I’ve been my own boss for a few years now, and I find people are always a bit fascinated by what it’s like to be self-employed. Some dream of spending all day in your pyjamas, drinking champagne and fondling moonbeams, and some shiver at the thought of all the responsibility and the need to motivate yourself to get stuff done, without anyone else to pass the buck to.
It’s definitely not a lifestyle that would suit everyone, but personally, I love it. I love being in charge of my own work life, and focusing my energy on something that I genuinely enjoy. It’s awesome that I can choose to work only with people whom I like and respect. And it’s super handy to be able to take a day off when I need one, without having to ask someone else.
That being said, it’s not easy. If I’m not working, I’m not earning – so getting ill is always a worry, and it can be hard to really relax when I take time off. It’s tough to put yourself out there, particularly at the start, and convince people that you’re brilliant and they should hire you (I’m brilliant, by the way – you should hire me). And although my love for what I do is a great motivator, sometimes it can be hard to summon up that energy. Being your own boss is hard – and that’s why, like any good boss, you have to set rules and boundaries. These are mine.
Rule Number One: Never work in pyjamas. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t feel like my day has properly started until I get dressed. For me, it’s an important part of feeling like I’m ‘at work’, even if my commute does consist of the corridor from our bedroom to the lounge. I never work in bed either, which is another one I hear a lot. For me to be productive, I need to be at my desk and in work mode.
Rule Number Two: No screens at lunch. I’ll be honest, this is a newer rule and I’m having varying degrees of success with it. I usually spend at least the morning working at my laptop, and then if I don’t have recipes to test or photographs to take in the afternoon, I might come straight back to my laptop for the rest of the day. If I’ve got lots to do or I’m really absorbed in a project, it’s tempting to work straight through, but I’m really trying to get into the habit of taking a break – even if it’s only for 20 minutes. If I keep my laptop open in front of me, it’s so easy for the line to get blurry and for me to end up back ‘at work’ again, browsing social media or looking at recipes. So I read a book or a magazine instead, and when I move away from my laptop/iPad/iPhone screen I can feel myself relax. Plus, it stops me getting crumbs in my keyboard.
Rule Number Three: Leave the house. If it’s pouring with rain, then I feel profoundly grateful that I don’t have to go out and commute and get cold and wet. But I really try and make a point of leaving the house every day if the weather’s not horrendous. I try to have coffee with someone new every week as a way of expanding my network, and also usually have meetings or need to head over to someone else’s premises to take photos. I also love to work in my favourite coffee shops for a change of scenery. If I haven’t got any of those things on, then I’ll go for a walk at lunchtime – I have a couple of favourite routes but I also just love exploring Bath, because there are all sorts of leftovers from when cities were for people, not cars – hidden stairways, paths and look-out points, sunny little squares, interesting old buildings, trees in blossom. I particularly like to visit Landsdown Crescent, where, even though it’s now in the city, farmers still have the right to graze their sheep. When I get back from my walk, I always feel refreshed and energized for the afternoon ahead.
Rule Number Four: Take holiday. I get such weird responses to this – when I say that I’m taking a week off, people look at me like I’ve suggested getting a butler in to iron my newspaper. Somehow if you’re self-employed, people think it’s indulgent for you to have time off. But that’s so unfair! In a ‘normal’ office job, you get holiday. You also get weekends off, which I don’t always, if I’m going to events, working on a big project that isn’t directly related to clients (like building this lovely new website), or I just have too much to fit into the week. So I make sure I take a couple of weeks a year, and not just for things like Christmas, but also when no one else is off work. I like having my own space, so a week of me-time where I can go to the park, read, see movies, and catch up on my sleep is absolutely lovely. It’s also crucial to plan these holidays in advance, rather than work until you burn out and then you HAVE to take a week off, to cry under the duvet. Stress is not a status symbol, people. Work hard by all means, but give yourself time out too.
Are you self-employed? What are your rules for the workplace? Leave me a comment and let me know.