Today we welcome Ruth from Ruth Makes Money to the blog. She’s here to share with you a guest post on the 6 lessons she has learnt during her 8 years of self employment.
I’m Ruth, and eight years ago, I ditched my job as an HR manager to pursue a burning desire to become self-employed and build a career and an income on my own terms.
Walking away from a decent paycheque at the end of each month, great prospects for progression, and the promise of a pension forty years down the line, plenty of the people I know thought that I’d lost the plot entirely.
And in those first few months, I secretly wondered it myself more than a couple of times, too.
But the reality was that despite being lucky enough to land a place on a graduate programme, straight out of university and slap bang in the middle of a recession, I was unbearably miserable, increasingly anxious, and realised that if this is what success was supposed to look like, I wanted a refund.
A lot has happened since then, obviously. Almost a decade has passed. But I’m still here. I went from having no idea what came next on the Friday that I walked out of the office for good, to slowly but steadily building up a profitable freelance writing business, and then diversifying my earnings by adding in some additional income streams along the way.
I blog about it all at RuthMakesMoney.com, in the name of helping other people to see that hey, if working for someone else isn’t for you, it’s not the only way. You’ve got a ton of other options, and taking them definitely doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. In fact, it can be quite the opposite.
Here are six lessons I’ve learned from eight years of going it alone…
1. Everything is figureoutable
Okay, so I stole this quote from Marie Forleo. But it’s true, and it’s something I always keep in mind when everything seems too difficult and nothing is going to plan.
Whatever mountain you need to climb to hit your goal, to get to the next stage, or to even just get through the day and finish your to-do list, everything is figureoutable.
I was just a few weeks into freelancing when I realised that I needed a website. I’d never even heard of WordPress at this stage, and to say that I didn’t know where to start would be an understatement. But I sure as hell was going to work it out.
I remember crying real, actual tears of frustration that weekend as I made my way through various YouTube tutorials, but in the end, I did it. I built the website. It mightn’t have been the prettiest, but it was there, and it did its job.
There’s ton of stuff that you need to work out along the way, and much of it seems insurmountable at the time. But armed with Google, some determination, and a bit of trial and error, you can do it. I promise. It really is all figureoutable.
2. You’re going to fail at a ton of things – and it’s never the end of the world
So a significant income stream for me over the past few years has been creating and selling online courses and membership programmes. After a year or two of doing nothing but freelance writing, I realised that I needed to evolve my business model so I could still get paid without being constantly chained to a laptop.
The first time I sold a course? It was priced at £99. I sold just 3 copies. I’d put months of my time into creating it, so the return was pretty pitiful, and I considered it to be a right old failure.
But really, I just wasn’t ready for a big launch. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I did plenty of things wrong, and it’s crystal clear to me now why it didn’t create the results I was looking for. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Last summer, I hit my first ever 5-figure month thanks to the launch of my copywriting course. It was a goal I’d been working on for a while, and really, it was about five years in the making.
So when people tell me that they want to start a business or write a blog, but they’re worried that they’re going to fail? What I really want to tell them is that they probably will. But the world will still turn, their family will still love them, and it’s all just part of the process. You can’t eradicate the risk of failure… But you can decide that you’ll learn from it, dust yourself off, and get back on the horse. And when your wins do come, they’ll be all the more sweeter for it.
3. Not every month can be a record month, and that’s okay
When you work for someone else, you largely just get a set wage at the end of each month and you don’t really think about it too much. When you become your own boss though, you’re suddenly sucked into a world where this is completely turned on its head. You get to decide how much you earn, and that’s a blessing and a curse.
Everyone’s talking about smashing their goals, earning more money, 6-figure years, and if things for you are slow or even just steady, you can talk yourself into feeling like everything’s crap.
Money milestones can be hugely rewarding, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with striving for more. But I’ve learned that there’s a balance, and sometimes you have to take a step back, smell the roses, and look at things objectively.
If you’re comfortably covering your mortgage and your bills and you have a little left over to spend on what you fancy? You’re doing alright. It’s not always a race.
4. Working at home can be really lonely
To be honest, I’m not much of a people person. That in itself is probably a big reason why I became self-employed in the first place. Most of the time, I’m more than happy to work from the comfort of my own kitchen table with only my dog for company, knowing that I don’t have to make any small talk with colleagues.
But still, there are times when it can feel massively isolating. There’s no one there to bounce ideas off. There’s no one but yourself to give you a pep talk when things are going pear shaped. And when things are going good, it’s not quite the same when there’s only you to celebrate.
If you’re lucky then your friends and family will be supportive of your ventures, but they’ll probably never really understand exactly what it is that you do. Luckily though, the internet has made it easier than ever to connect with people who are on similar paths, and totally ‘get it’. Join Facebook groups. Strike up conversations. Know that you might be working on your own, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t build meaningful working relationships and friendships with people on the same journey.
And remember too to get out the house. Sitting in your pyjamas, not brushing your hair, and not seeing a single other soul for days on end is going to do you no favours, whichever way you look at it.
5. Investing in help is one of the best things you can do
Fairly early on in my self-employed journey, someone gave me a piece of advice that I really took onboard, and which has served me very well ever since. They said that if there’s something that you want to achieve, find someone who’s already achieved it, and pay them to help you.
Some people say that there’s no point in paying for courses and coaching when there’s so much information available online for free, but honestly, I think that’s missing the point. It’s never just about the information. It’s about accountability, and support, and it’s also about taking yourself and your aspirations seriously enough to invest in them properly.
I’m not saying for one minute that throwing cash at a situation will fix everything, because it won’t, you’ll still have to do the work, and you need to exercise caution when it comes to determining where your money will be best spent.
But think of it like this… If you were working for an employer, they’d spend money on your training and development, because they’d know that it’s essential if they want to get the best out of you and get a return on their spending. Reinvesting some of your profits into building your knowledge and capabilities is essential.
6. Nothing beats knowing that you never have to work for anyone else ever again
Some folks are more than happy working for someone else, and have zero desire to go it alone. That’s great. More power to them. But looking back, I don’t think I was ever cut out to be an employee.
Doing your own thing has its lows, as well as unbelievable highs, and if there’s one thing that I know for sure it’s that I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. And whatever happens, I know I’ll never go back to working for someone else.
Sure, there’ll no doubt be things that don’t work out along the way. My business model will change and adapt, and what I’m doing five years from now will probably look entirely different to what I imagine.
But knowing that I’m solely in charge of my own earnings, that I don’t have to ask anyone else for time off, that I don’t have to commute for three hours each day, and that I get to decide exactly what I do, and when? It’s the best feeling imaginable, and it makes the hard work all worthwhile.
If you’re side hustling alongside a full-time job, or you’ve taken the plunge and jumped feet first into being your own boss, what are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned along the way?