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Could you go back to being employed after working for yourself?

By 123 Reg - July 18, 2019

Working for yourself isn’t easy. Nobody said it would be. Are you self-employed? A director? An entrepreneur? However you associate, one thing’s for sure: managing your own business takes grit and determination.

The process of conceiving, believing and achieving personal goals is a thing of beauty. It’s what drives us to only press the snooze button once (or twice). It’s the thing that makes us roll out to work even when we’re sick. Doubt, of course, is a natural part of the journey. And, whatever trade you’re in, there are a number of universal questions that creep into our minds from time to time.

Top of that list? Could you go back to being employed after working for yourself? Well, could you? We recently fielded this question to our social followers and the answers were as diverse as “yes please” to “not on your life!”

After working for yourself, the simple lure of being employed can seem tempting. Likewise, the prospect of taking directions (or worse still, orders), from someone else, is equally daunting.

If you are the world’s foremost expert in your trade, surely you’d be an asset for another company – the ringer that comes off the bench to propel someone else’s dream into orbit. Or, after years of developing your own culture and (bad) habits, are you effectively unemployable?

So, let’s aim to settle this age-old debate once and for all and, in doing so, unpack 6 pros and cons of going back to being an employee.

1. Tomorrow is another day

First of all, let’s be clear – going to work for someone else doesn’t necessarily mean your own business is wrapping up and pulling-down the shutters. Switching from full-time to part-time makes little difference to your tax liability or your employment status.

If, for example, you’re self employed – you can do that in your spare time and have a full-time job. Many do; you probably did it yourself, before you went full time. So it’s an adjustment and a change, but it’s not necessarily the end of anything.

However – if you are wrapping-up your business, or leaving a partnership, HMRC has the process in place, with lots of online help to guide you through it.

2. Working for others is work

For some people, the notion of dancing to another’s drum is simply unacceptable. This may be because of bad experiences in employment in the past; it may be because no obstacle is enough to make you give up on your dream.

If you’re experiencing uncertainty, ask yourself: ‘why did I go it alone in the first place?’ Perhaps it was workplace politics. Horrible bosses. Capped income. Or in the environment stifled your ability to grow and express your passion.

Did you answer ‘hell yeah’ or, ‘tell me about it’ to one or more of these statements? Then it could be that you’re not ready to wake up from the dream. Never ever forget why you got up and started up in the first place.

Respect is due to those people who can’t contemplate compromise. They’re the ones who power through, because they know that going back into the nine-to-five would be the equivalent of a free-range chicken reporting for duty at the battery farm.

Maybe you live in an area where there are simply no workplaces where you’d fit in. Can’t face a factory? Feel wretched about retail? Find offices awful? In that case, you have no choice but to walk your own path.

Good luck to you. Keep on keeping on!

3. Surfing the cash flow

The certainty of a salary. Remember that feeling! Knowing what you’d rake in each month. Being able to plan. To buys things. Oh, how you long for those days! In fact, for many, it’s a key reason they revert from self-employment to employment.

Self-employment always starts with big dreams. The car. The travel. The social events. Of course, climbing the mountain takes time and sacrifice. Keep climbing, and you’ll get there! In the meantime, one of the biggest sacrifices the self-employed make is salary!

You pay everyone else. Staff. Suppliers. Rent. Bills. Tax. But what about yourself? After all, you’re the one on the front line working around the clock as though time doesn’t count.

And why won’t your clients just pay you on time? This is even more annoying when you yourself always hit payment terms on inbound invoices. Does this mean you need to find a job to subsidise your business? Perhaps it does. Maybe you have family commitments.

However, rest safe in the knowledge that you are not alone. Cash flow is king and, for smaller businesses, there’s always more ebb than flow. Eventually you’ll get there. Spread the risk. Acquire new clients. Set up payment terms so you’ll get money washing up at your shores across the month rather than in one large batch.

Consider direct debits – this removes the admin for customers and guarantees income you can rely on. Of course, the aim is to hold money back and build a nest egg of capital ready to invest in your venture. So you could consider introducing robust payment policies.

