Laura Summers runs BookMachine, the fast-growing community and agency specialising in book publishing. Our mission is to provide every publishing professional in the UK knowledge, ideas and connections to help them to progress in their careers.
I chose self-employment after working on my side-hustle (BookMachine) for 7 years. My side-hustle became my full-time job, and I now work exclusively on BookMachine, both with the community and our marketing agency.
It wasn’t actually the dream from the outset. My first publishing job was in Editorial, which wasn’t for me. My second publishing job was in Sales, which was better – but I didn’t think I was suited to it for the long haul. Then I took my marketing qualifications, and everything slotted into place – and I built on this to run my own business, which is more rewarding than any in-house job has been.
Whether you see yourself as a freelancer, self-employed, consultant or whether you are trying to build something bigger, the mindset is certainly different from when you are employed. After 10 years of working in-house, I thought it would be useful to list some of the changes I’ve made/experienced. If you have experienced any different changes, please share them in the comments below.
Variety of work
My work has never been more varied than it is right now. Last week alone I wrote copy for a new webpage, discussed a number of incoming client projects, analysed spreadsheets with our accountant, prospected for new clients, wrote a marketing strategy and created this blog post! This variety really suits my personality, and personally, is one of the perks of self-employment. If you are self-employed you need to wear many hats. If you don’t like taking on lots of different tasks then you need to scale quickly so you can employ an accountant, marketing help, designer etc.
I probably work the same number of hours as I did in-house, but my schedule can be more flexible. Working with two pre-schoolers during lockdown was tricky! But generally, I am able to spend time with my children when they are home, and allocate time in the evening to catch up on things. I read about self-employed people having better work/life balance – this certainly doesn’t apply to me, because our business is always evolving which I love and there’s always more work to squeeze into each day – but that’s a choice, and others can probably create a work/life balance if that’s a key goal for their transition to self-employment.
I can’t imagine, as a self-employed person, going on holiday and not checking my emails or social media. My family know that even when we’re away that I need to check in on things every morning – and that’s fine, I would prefer that than not knowing. I think my team were a bit horrified to see me answering emails shortly after giving birth! But that’s just the way I do things. I am sure there are other self-employed people who have structures in place to manage their inbox when they are away. I am not sure I will ever be that person! But it’s certainly doable. When I was in-house I would put on an out of office and that was it, away on holiday.
Since taking the leap into self-employment I think I have benefited more from professional development than I would have done in-house. I benefited from some of the best industry training when I worked for large publishers, but I wasn’t always able to put this to use on the projects I was working on. In the past year I have been on three different training courses and have applied these to my business immediately, and they have really helped to motivate me and steer BookMachine in new directions. Whether you’re focused on building a reliable source of one particular type of work, or you’re an entrepreneur who is always shifting up a gear, you can really steer the direction of your work. You don’t need to wait for your boss to decide on the priorities for the year – you can upskill and move yourself into the kind of jobs that inspire you the most. It’s really quite exhilarating.
If you are an experienced freelancer you will have your own ways of doing things. Is there anything you’d add to this? What other changes did you make when you became self-employed?