I’m back! Sorry I’ve been so quiet lately – the last few weeks I’ve been working flat-out editing The Family Trap, and I also had a few indexes thrown in for good measure. And there’s the ongoing decorating of my office, of course – photos and a vlog post about that coming very soon.
Meeting my deadlines was intense this time, and it got me thinking about self-employment for self-publishing authors (there are going to be a lot of ‘selfs’ in this post, I’m afraid). Pretty soon there will be a Self-Publishing tab on the top of the blog, with a step-by-step guide and lots of links to useful posts and websites, but I figured a good place to start is with the topic of working for yourself. Are you up to it? What are the benefits and the downsides? And how can you make it work for you?
A brief history
I’ve been self-employed in one form or another for many years. Back in 2000, when I was made redundant from a job I hated anyway, I set up my own mobile hairdressing business, which was super-successful and a lot of fun. Even further back than that I’d had forays into self-employment, usually with mad-cap ideas that never amounted to anything. Over the years I’ve come to realise that I’m one of those people who are unemployable. I always did incredibly well at interviews – until five years ago I had an unbroken record of never having failed an interview – but always, sometimes within only half a day in a new job, I would start to find things I hated about it. After a few weeks I’d start to see how the entire business could be run so much better, how pointless and tedious certain systems were, say, or how badly things were managed. After a month or so I’d get this itchy, breathless feeling and start thinking of all the useful things I could be doing with my life if I wasn’t forced to come into this place day after day … And this was often a job I’d been hugely excited about, had worked really hard to get …
So, I went off topic a bit there, but only to demonstrate that I was a nightmare employee, and clearly destined to work only for myself. These days I have two businesses – writing and publishing, and indexing. Indexing is something I love to do, I never get bored, always get a buzz when an editor contacts me and requests my services, and I can proudly say I have never yet missed a deadline (and those deadlines can be pretty short). The funny thing is that I work a lot harder for myself than I ever did for anyone else. Why is this? What exactly is going on here?
I recently said to someone (I act so wise sometimes), that to be happy at work, to have a wonderful job, first you need to be a wonderful employee. What I was trying to say was that even if you are employed you should work first and foremost for yourself – for your own sense of achievement and self-worth. And maybe that’s the key to successful self-employment – you have to be capable of motivating yourself to do the work, without a boss to set you deadlines, without a system of rewards and appraisals, without the security of a regular income. And this is where it gets really interesting …
If you work for yourself, you are the boss!
I think I’m a pretty great employee (of myself) because I have a great boss – me! I only ever ask myself to do stuff I love doing – or if I don’t exactly love it, I can see the point of it. I set realistic, but challenging, deadlines; I give myself a lovely environment to work in (hence new office decor); I’m a flexible boss, allowing me to work whatever hours I choose – as long as the work gets done, which somehow, by some miracle, it always does! And I pay my employee (me) in exact proportion to the amount of effort she puts in.
All authors are self-employed to a certain extent – once you start receiving royalties you need to register for Self Assessment with the UK tax office – but once you take the step into self-publishing, you really are starting a business. You need to deal with service providers – editor, proofreader, cover designer – and take on many new roles, such as marketer, promoter, scheduler. You need to keep accounts and log your expenses, you need to be professional and, if possible, have a business plan. At the very least, you need to set yourself goals.
So, is it worth it? Well, of course I’m going to shout YES from the rooftops! But only you can answer that question as it applies to your working life. Even the most low-key self-publishing author is going to find elements of self-employment seeping into their life once they’ve hit that Publish button, and it’s best to be aware from the outset what you are letting yourself in for. Self-employment is not for everyone, but if you can make it work for you, it offers a freedom like no other.