Self Employment Success: My Advice

desk of a small business owner with a laptop and notice board

Making changes in your career or working life takes real courage. Your job is a huge part of what you do, for some people it even defines who they are- and so taking steps to do something new genuinely can be life changing. Making the leap from employment to self employed especially is a huge deal, when you've been used to getting a stable wage each month and having set duties to fulfil, becoming your own boss (with all of the flexibility yet uncertainty that can bring) can be pretty overwhelming. However, if it's something you've considered doing for a while, it really could be the best thing you've ever done. As a self employed person myself, I honestly couldn't imagine working any other way. Simple things like being able to work from the sofa cuddled up to my dog on a cold winter's day, or sitting out in the garden in the summer with a cold drink tapping away at my laptop is such a luxury and never gets old. If I want to pop out to the gym in the middle of the day or go shopping when it's less busy I'm able to do that. If I want to start work a little later, or get it done and out of the way early then I can do that too. Having this kind of freedom and the ability to work my own hours really enables me to fit work around my life, rather than the other way around.

Don't get me wrong, work is work whether you're at home or not. Just because you're at home doesn't mean it's constant relaxation- when you're self employed you have to be so self motivated as you don't have anyone there forcing you to do it. And if you want and need to make money (which we all do!) the work has to be done. But for me, it's such a nice way of earning and if you have the opportunity to do the same I'd highly recommend living this way. However, there are a few things you need to get right when you work for yourself which can be confusing in the beginning, so here's my advice to getting set up.

Getting your taxes just right
The biggest downside about working for yourself has got to be having to deal with your own taxes. However for me, it's relatively easy as I'm working from home with no major expenses and I don't hire any employees. The Making Tax Digital concept means everything can be done online these days, and just involves filling in a tax return once a year. HMRC then calculates everything for you, and lets you know the dates that it needs to be paid by. I like to pay monthly in advance for my bill, this enables me to spread the cost- but you could also create a savings account and pay the bill when it's due. Even if you're going to use an accountant, my advice is to get clued up on tax as much as you can so you have some idea of where you stand. In the UK, you can earn a set amount before you have to pay any tax (for 2019 it's £11,850). After this, you'll pay twenty percent tax on your earnings and you'll also pay national insurance. National insurance costs can be much higher than you'd think, I'd advise running your projected earnings for the year through a self employment tax calculator so you can find out how much you're likely to have to pay. That way you can be prepared for your bill.

Pensions
I recently wrote an entire post on pensions for the self employed which you can read here. When you work for an employer, they will usually contribute to a pension for you but this isn't the case when you work for yourself. It's up to you to get your fund set up and start paying into it. If you're leaving employment to work for yourself, you'll need to find out where your current pensions are being held and where to move them to. Along with budgeting for taxes, it makes sense to budget for your pension too and pay into it what you can.

Create a working space
Creating a proper place to work from is a smart move when your job is at home- as with any kind of work, you need to be able to concentrate and be productive. It's not to say you need to sit there all day every day, one of the great things about working from home is that you can tap away on your laptop from your sofa or your bed (I definitely do on occasion!) However, there's something about being at a desk that gets you in the right frame of mind for work, if you find you're getting distracted or aren't making good progress you can go and sit in your home office instead. This can be especially useful in the early days, while you adapt to your home and work being the same place. When you have your own home office, it can help you to maintain the balance between work and life better too. Once you're done for the day you can close the door behind you and know that's you done and dusted until tomorrow.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to work for themselves?

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