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  • Writer's pictureSaffron Sumner

The Dark Side of Self-Employment in Your 20s: A Field Guide to (Barely) Surviving

Ah, self-employment in your 20s: the freedom to work in your pyjamas, answer to nobody, and let's not forget the joy of chasing unpaid invoices.

Seriously, who wouldn't want a piece of this glamour? If you've embarked on this wild rollercoaster of being your own boss in your prime, well, hats off to you.

Or perhaps, "you poor soul." The line gets blurry.

Say Goodbye to a Regular Paycheque

Remember the good old days when money magically appeared in your bank account every month?

Yeah, those days are gone. Now, it's more like a sporadic rain shower in the Sahara desert. Sometimes it pours, and sometimes… crickets.

Overcoming Tip: Budget, budget, budget! Get intimate with your finances. There are heaps of apps out there to help you manage the uncertainty. Be prepared for dry spells and save for them when you're in the money.

AND. Delegate to an accountant to help you with this (and your finances) when you can.

Work-Life What Now?

When your bedroom is your office and your kitchen is the boardroom, boundaries might as well be mythical creatures. Suddenly, it's midnight, and you're typing away, wondering where the last 12 hours went.

Overcoming Tip: Dedicate a space for work and ONLY work. Even if it's a tiny desk in the corner. When you leave that space, work ends. Create a routine. Maybe even dress up (gasp!) to mentally transition into work mode.

Work-Life… Balance? Is That Edible?

Ah, the ever-elusive concept of a balanced work-life. Before self-employment, "work-life balance" might've meant clocking out at 5 pm and truly leaving work behind.

Now, it's like trying to juggle flaming torches while riding a unicycle on a tightrope. Challenging?



Absolutely not.

Let's delve into this mystery, shall we?

The Blurred Lines: When your sofa becomes your workspace, and your pet cat doubles as your colleague, distinguishing between "work time" and "me time" can be like finding a needle in a haystack.

With no boss breathing down your neck, and Netflix just one click away, distraction is your new middle name.

Overcoming Tip: Stick to a schedule. As mundane as it sounds, structure can be a lifesaver. Begin your work at a set time daily.

Take scheduled breaks. Lunchtime isn't just for scoffing down a sandwich while replying to emails; take an hour off and refresh.

All Work and No Play: Let's face it, self-employment can sometimes mean working longer hours. Without a distinction between home and office, you might find yourself answering emails at midnight or brainstorming at dawn. And while burning the midnight oil can feel like dedication, it's also a one-way ticket to Burnout Central.

Overcoming Tip: Prioritise. Learn the art of saying "no." Not every project needs your immediate attention. And remember, it's okay to take a day off. Your business won't crumble if you decide to binge-watch a series on a Tuesday.

The Guilt Trip: Ever felt guilty for taking some time off? As if enjoying a sunny afternoon in the garden is a cardinal sin? Welcome to the club. But remember, leisure isn't laziness. It's recharging.

Overcoming Tip: Allocate guilt-free leisure time. Whether it's an evening walk, a hobby, or even a cheeky nap - schedule it. You'll find that these small breaks often lead to greater productivity. A well-rested mind is a creative one!

The Importance of Personal Space: Even if you live in a shoebox apartment, designating a specific spot just for work can make all the difference.

Every time you sit there, your brain will associate it with productivity, and when you leave, it's a symbolic end to the workday.

Overcoming Tip:

  1. Personalise your workspace.

  2. Make it inviting but distinct from the rest of your home.

  3. When work's done, leave this space and engage in non-work activities. Physical detachment can work wonders for mental detachment.

Mental Gymnastics: Navigating Mental Health in the Self-Employment Maze

Ah, mental health. It's like that cousin you never really spoke to at family gatherings, but over time, you realise just how significant they are.

And in the world of self-employment, where you're the boss, the employee, the finance department, and sometimes even the janitor, mental well-being becomes as vital as that morning caffeine fix.

The Silent Workmate: Let's face it; working solo can be lonely. No more chitchats at the coffee machine or venting about that tricky client over a cuppa.

Just you and the daunting sound of silence (or perhaps a Spotify playlist if you're lucky). This isolation can, quite sneakily, lead to feelings of loneliness or even bouts of anxiety.

Overcoming Tip:

  1. Embrace virtual connections.

  2. Join online forums or groups tailored to your industry.

  3. Engage in webinars, virtual coffee breaks, or even digital co-working sessions.

Or better yet... join a community like ours!

You can chat, vent, ask questions and give advice all in our private group.

Impostor in the Room: Ever feel like you're just winging it? Waiting for someone to unveil your 'grand act'? Welcome to the notorious' Impostor Syndrome'. When you're steering your own ship, self-doubt can often sneak aboard.

Overcoming Tip:

  1. Reflect on your achievements.

  2. Create a 'brag file' - a collection of all your positive feedback, successful projects, and milestones.

  3. Whenever doubt creeps in, flip through this file.

It's tangible proof of your capabilities.

