The perception of self-employment

Being self-employed has it’s ups and downs. A lot of them are obvious. But it’s not the isolation that gets me down, or the convenience of being able to manage school runs that makes it great.

The hardest thing about being self-employed is perception by other people.

1. The housewife.

Friends who don’t work assume that you are home all day relaxing. They ask you out to 3 hour lunches or to go on shopping trips. Refusal is apparently a form of rejecting their friendship.

They pop in for coffee just as the courier is due or need to discuss their recent personal drama, while you are conscious that your deadline is looming and emails are calling forlornly from your inbox, waiting to be read.

Woe betide you if you grab 10 minutes to dash into the nearest supermarket for some urgently needed loo roll. The neglected friend will almost certainly be there to witness your leisure time and interpret this as a deliberate spurn of their company, prompting lengthy text messages querying why you no longer care for them.

2. The in-laws.

There is no greater distraction that the in-laws. Knowing you are home, they feel this is the perfect time for a quiet chat about your partner and how he looks so tired and wan, no doubt due to his having to work such long hours to allow you the luxury of playing at home all day.

Since you are at home, now would also be a great time to talk about how often the children are left along to play on games machines, or to ask you to organise great-aunt Martha’s birthday.

The in-laws are always careful to play both sides, praising you for trying so hard at your little business while highlighting how messy the house looks, despite you being there to hoover during the day.

3. Employers

If you are looking for a mixture of part-time work, or even want to return to work full time, future employers see ‘self-employed’ as a warning flag on the CV. It doesn’t say self-motivated or decisive. Self-employed is CV code for ‘slacker who can’t work as part of a team and has issues with authority.’

4. Schools

Schools are always in need of help and funds. Having no boss to answer to means that your skills and services are apparently on offer to the school for free – at any time and with no advance warning. Of course you can spare a few hours using your skills and resources to help them out – a few hours that turn into days and weeks of projected issues and calls.

And after all that,  why wouldn’t you want to sponsor the team strip  – after all, it’s advertising for you.

5. Family

Your own parents tell you your work is boring and keep you updated on how well cousin Margaret is doing working for that large corporation while observing that if you had a cleaner you would be less stressed. They don’t cost that much, after all.

Your kids tell you that you spend all day on the computer and have no time to play. They make sure you are aware of how their best friend’s mum plaits hair and irons socks every morning.

Your husband asks how long you will be ‘building things up’ as meanwhile there is no spare cash. He wonders why you need to spend time building relationships with a client that doesn’t immediately provide you with a year’s guaranteed work. He remembers that before self-employment you had a high wage and holiday pay, but forgets that you didn’t have school runs and child care, school uniforms and swimming lessons to manage.

It seems that unless you make thousands a month while only working 2 days a week, being self-employed is just an excuse to please yourself.


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