Have you always dreamt of being your own boss? Co-editor Martyn Sibley talks about his experiences of becoming his own boss, the highs and lows as well as his top tips to get you started.
I can remember visiting my dad’s office as a child. It was very clear in my mind that being a builder, fireman or soldier was going to be tricky. Therefore to work in an office, have my own desk and my own phone, just like my dad, was a great dream to have.
As I was writing my masters dissertation in 2006, I realised I should begin thinking about, and looking for, a job. I know now that considering your strengths, ideal work/life balance and interests are a must. However, we all have to try things in order to learn.
I did look at jobs in ‘the city’ to match my economics and marketing degrees, but some concern did ring in my ear. I have Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) which means I have minimal strength. Although my care support enables me to have a full life, the only threat to my health is winter colds and chest infections. With this in mind, I feared employer discrimination and worsening health in a high pressured environment.
Then, randomly, a job at the disability charity Scope came up in my parents’ home town, Cambridge, where I was to return after uni anyway.
I applied, got the job, established my limits, learned new skills and gained experience before promotion to London came. My further 4 years there saw me work on great fundraising projects, run multiple training sessions and much, much more.
However, I did find Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, tiring. Especially in the winter. I also longed for more freedom and autonomy, both on work projects and to see the world.
It was time to take the leap of faith and start something of my own, to be my own boss. So, in July 2011, I left Scope to run my own social enterprise. There was undoubtedly a risk, but I had the following already prepared:
• A registered limited company with bank account and money ready to support me initially.
• A business plan explaining my product (articles, videos, e-learning and a magazine) so I had clear goals set out.
• The place I’d work from – at home and online, so I wouldn’t have any extra overheads.
• My promotional channels – social media, which is largely speaking free.
• Some initial income streams.
I’ve now been working for myself for over 18 months and it’s been tough, but amazing! I work more hours, have less money and higher pressure than before. Nonetheless, I have delivered some amazing work, grown the business, become a spokesperson in the media and seen more of the world. And, as for my health, the winter of 2011/2012 was my best yet and all thanks to my freelance work.
There have been many highlights, from the success of my Webinars, eCourse and dConference, to being able to volunteer in Spain, and appearing on BBC Breakfast to conducting my Epic European Disability Roadtrip. Of course, the success of Disability Horizons and the impact it’s making for disabled people is one of the top highlights.
But, when there are highs there often must be lows. Having no regular monthly income, working long hours with my brain constantly ticking over and not having the time to do more projects is tough. However, these don’t outweigh the awesome things I have been able to do.
So, for anyone thinking of self-employment, here are my top 5 tips:
1) Spend time thinking about what your ideal job is. Consider your strengths and weaknesses and how you can play to these. Also think about the knowledge you have gained so far in your career or in education and the contacts you have made. Begin researching other people in a similar field, and even speak to them to gain as much insight as possible
2) Don’t leave employment on a whim and don’t rush into being your own boss. It can be a gentle, low pressure option as long as you plan well beforehand and consider all the options. As they say, be prepared or prepare to fail.
3) Consider the health benefits of taking this route. You won’t get the same advantages as you would when employed by someone else, although you will benefit from being able to work your own hours to suit you.
4) Be flexible, take new challenges and learn from mistakes. Only in time can you mould the absolute ideal scenario.
5) Once it all adds up on paper, then go for it! It always takes a leap of faith, things will go wrong, but just try.
I think you’ll find my eCourse on employment useful, and it’s free. Should you have any specific questions, please do get in touch!
By Martyn Sibley