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Top Tips for Surviving Self-Employment

All those years ago when I quit my job as a Key Account Manager for a freight forwarder, little could I imagine what lay ahead for me. Whilst we can all take a stab in the dark at the challenges we might have to face being self-employed, there isn’t anything that prepares us for when something big comes up. And to be quite honest, the occasional bout of loneliness. I made some big mistakes especially right at the beginning. In those first couple of years, I really underestimated what marketing was, I hadn’t really planned for how unproductive I would be when distracted by housework and box sets…. And I definitely didn’t do my research when it came to my first pay-in-advance tax bill. That was not my finest moment.

Here are my top tips to surviving self-employment…. And to let you know you’re not alone. Ever.

  1. Find some business buddies - not flakey ones. You know how you tell your clients to make fitness friends in your classes, ones that show up every week, come with the focus and don’t try and persuade them to lay on the sofa in their pants and eat chocolate? Yup… you need one of those too. Apart from yours will share the same gripes and worries that you may face for your job… but they will also be up for brain storming solutions, and recommending new apps or funky spreadsheets for you to make your life easier. The friend with the pants is awesome…. But save them for when you need to learn how to switch off, not for when you need to get your A-game on.

  2. Switch off - honestly. I know you think you’re giving incredible customer service replying at 1am, but really you’re destroying your own balance. YOU matter. Your clients need you to fulfil their wildest fitness desires. You already know in 2 weeks time you’re going to have the personality of a small pumpkin if you carry on. So pre-empt the situation and start letting your brain do other stuff. Letting it have a few hours off will let you come back with even more power and even more creativity.

  3. Learn to focus - need to write an email or a social media post? Do your research and then turn off the notifications. It doesn’t matter if Mary can’t work out how to book in for LBT for the 485th week running, she can wait an hour whilst you get your work done. In that time, she might actually manage to do it herself so technically you’re helping her. It takes the brain 15 minutes to get back in the zone after you have been interrupted. That annoys me just reading it. I have put a black filter on the notes section on my Mac so there’s less glare, I maximise it to fill my screen so I can’t see anything else moving behind it and I turn my phone face down so I can’t be interrupted. Headphones on if you live with some loud people. Get all your hard stuff done and it’ll make everything else feel awesome.

  4. Keep up to date with your legal and tax-based duties. Don’t be me and underestimate your tax bill by literally thousands. It was just after I started out and I honestly cried for 4 days solid. It would have been easily avoided had I used Google. Now I have everything sectioned off in 485000 bank accounts and the tax man will never again catch me unawares.

  5. Remind yourself whilst you might think you’re Batman, you’re most likely not. You are a person. With feelings, families and brains & bodies that need rests. When you write your to do list bear that in mind and set yourself achievable goals - ones that will make you feel accomplished once you tick them off…. And not useless when you can’t fit it all in. Your life is completely different from whoever you just scrolled past on social media. Do not compare yourself to what other instructors are up to work wise. Which brings me on to my final point.

  6. Avoid following more fit pros than clients or potential clients. There is NOTHING worse for your focus than the distraction of comparison. We need a little bit of motivation, ideas and competition for sure, but missing out on seeing your clients content and instead seeing a feed of fantastically busy classes run by international business rockstars may serve as a distraction from who really matters. You & your lovely clients. We’ve all done it so many times, had an idea for a social media post based on a client experience, scrolled instead of making it, and then literally ended up posting nothing. Because we’d seen so many other good posts about other good topics that we feel completely unsure about the idea we had in the first place. Do you. In your own way.

Self-employment really is awesome. We just need the tricks of the trade to navigate this incredible job that we have and to remind us that everyone has the same struggles, we just don’t talk about it enough.

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