Emotional Rollercoasters, and Not the Fun Kind: The unpredictable ebb and flow of work can make your emotions swing like British weather. One day, you're on top of the world, sealing deals, and the next, you're drowning in self-pity with no emails dinging.

Overcoming Tip: Establish a self-care routine. This isn't just about bubble baths and face masks (though they help!).

It's also about mindfulness, meditation, and maintaining a journal. Track your mood, identify triggers, and develop coping mechanisms. Remember, seeking professional help is okay if things get too cloudy.

The "Always On" Syndrome: In the digital age, switching off is more challenging than it sounds. Being constantly plugged in, replying to emails at ungodly hours, or endlessly scrolling through competitors' social media can mentally drain you.

Overcoming Tip: Designate tech-free times. Maybe post-dinner or before bedtime. Dive into a physical book, take a nature walk, or simply daydream.

Disconnecting occasionally helps you reconnect with yourself.

Marketing & Sales: Your New BFFs (Because You Can't Afford Others Yet)

Hark! Do you hear that? The soft, gentle whisper of your empty wallet, urging you not to splash the cash on fancy marketing and sales teams.

Well, fear not, dear reader, for in self-employment, every penny counts and wearing multiple hats becomes second nature.

Welcome to the exhilarating circus act of being your marketer, salesperson, and product – all rolled into one. Hold onto your hats, it's a wild ride!

Being a Jack of All Trades, Master of… Some: Remember those art lessons you half-heartedly attended at school or the drama performances where you were tree number three?

Who knew they'd come in handy when crafting an Instagram post or pitching to a client over Zoom? Surprise!

Overcoming Tip: Upskilling is your best mate. Thankfully, the internet is bursting with free resources. Websites like Coursera, Udemy, or even YouTube tutorials can be your virtual professors.

We love learning from experts on LinkedIn too!

Crafting Your Personal Brand: You might not be selling cereal, but branding is as crucial for you as for our dear old Cornflakes.

You are the brand. Your values, your story, your unique flair - these are your USPs (Unique Selling Points, for the uninitiated).

Sales, Without the Sleaze: Many associate sales with pushy reps, cold calls, and endless spammy emails.

But, dear self-employed friend, this isn't the '80s anymore. Sales, in this era, is more about building relationships and trust.

Overcoming Tip: Listen more, pitch less. Understand the needs of your potential clients and tailor your offering accordingly. Focus on the benefits you provide or problems you solve.

Personalised communication is key. Also, networking doesn't mean shoving your business card in everyone's face; it's about genuine interactions. Remember, people buy from people.

The Digital Playground: If you think social media is just for cat videos and dance challenges, think again. Platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, and even TikTok are powerful marketing tools. The world is your oyster (or, in this case, your audience).

Overcoming Tip: Engage, don't just promote. Create valuable content that resonates with your audience. Webinars, how-to guides, or even behind-the-scenes glimpses can humanise your brand.

And while at it, don't forget to slide into those DMs (professionally, of course).

Who Needs Benefits Anyway?

Sick pay? Holiday pay? Health insurance? They sound like tales from a far-off land. Welcome to the thrill of self-employment, where every day is a gamble on your health and sanity!

Overcoming Tip: Look into private health insurance. Or better yet, preventive measures – eat your greens, take your vitamins, and for the love of all things good, get some sleep!

A Constant Thirst for Validation in Self-Employment

Remember those occasional praises or annual performance reviews? Goodbye, external validation. Hello, self-doubt! Every unanswered email might just spiral you into an existential crisis.

Overcoming Tip: Connect with other self-employed individuals. Sharing your experiences, milestones, and challenges with peers can give you that much-needed pat on the back. Remember, an inbox doesn't determine your worth.

Taxes are a (Not So) Fun Puzzle

When you thought maths in school was the hardest thing, enter the world of self-assessment taxes. There's nothing like a fun puzzle to keep your brain sharp, right?

Overcoming Tip: Invest in an accountant or use tax software tailored for the self-employed. They'll help you claim those much-needed deductions and keep HMRC off your back.

The Constant Hustle in Self-employment

The grind never stops. Even if you've just completed a massive project, you're already hunting for the next one. The hustle might feel exhausting, especially when your mate Gary is lounging on a beach in Bali (thanks for the constant Instagram updates, Gaz).

Overcoming Tip: Remember to schedule in downtime. It's essential for your mental well-being and creativity.

Also, if the work doesn't flow in, use that time to up skill. Webinars, online courses, or even reading a book related to your industry can pay dividends later.

To wrap it up, yes, self-employment in your 20s is a mixed bag of joy and despair.

But with every challenge comes the opportunity to overcome, learn, and grow (as cliché as that sounds).

Besides, think about all the fantastic tales you'll have for the grandkids – about the time you almost sold a kidney because of late invoices or when you attended a Zoom meeting without trousers.

Stay strong, stay true to yourself, and remember, you're not alone in this topsy-turvy journey.

Loved this blog? Check out this blog - a cool productivity tip!

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