Recently I was talking to a contact about being self-employed and she said that she hadn’t realised how brave you need to be when you are self-employed. This got me thinking. When I decided to leave the corporate world 25 years ago I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, just that I was having no fun, despite all the trappings of success: secretary, large office, and a parking space in London. (This latter benefit was the one that people used to get very excited about!) When talking to my beloved about leaving and setting up a business my beloved said, “Well, you’ve never done bosses well” and he was right. I always wanted to have an input, even just a tweak, of any project. Often this didn’t happen, which was frustrating. I also seemed to be spending more time keeping the politics of the organisation away from my teams so they could get on with their work, which was draining. So I decided to leave.
I was lucky in that we could afford for me to not make money, but I found it difficult not to have money coming in as I set up my first venture, an interior design business. I went from having a role I understood, with money every month, with bonus and pay rise every year to complete uncertainty about what to do, when to do it, how to do it and not worry about income. Slowly I learnt, with a lot of help from people I met, people I already knew, and a government organisation called Business Link (now sadly no more) which provided help and advice. Brilliant… and free! In fact, I was helped by people I networked with. There were nights when I didn’t sleep, sometimes because I was excited and sometimes because I was frightened, and sometimes because I was excited and frightened.
But brave? No, I never felt that. The uncertainty suits my nature and I realised that I liked the uncertainty, the challenge of developing a business, finding opportunities and changing business, but this does not make me brave, it makes me happy. Some self-employed people might be brave, those that have to make enough to pay the bills, those that invest their redundancy money or savings to start a business. It does also not mean that those who are employed are not brave, because some provide stability for those, like me, who are having an adventure.
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