yourself short and sweet breaks means you're less likely to wander around the house and spend an hour cleaning the kitchen in procrastination.
  • Most important of all, is to give yourself days off. Weekends may not work for everyone, but having a couple of days to recharge means that you're fresh and ready to go at the start of every week. Knowing that in a few days you get a break, gives you a boost to keep on working. Of course there are some weeks when you have to let this rule slide, catching up after holidays or particularly busy times of the year, but in general, tidying your desk at the end of the week and switching off from everything is totally beneficial. When you are at work, work. When it's the weekend, recharge.

Social Media & Networking

Nicola is a self employed Social Media Consultant, so her first port of call is social media promotion. It doesn't matter what you do - whether you're a salesman, a copywriter, a designer/maker, a frickin freelance scientist, social media is a necessity. We're not saying go now and sign up for every social media channel possible, because you really should be selective. Let's say you're a designer/maker or specialise in B2C (business-to-consumer), creative social channels like Tumblr, Pinterest or Instagram were made for you! If you specialise in B2B (business-to-business) services, then Linkedin and Twitter are a must. Create a plan and take into account who you need to reach and engage with, how much time you realistically can spend on it and just get started.

In terms of networking, the idea either makes you jump for joy, or cringe and sink deeper into your chair. But don't fret! There are hundreds of networking events and yes, you will get events that are just not right for you, but there is always something out there that will be perfect and it's just a case of searching and testing things out. Take business cards and if you're shy, find another shy person and develop a mutual bond. There's nothing wrong with being introverted or shy - you have to remember that when you walk into the room, you're not going to be the only one who's thinking it was the worst decision they made that day! Remember that there's always a possibility of finding another person with mutual interests and dispositions to you.

Ma Bicyclette: Self Employed | How To Get Started On A Career Of Your Own Making - To be yourself in a world that's constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. Ralph Waldo Emerson inspirational quote.

Set Goals

Goals come in all shapes and sizes, but let's wait before we get into the details. When you're thinking about the year ahead, have big goals to reach by the end of the year, but only break those down for the first 6 months. Tackling 12 months worth of mini goals is way too much pressure - plus, if you're not reevaluating your goals after 6 months then we doubt you have a clear idea of where your career is heading anyway.

So, what kind of goals should you be thinking about?
  • Anything that you have left after bills, rent, food and tax should be divided 70/30. 70% for your social life, 30% for savings. No matter what you earn, you can always afford to put money into a savings account - you just have to be strict with yourself. This will also come in handy if you have trouble getting work!
  • Product or Service deadlines - set a number of new products you plan to create or number of clients you intend to take on each month. Build from 1 or 2 a month to a number you would like to consistently reach every month thereafter.
  • Pricing - if you're giving a service like design, consulting, writing etc, then your hourly rate may go up as you gain more experience. Set goals to tick off so you can justify your changes in hourly rate.
  • Set yourself personal goals you want to achieve outside of work. Make a mood board or Pinterest board to remind yourself of why you're doing all of this.

Most importantly, be yourself and look after yourself, don't let anyone tell you that self employment isn't possible! Some people just don't like the idea of anything they don't understand.

 Nicola, Steph B & Steph H

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