The 5 worst things about being self-employed: because everyone likes lists!

So I’m sat here on a Sunday, Sex and the City DVD on, cup of tea made and laptop open…..working (OK, well, at this moment, pretending to work). I was also sat here doing the same (minus SATC) until midnight last night.

I used to dream about working for myself, and how awesome it would be to be like Carrie and spend all day doing basically whatever I wanted, and all night hanging out with my friends, and still managing somehow do enough work to afford clothes and food and shelter, and all of those essential things (as well as $400 shoes). This does not happen.

So to make myself feel better, here’s a list of why being self-employed sucks!

1. Work and Sleep

This is what my life is about now.

  • Get up in the morning from a restless night tossing and turning, dreaming and worrying about work,
  • get dressed and head to the office.
  • Spend the day there, usually forgetting to eat,
  • realise it’s time to go home,
  • make food,
  • do a bit more work,
  • go to bed.
  • Repeat ad infinitum.

2. Guilt

Sometimes I like to sit around the flat of an evening/weekend and just do nothing. Play video games, watch DVD’s, spend hour upon hour stalking people on Facebook, but just generally not be in the least bit constructive. With 9-5 employment, this is an enjoyable experience. When running your own business, this is simply a never-ending struggle with your conscience people other people are relying directly on you (and paying you) to finish something for them. Therefore, you must work tirelessly until it is done. (Note: it is never done). This guilt also kicks in when spending any money on anything for yourself.

3. Other Businesses

I accept that every business is run differently, and everyone has their own view of success – however I also believe that everyone else’s view is wrong. If your business directly affects my business succeeding, then you are running your business wrong. This most often comes in the form of CMS components. A client wants a website built in Joomla so that they can edit it themselves – fine! Said client also wants some extra functionality to make their website easier to use and just generally better for everyone involved – fine! Some other developer has already written this functionality and released it in the form of a component or plug-in for a minimal fee (or even better – free!) – awesome! Said developer fails to make their component compatible with anything else you’re using or leaves out crucial functionality – cue tearing hair out trying to decipher some one else’s (usually rubbish) coding in order to make the thing do what it was supposed to do in the first place. This is about 80% of my work-load right now due to all the recent updates going on for Joomla.

4. Clients

Not all clients. Obviously, without them, I would be back on the dole and probably living on the streets by now. Just those clients who expect everything a large money-making machine type company could provide but for about a quarter of the cost (or worse, no cost). I have one such client. Our original arrangement was that I would work on his existing site to bring it up-to-date and do the odd design job for him, and, in return, he would do some networking for me and bring in some other clients. This has now somehow changed to, I do any bit of design/web work he thinks is fashionable that week, and he generates clients, charges them over what I would, gives me what I would have charged them, and then takes the rest for himself. It’s a little more complicated than that, but essentially, this is what he does.  He takes up 75% of my time with the latest thing he wants me to do, calls me every 5 seconds to reiterate what he has already told me 5 seconds before, and pays me nothing for the privilege. I’m not entirely sure how this happened, but as soon as I can afford to, he’ll be the first to go.

5. Language barriers

Tea Maker App
Tea Maker - There's an app for that.*

No, not when dealing with international clients – in fact, that would probably be a lot easier. I’m talking about the translation between what I client wants, and what is actually possible, and finding a mutual language set which conveys that their expectations (particularly when paying next-to-nothing) are never going to be fulfilled. This is particularly frustrating in the web development industry, as you are generally being employed because no one within the client’s business knows anything about websites, otherwise, their web monkey would be doing your work and you wouldn’t be needed. You try being a 25 year old web developer explaining to a 50 year old business owner that I will never be able to make his new website bring him a cup of tea in the morning. See if he believes you, or just threatens to find someone who can.

There are probably a lot of other things that I could include in this list which contribute to me finding new grey hairs every time I look in the mirror, and having a mini melt-down at least once a week, but 5 is a nice number, and that guilt mentioned in point 2 is starting to kick in. So I’ll get back to trying to fix other people’s coding mistakes and leave you all to your Sunday. Enjoy!

*Interestingly, this app actually exists here – unfortunately, it does not do what you’re thinking


Disagree? Tell me why.

2 thoughts on “The 5 worst things about being self-employed: because everyone likes lists!

  1. This all sounds familiar.

    How about the other side — my web designer (who I like personally a lot) just soaked me more than $300 for a minor (to me) update of my three sites. The code is ancient (1995, yes) and now I’m stuck between a total re-do ($2-3,000) or tinkering with them and spending a fortune. As a professional writer with books to sell and editors to woo, my sites are essential. I just don’t happen to have a spare $2,000 ever…

    I agree that almost every penny you spend on yourself as a self-employed person feels like a waste of cash. It’s not! I figured out why I feel so broke — having spent one-third of last year’s income on legitimate work-related expenses.

    1. I completely agree with you. I charge nowhere near that for an update, in fact that’s about what I charge for a completely new site as I recognise that a lot of my clients are SMEs or sole traders like me.

      It’s all a struggle to find the right balance so that no one gets underpaid or ripped off, Unfortunately, a lot of people are out to take advantage of small, relatively new businesses looking to build up a client base.

      But yes, I can completely see it from the other side – I know I have a skill that others do not, and that can be pivotal to running a successful business as everything is moving on-line and an effective website can lead to a high conversion rate, just as an ineffective one can lose you a lot of business (and money).

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