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I expect that the majority of those reading this have heard the saying “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” a hundred times.  But unfortunately it’s not always so easy to take the plunge and dive into self-employment, and nor does the lifestyle suit everyone.

Whilst there are huge benefits to being self-employed, there can be a few negatives too.  Sometimes people think it would be their dream life – they can work to their own schedule, set their own routine of tasks, galivant off on adventures whenever they wish to and you don’t have to answer to anyone. 

In reality, this is true to some degree, but you also do need to consider that you will no doubt still have deadlines to adhere to, things that need to be done as soon as possible, and, if you are anything like me and my business – your business will become all encompassing and you will put far more hours into work within it than you would if you were otherwise employed.

I’m certainly not going to sugar coat it.

It can be hard. 

The struggle to gain consistent sales or a consistent income is, well, a struggle!  Especially in the early days of your business building journey when you are constantly juggling so many plates and trying to decide what you should be doing and when.

Owning and running a handmade business is unlike running any other business type.  You are not just buying something in from a warehouse, receiving the stock and then chucking it out for sale on the likes of Ebay and Amazon.  Our stock building process is so very different, and our feelings towards that stock equally so.   Sometimes we can be too attached to what we make and fail to see it critically through the eyes of others, sometimes we need to understand that no matter how much we love to craft something, it may just not be a profitable seller  – or gosh, there may not even be a market for it!

Time for the hard kicking, boot up the bum reality check.

Let’s get real and look at the pros and cons of self-employment and building a handmade business.

Cons:

  • Lack of Consistent Income.  I know I touched on this, but it really is a huge issue for those wanting to take the plunge.  Being self employed means that your income can fluctuate and there is no guarantee that consistency will ever be thing.  There are certainly ways and means that can help you gain regular sales, but with self-employment you are never going to have anything like that paycheck in your bank on the same day of every month.  I recommend that if you are planning to go down the self-employed route you have a contingency plan in place.  If you can, set aside a fund of money that can be dipped into when the need arises.  Planning and preparing for the worst outcome is definitely something to think about – no matter how positive in mindset you usually are, and how fly by the seat of your pants type of character you – do be prepared for the leap or else you are going to end up so stressed and desperate to succeed that it could prove to be counterproductive.
  • No Set Working Hours.  This is particularly true if you work at home like so many.  It can be difficult to split that whole life / family / work balance and it can take time to gain a routine that really works for your situation.   Try as I might to set the usual 9 to 5 working hours, I fail miserably and it’s not unusual for me to be working until the early hours creating content or researching ideas.  Burnout is a definite possibility so we need to remember the self care and take a break!
  • Loneliness.   Yes, we live connected to an online world, able to reach out to hundreds of people daily across our social media platforms.  But do we really feel totally connected when we do?  If you are the kind of person that loves the workplace banter, that thrives with the colleague community and friendships, then the sudden wham bam to solo existence may not be for you.  Of course, you may decide to rent a workshop or space with other business owners and/or creatives which gets around this issue.  Another option is to ensure you make time to get involved in ‘people seeing’ activities such as your local business network or regular meet ups with friends so you aren’t feeling cut off. 
  • Organisation and Responsibility.  As a business owner, everything falls on you.  You have to structure your days, learn necessary new skills, make important decisions, decide on priorities, keep all the necessary paperwork and receipts up to date, sort out taxes, insurance, and any necessary safety certifications and legal stuff is kept up to date and compliance kept.  Oh yes, and the buck stops with you.  If you are the kind of person that works better when instructed and told what to do and likes others to be in control, self-employment may certainly be a struggle – BUT remember that magical things happen when you are out of your comfort zone, so who knows – you may be an awesome self-boss! 
  • You may be the official juggler of all plates.  Particularly when starting out, you may be the be all in your business.  I think this is especially true for many hobby turned business owners, starting out on an absolute shoestring of a budget.  So many handmade business owners are the only stock creator, the customer service operator, the sales manager, the content creator, the brand designer, the complaints department, the accountant, the receptionist, the supplies buyer, the website designer, the packaging and posting rep, the social media manager..  The list goes on and on.  You won’t be able to just post-it note a help plea to Steve in Customer Services to sort out a missing parcel, or Cathy in Sales to follow up on an enquiry for you.  It’s all down to you – at least until you can afford to take on an assistant!

But there are amazing positives too – so let’s focus on those now that I have you shaking your head with why-on-earth-would-you-ever-want-to-eyes.

Pros:

  • You don’t have to get dressed!  Pyjama days and working can really be a thing!  (Unless you have to do annoying things like school runs every day -then I suggest you invest in boots and a long overcoat to hide your pyjama sins).  And ladies, yes it’s true – you don’t have to even wear a bra!  Bliss.  No uniform dress codes to adhere to, you can wear jewellery, paint your nails AND make up or no make up.  Freedom. 
  • You can have messy hair!  (Unless you are one of the unfortunate school run folk as mentioned above – if so I suggest you invest in a hat to go with that coat).
  • No commute – so more time at home, isn’t that the dream?
  • You don’t have to ask for approval to take a day off, to visit the beach on a sunny day, or walk the dog for longer than the usual 10 minutes around the block, and heck, you don’t even need to return to work after lunch!  You are the one that sets out the plan for your day.  If you fancy working late, you can.  If you fancy an early start because you can’t sleep, you can.  If you fancy working in the morning, shopping in the afternoon, and working again in the evening, you can.  You are on flexi-you-time. 
  • You can earn more.  You aren’t limited to your earning capabilities in the same way as you are when you are employed.  You don’t have the same sort of earnings ‘ceiling’ that you do when receiving a paid wage.  Your earnings are dependant on you, not your boss or workplace.
  • Ill Health or Ill Child Woes.  No more awkward phone calls to make those ‘excuses’ about why you can’t come in today.  No more cringing as you know you will here the sharp intake of breathe and the sighing toned ‘what again?’ response as a long term ill health struggler,  No more panicking about needing child care because your child is too ill to go to school (in most cases, I’m not going to say it’s always easy to work around poorly children – I am raising six of the darlings, I get it).   As a chronic migraine sufferer, it’s my ill health that has pushed me to be self-employed.  My migraines are so frequent and unpredictable, and so debilitating – mentally and physically – that any employer would soon tire of my time off.  When a migraine hits I have vision problems, speech and co-ordination issues, concentration problems, and severe sickness, let alone that actual devastating pain that makes me want to shrivel up and disappear.  With it happening anything from a few times a month to a couple of times a week, I am truly not worthy as an employee – BUT working for myself I can rest when I need to and work when I feel good. 

And now for the big one:

  • YOUR ARE BUILDING YOUR OWN DREAM instead of working for someone and helping them build theirs. 

Something to ponder?

Oh and don’t forget – if you are looking for a supportive community and a helpful hand as you start your handmade business adventures, join us in the membership!


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