Friday, April 29, 2022

Thinking Of Being Self-Employed? Some Thoughts From An Independent Private Practice Therapist

A photo of Target, because he's handsome
I've been self-employed for over 25 years now but there's one thing that still gets to me: an unplanned free day.

Crazy, right? Year in and year out I've made my business targets, fed myself, housed myself, and made enough to put money aside. Success by any standard.

But show me a day with no deadlines or planned income and my radar goes off. If there are two days, I'm nervy.  Three days, and I'm deep in backup plans.

Last time I had three unplanned free days was about 10 years ago. That's when I was still freelancing as a writer or content provider as people call it now.

I was sitting by the pool on a Wednesday, a happy luxury benefit of being your own boss, and there was no work for the rest of the week. So, I did some cold calling.

Usually, I plan on one in ten returns, so I called five new companies and pitched, expecting five fails and having to hit another five. Much to my surprise, three of them hit, and I didn't see the pool again for months :-)

Back in 2013, I saw the writing on the wall for content writing, and put myself through school to add a Masters in Counselling to the Degree in Psychology. I reckoned a portable job in that market would suit me, and took the risk.

I put a year's writing profit into the education, and gave up some of my time for two years as well. In total, I reckon I paid some RM50,000 in direct fees and lost writing income to get that education and new career set up.

Overall, it was the right move. I have a sustainable business that's portable, and I love what I do. I'm still writing on the side as well.

Today I have an unexpected day off. I had one last week too. I did consider worrying but decided against it. Now that I'm older and wiser, I'm watching Midsomer Murder, writing a chapter of the next Trigger Cullen novel, cooking a fancy schmancy dinner, and clearing out a drawer that's been bugging me. 

Because I've had several months of having way too much work, and I expect that in a week or so, I'll be pressed again.

Why am I telling you all this? Because the economy is tanking worldwide, because salaries are insanely low and so many people are thinking that it's better to go it alone.

I love being self employed but it's not for everyone. Here's three tips I think make the difference between make and break.

#1 Know what you do. As a therapist, I make complicated things simple. I'll work with you to figure out what's going on, and to lay out options. I'm also incredibly secretive, so you can talk and nobody will know what we talk about.

As a writer, I sell reliability. Once I say yes, you can leave me to do my job. Whatever it is I said I'd deliver will be on your desk. And probably early.

#2 Be able to sell yourself.  If you can't tell people you're brilliant, and exactly why they need to hire you, you won't get business.

#3 Be ruthless about money. You have to chase payments, or know how to weed out clients who don't pay. Otherwise you get work but no income.

If you're thinking of going it alone, I hope this helps.

And if you want tips from friends who are also self-employed, check out the FB post and add your own tip too