The pros and cons of running your own business. This article is written from the perspective of a freelance photographer.
-Arguably more stability
-Sell something you believe in and are in control of
-Every day is different
-Dropping into a multitude of industries for an hour, a day, a week
-Personally nurturing your relationships with your clients
-Doing something you can’t “complete” — (in photography the learning curve is endless)
-In recessions / pandemics you tend to receive less support
-Less access to lucrative pension schemes
-Harder to get a mortgage
-You’re never really off duty
-You can lose a hobby
-Limited sick pay options
I’ll elaborate some of the points starting with the pros. I love waking up knowing I’ve chosen my activity for the day and scheduled that according to my lifestyle. There are three types of day (in my head) 1) a work day with a photo shoot, 2) a work day without a photo shoot and 3) a day off. None of this clear cut however and business and pleasure often seem to meld regularly. All of this makes me feel very “free”.
I love stepping into a plethora of industries. I’ve dipped my toe into solar energy, organic farming, accountancy, skin care, education, waste disposal, politics, sport, conservation, alcohol, law, banking, fitness, retail, nuclear energy, software you name it! I learn so much when I’m on shoots, I like to get a thorough understanding of my client’s trade, this helps me to sell them with my photography. I like to know what’s good about their brand, what’s their USP, what’s their business culture like etc.
I have 50 regular clients, I know their names, I understand their service/product. When we work together regularly this doesn’t need explaining every time. I like to interact with my clients on social media and support their endeavours. I find all this very rewarding and my warmth for my regular clients comes from an authentic place.
I’ll now address the cons. The cons surfaced especially during covid, us self-employed were treated like second citizens, we had our ability to earn stripped from us, but also given no support for the first four months, that was really hard verses those employed folk given support via furlough.
Applying for a mortgage as a sole trader is near impossible, they take your profit and minus off your average spend on e.g., mobile phone, electricity etc. I explained to the brokers a high percentage of these costs come out of my turnover not profit, but sadly the system isn’t set up for that consideration and “the computer says no”. The result is extremely modest mortgage offers, even with a deposit and decent turnover.
The one con that was inevitable was the loss of my hobby, photography was a pastime of mine for ten years previous to starting my business. Once one does anything full time, the appeal of doing that in one’s free time certainly dampens. I still enjoy phone photography, but find my professional kit too heavy to take on holiday etc.
On reflection it looks like majority of the cons are money based and all the pros lean towards happiness and fulfilment. This balance sits in line with my core values, which is most likely why I’ve had this longevity in one singular trade. However, it’s been a useful exercise for me to give this some thought 17 years in. At 27 years trading I may feel differently!
Please note this isn’t a criticism of anyone in employment these are my own thoughts and values which are personal to me. Your values may well differ to mine and the idea of being self-employed may well fill you with horror (which I could totally understand lol)!