Going it alone: How to prepare for self-employment

For many, going it alone is the ultimate career dream. Gone are the days when a rigid 9-5 structure ties you back; you are your own boss, and you can do whatever you want (within reason, of course).

However, preparing for that last ’employed’ day is daunting. This is the point where all guarantees turn on their head, and you’re left to your own devices. 

As we’ve seen over the last couple of years, an increasing number of people have decided to bite the bullet and carve out that self-employed life. If you are considering jumping into this category, let’s look at some of the ways you can prepare. 

Get your finances in order

One of the biggest concerns for those making the switch to self-employment is the security of their finances. This is especially relevant in the early stages when your income may be sporadic.

There are a few things you can do to help ease this transition. Firstly, make sure you have a solid savings cushion to fall back on. Secondly, make sure you understand your monthly expenses and what you need to cover them.

This isn’t just about creating a safety net for you and your family; it’s about giving your business the best chance possible of benefiting from sound, strategic decisions. After all, if you know that you simply have to earn ‘x’ amount in your first month of trading, you will make rash decisions from the outset.

Set your boundaries

One of the great things about self-employment is that you set the rules. This is your business, and you can mould it into whatever you want. However, it’s important to remember that there are limitations.

Firstly, you need to be realistic about the hours you can work. Just because you’re self-employed, it doesn’t mean you can put in 18-hour days and expect it to be sustainable in the long run. Secondly, you need to be clear about what you are and aren’t willing to do. There will be requests from clients that you’re just not comfortable with – that’s okay, just say no.

Understand your paperwork obligations

As a self-employed individual, you have several different tax and legal obligations. It’s important that you understand these and put the necessary systems in place to ensure you’re compliant.

This includes registering for self-assessment, setting up a company (or becoming a sole trader), and keeping accurate records of your income and expenses. Unfortunately, these are only the basics – and don’t cover all of the specifics that can crop up in various trades. For example, let’s assume you’re going to set up as an accountant. As well as all of the above, you’ll need to pay for your own accreditations and even the relevant bookkeeping insurance.

It probably goes without saying at this point, but research is key.

Don’t fret too much; remember to enjoy the ride

One of the best things about self-employment is the freedom it brings. Yes, there may be some stressful moments in the early stages, but remember to take some time out and enjoy the journey.

This is your business, your dream, and you’re in control. It’s important to remember this and savour the good moments, as they will help you power through the tough times.