Chasing money is always uncomfortable. So, like a skilled boxer, put distance between you and your opponent by scoping out apps that automatically follow up late payments, or ask your accountant to do the heavy lifting for you.

4. We’re all going on a summer holiday… apart from you

Nobody puts in the hours you do. You’re a machine. With this comes sacrifice. Money. Time with loved ones. Oh, and holidays. When was the last time you actually took a break? Everyone who cares about you tells you: ‘you deserve one’. And, they’re right. You do.

But reality is unkind. Whether product or service based, you’ve built your business on responsiveness. When the customer asks, the customer gets. No matter how big or small. So how can you drop everything and jet-set abroad?

You’ll build a million reasons why you shouldn’t go:

  • ‘If I don’t respond, the customer will be angry.’
  • ‘They are impatient and will find another supplier.’
  • ‘My emails and messages will become so unmanageable I’ll lose another week just going through them all.’

When you’re exhausted, it’s tempting to throw in the towel. There’s no shame in this. Physical and mental health should always come first. But don’t underestimate the goodwill and value you’ve built with your buyers.

If you explain to them you’re taking a break, you’ll be surprised that they’ll often be understanding – like you they work around the clock and, like you, they too need a holiday.

Build a structured plan. Set your emails to out of office. Only respond and deal with legitimately urgent messages. Set your customer expectations. Take a break then come back more refreshed than a bottle of sparkling mineral water.

This will give you a new perspective on your business and the future of it.

5. You snooze you lose

Those on the outside looking in, have a different perception of being self-employed. The facade of being able to work ‘when and where you want’ builds envy. Of course, we know this isn’t true.

Unlike a regular nine-to-five, working for yourself means working on demand. If you don’t do it, you don’t get paid. It can feel like you have less control over your career, not more.

Other people simply can’t get this. They never will. It’s a mindset only achievable through experience.

Self-employment is akin to a relationship. It’s hard to plan social and family activities. It feels like being in a never ending race. This is accompanied by fear. A fear that if you snooze, you’ll lose. And, of course, you will.

Sick days mean no money days. And how can you even take them when you’re more on demand than a movie channel.

Flip that coin and, the ability to put in extra hours, means the ability to make more money. It’s a unique situation. There aren’t many full-time jobs where you can roll in early and roll out late then put an extra invoice in for extra work done. Self-employment, therefore, becomes addictive. The more you do, the more you get. And, when you love what you do, you want to see it grow.

5pm takes on a different meaning. For some, the immediate sacrifices trigger the question – ‘should I return to employment?’

Self-employment isn’t for everyone. You’ll find out quickly what type of person you are. Just remember: there’s no right or wrong answer. Ultimately do what you feel is right. Trust your gut. It hasn’t let you down is the past, right?

And remember, to really turn your commercial dreams into a reality, you need to take a long term view. When you arrive at your goal, the satisfaction will be overwhelming. Give it a week, and you’ll just set another more ambitious one though. Because that’s what you do!

6. Fear of the interview

Interviews are never easy. Now, if you’ve been on the other side of the table as an employer, you’ll know this all too well. Interviews are often pitched from the point of view of those gunning for the job. Like a game of poker though, it’s equally stressful for all parties involved.

Imagine the scenario – and we know you have – that you’re moving from self-employed to employment. How many years has it been since your last interview?

And what about all those thoughts bubbling on the forefront of your mind:

  • If the employer asks why I left my business, will it look like an admission of failure?
  • How can you take orders when you’re used to giving them?

These are natural questions to ask – but they’re just hurdles and you’ve been jumping over hurdles for years. Reality is, if you’re heading back to the workplace, there’s a million and one reasons for this.

Remember: you’re the authority in your craft. You’re the expert. Whilst it make take some time readjusting, the value you’ll bring to another business shouldn’t be underestimated. They’d be stupid to let the opportunity pass them up!

So, be honest. Be confident. Then sell yourself.

Over to you…

So, what are your experiences with this most difficult of questions. Have you powered through, or taken your foot off the accelerator?

Have you parked your car in someone else’s garage for a while? How was it? Any wisdom you can pass on to other business-people who may be thinking about their options?

Share your own experiences and pro tips with us via our Twitter feed or Facebook page.