“I have no idea what the future will hold. I worry that the pandemic will continue indefinitely. I worry that my clients will stop hiring people like me. I worry that the business I have built up over the last ten years will cease to support me and my family.”
I’m used to uncertainty. After all, it’s part of running a business. And a bit of uncertainty makes things exciting. Never knowing quite what tomorrow will bring.
But this year has, I’d have to admit, brought slightly more in the way of uncertainty than I’m really comfortable with. And it’s starting to take its toll.
Which is why I’m glad that, although I work for myself, I know I’m not alone.
I hesitate to say that I’m self-employed, because if you ask the taxman then, technically, I’m not. The management consultancy practice that I run is a limited company, so I’m actually an employee. But I own the company. I’m its director. And there isn’t anyone else.
I tend to say that I work for myself and leave it at that.
The project-based nature of my work means that there are peaks and troughs. So it’s important that I plan ahead, to find new clients and projects and to make sure that I have enough work to keep me busy – and to pay the bills.
Thankfully, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and we went into lockdown, I already had a decent amount of work on. And it was all work that I could do from home.
But I have no idea what the future will hold.
I worry that the pandemic will continue indefinitely. I worry that my clients will stop hiring people like me. I worry that the business I have built up over the last ten years will cease to support me and my family.
And it’s not just me. I worry about other people running their own small businesses, many of whom are really struggling. Their work has dried up and they have little in the bank to tide them over.
The financial support the Government provided during lockdown was welcome, of course, although fortunately I didn’t need to use it. But it wasn’t perfect. It didn’t help everyone. And it won’t be around for ever.
Yet, as we see more clearly with every passing day, the pandemic is far from over. Returning to ‘business as usual’ isn’t an option. And it won’t be, quite frankly, for some time to come.
But there won’t be any big bail-outs for businesses like mine.
As a self-employed person – or whatever it is that I am – it’s very easy to fall through the cracks. Businesses like mine aren’t household names. We don’t employ thousands of people, drive regional economies or have Government ministers on speed dial.
And so we need to stand together. We need to speak with one voice. We may even need to SHOUT to make sure that our voice is heard.
No matter what the future might bring.
Simon Perks is the founder, director and sole employee of Sockmonkey Consulting.
“Sometimes I’ve heard it said that ‘even self-employed people need a union’. I disagree. Especially self-employed people need a union.”
“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.”