Stress Free Transition to Self Employment: A Case Study
Craig Sorabji worked in the UK wine business for many years. He then decided to go out on his own and set up a specialised wine importing business. The business proved successful but Craig is all too aware of the pitfalls of self-employment, particularly stress.
Eyes Open“I wanted to be self-employed from the moment I left school. But I didn’t actually start my own business for almost twenty years. When people ask me why, my response is simple: Stress.
“I’ve seen too many people throw themselves into self-employment and end up suffering from stress and overwork. Stress is a killer: it can lead to a breakdown in health and even long-term incapacity or death.
“I know this sounds dramatic but you need to be sensible about self-employment. You can succeed without too much stress but you need to start a business – whatever your profession - with your eyes open.
Background“First of all look at your background – and the background of the business you hope to be in. Ask yourself some frank questions: do I have the skills for this business? Do I have the knowledge and the contacts?
“Naturally, whether you’re employed or self-employed, you tend to learn as you go along. But be careful about plunging into self-employment without the skills and resources to get you started.
Personality“I’ve heard a lot of talk about needing the right personality if you want to be self-employed. I’m not sure how much credence to give all this talk but I do know you need to be flexible. A self-employed person, generally speaking, needs to be prepared to bend with the wind. What’s more, you have to combine this attitude with robustness and determination.
“It also helps to keep an open mind and to be aware that you may have to accept knock-backs and move on. And you need some of the qualities of a salesperson if you’re to drum up work and keep it coming.
“If you can’t maintain this sort of approach, stress creeps in. Too often, I’ve seen it lead to ill health and depression.
Planning“To help you, ensure you plan ahead. If you’re in employment and you want to strike out on your own, start thinking like a self-employed person. Make notes about what you intend to do and how you want to do it. Use your experience as an employed person to inform your self-employment ideas.
“This is what I did for about five years before I went self-employed. I’m not saying you need to have such a long lead-in time. But you should start considering what you can do now to make your transition to self-employment seamless and stress-free.
Part-Time“You might also have the chance to do what I did: go Part-time in your employed role and set up a part-time business. I admit you may not find this possible, but if you can switch to part-time working at least you have money coming in on a regular basis while you get your business off the ground.
Finances“One of the major causes of stress when you become self-employed is money. You wonder if you’ll earn any, where it will come from and whether you can pay all your household bills.
“There’s no easy answer to overcoming this problem. As I said, part-time working and a part-time business can help but this isn’t always possible. Ideally, you want to start a business with some capital behind you to cushion you from financial setbacks. But again, it’s not easy to gather enough money together.
“Nonetheless, you must remain aware that you need money whatever line of work you’re in. So before you become self-employed, make sure you’re not putting yourself in a position where you could become bankrupt.
“I found that a detailed business plan helped me get through the first couple of years. The plan showed how much money I needed and what I expected to earn. The plan certainly eased the potential stress of those first few vital months of working for myself.
Mortgages and Loans“Finally, I must say something about Mortgages and Loans. Once you’re self-employed, you may find it difficult at first to borrow money – unless you’re successful from the off. Don’t expect financial institutions to treat you in the same way they treat employed people.
“Also plan ahead with regard to any existing mortgage, car loan, etcetera. Don’t let self-employment put you in a position where you can’t meet these major bills because of poor cash flow, for instance.
“Be aware of this and the other issues I’ve mentioned and keep stress at bay – it can ruin what should be a great experience.”