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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Being Self-Employed

I’ve been Self Employed most of my adult life and I think I’m pretty much unemployable after working for myself for so long.

Apart from a few part time jobs in the early days of my journalism career, in the last 20+ years I’ve been journalist, events promoter and social media marketer.

If you’re coming out of university, or maybe you’re in a job you hate, I wanted to lift the lid on the Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Being Self=Employed.

For those that don’t know me here’s an intro before I get into the full blog.

“I’m owner of Altrincham HQ – a social media management and training company based in Manchester that has worked with 1000s of local business developing their social media strategy.

Over the past 11 years I’ve built up an impressive training client list including the BBC, Manchester City, NHS, Selfridges, Costa Coffee, United Utilities, University of Manchester, Manchester Arndale and many more.

Each month at Altrincham HQ I spend 200+ hours per month managing marketing campaigns for businesses, so witness the Social Media changes in real time and action them.

A former journalist, whose blogs have been read by over half a million readers, I’ve also successfully ran an events company putting on 60 events a year which included a 15,000 capacity arts & music festivals in Manchester.”

The Self-Employed life is 100% for me, but this blog will help establish if it’s for you.


1. You Call The Shots
I’m not a control freak, but I do like the fact that I control my own destiny.

If I have an idea and I want to run it I get to make that call.

I don’t have to put it past a decision maker or a committee to get something approved.

It’s a joke in self-employed circles that committees are where all good ideas go to die.

“Calling The Shots” goes wider than just ideas – it extends to people.

It might not seem like this in the early days when you’re desperate for work, but in the long term you get to make decisions on who you get to work with. If you have a gut feeling about somebody or you don’t like them you can simply say no and choose to work with someone else instead.

2. You Get Paid For The Extra Hours Your Put In
A lot of my friends who work regular jobs will start work 20 minutes early or finish work 30 minutes late simply because of public transport timetables or they’re waiting for a colleague on the late shift.

They don’t get paid for that.

If I decide to work an extra hour today, I know that down the line there will be some payback for it.

Writing one extra blog today will generate me revenue down the line.

Turning up at a networking event from 5-6.30pm will win me a new client.

Spending 30 minutes on LinkedIn on the train ride home will potentially win me a client worth thousands.

If you work smart in the self employed world, you get paid for it.

3. Flexible Hours
As I write this blog it’s one of those rare Sunny Days in England.

I’ll be heading out for a couple of hours walk in the sun soon.

Tomorrow is my birthday and I always take my birthday off work.

I don’t have to work set hours if I don’t want to.

Naturally I have client commitments, so it’s not all relaxation, but working for yourself gives you the flexibility to choose your own hours based around your lifestyle.


1. Admin
Replying to emails, invoicing, accountancy, filing …

… I spend a lot of my working day doing stuff like that.

I’d much rather be blogging and training all day long.

But being self-employed often means you have to do every other role in the business as well.

You can hire VA’s or outsource some elements of this yourself, but even then, it requires input to make it all work.

When people say “follow your passion” just remember that you don’t spend 100% of your time doing that passion – admin is a huge chunk of your working day.

2. You Never Truly Switch Off
Even when I’m on holiday I spend 20 minutes a day clearing out emails and doing client work.

That is the reality of self-employment.

Other people will tell you they read business books on holiday (I don’t).

You never truly switch off from work when you work for yourself.

I work in an industry that is 24/7 switched on, but if you ask any other self-employed person they’ll tell you that even if they’re not working on the business, they’re thinking about it all the time.

It shows you care – but you have to find passions outside work, that truly allow you switch off work.

My passions are running which great for my mental health as physical health.

I’ve also realised that simply going to the cinema means it’s 2 hours I won’t look at my phone for … and that’s a welcome relief.

3. It’s Lonely
Self-Employment is pretty lonely.

I’m lucky that my business is about social media training, so I get to meet new people when training or networking, but not all industries are like that.

Often you wake up and you work at home all day, not seeing another human being.

You don’t have a team to lean on or simply have watercooler talk / relaxed conversations.

If you have problems / issues in the business you often have to try and solve it yourself as friends and family don’t quite understand business decisions.

It’s important to get out there – whether that’s for networking or coffees with business owners … or it’s meeting a friend in the gym each day.


1. Non Payers
I’ve had people tell me to “F**k off – you’re not getting the money we owe you”

I’ve had people hide behind shelves at the local Tesco because they did a phoenix job (close down their company owing people lots of money and open up a new business with a very similar name)

Being self-employed means at some time a client will try and default on payment.

At the time it’s the most stressful thing because you have people to pay, the mortgage and all the utility bills.

Now I have late payment penalties on every booking and won’t hesitate to contact a debt collection company.

It’s still one of ugliest sides of self-employment though.

2. Egos
I’m an introvert, but even I admit I must have an ego to launch my own business and work for myself.

It takes a certain level of confidence to go it alone.

And when you’re associating with other business owners and others in the industry, you’ll find yourself at the mercy of those with HUGE egos.

The men beat their chests and stab you in the back.

I’d love to say it was just the men, but often women in business can be just the same.

Don’t get me wrong – there are those in the industry that do the same / similar as what I do that I have the upmost of respect for personally and professional. But over 50% are ego without any substance and you’ll find the same for whichever industry you work in.

3. “Friends” Will Ask For Discounts
At every stage of your business friends (and people you’ve met a few times at networking meetings) will ask for a discount.

It’s pretty damn ugly.

They’ll pay full price at Tesco and Starbucks … and their social media feeds will be full of expensive meals, days out and holidays.

And then when they come to you the words will slip out “I want to help you – but can you give me friends rates”

It’s a difficult position to be put in.

Say no and you look like you’re being difficult.

Say yes and you feel like you’re selling yourself short and the friend is taking advantage.

Subjects we can talk about include
– Being Self-Employed
– Personal Branding and Social Media
– How to use LinkedIn To Build Your Career
– Careers
– Marketing

Plus platform specific talks including Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogging, TikTok

I can also deliver social media training to
– Headteachers
– Heads of Department
– Marketing Departments

Email or call 07806774279

More information here

Alex McCann

Author Alex McCann

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