“I enjoy the unpredictability of working by and for myself. It has given me a sense of responsibility and self-worth that I never got from being employed.”
I became self employed in 2019 after nearly a decade of being an employee. A year earlier, I had completed a PGCE to become a teacher and I started my first teaching job full of hope and commitment in an inner London school. Unfortunately, various elements combined to send my health into freefall. I started suffering from severe anxiety, which meant I could no longer do the job I had worked so hard to achieve. It was devastating. I had hoped that teaching would offer me the chance to make a difference along with job stability. When it became clear that I would not be able to teach in the way I had hoped, I had to take stock: what was going to be best my mental health in the long run?
As I recovered, the answer became clearer: I am a writer and I have always been a writer. No matter what job I was employed to do, I wrote. I was successful at university because I could write a mean essay. The other key decision I made on the path to becoming a writer was to go freelance. Initially I decided to job hunt, looking for writer jobs. However, after a bit more self reflection, I realised one of my weaknesses (and strengths) is my natural curiosity – I get bored and demotivated if I have to do the same thing over and over again. So, today, I enjoy the unpredictability of working by and for myself. It has given me a sense of responsibility and self-worth that I never got from being employed. The thing I love most is that I can plan my own time, and I don’t finish the day exhausted or drained. In the past, I had always been too tired when I got home to do much in the evenings, and I often needed a whole weekend day to recharge. Now, I feel uplifted and motivated to pursue my other passions: music, arts and crafts, activism.
Not that it is easy. I haven’t made much money yet, let alone started making inroads to saving for the future. I have had to realign my priorities away from traditional benchmarks of success – promotions, more money – to something more noble, perhaps: have my words helped someone understand something better? Have I written a sentence today that could make someone stop and think? I’ve had to move away from my home town, London, to find accommodation I can afford on an irregular income. And when there isn’t much work, my inner saboteur whispers, “just get a real job, you’ll never make it as a writer.” That voice has been especially strong during the COVID-19 lockdown, when lots of work has dried up. But my determination to persevere made me join Community. Being self employed can be lonely and you lose the feeling of solidarity that colleagues can bring. But if the self employed can work together to build a strong voice, we can support each other while still forging our own paths.
Georgia Platman is a freelance writer, editor and teacher based in Suffolk, UK. She specialises in the media, education, health, travel, the history and politics of the Americas, and climate change.
“I’ve seen many business owners forced into self-employment because they work for larger organisations who see self-employed subcontractors as a cheap way to avoid paying minimum wage.”
“When you’re self employed, if there’s no work to do, you’re effectively unemployed. But there’s no support for freelancers who are momentarily unemployed. We can’t claim job seekers allowance, because seeking a new customer isn’t the same as seeking regular employment.”