6 things I’ve learned in 6 months of independence

Can it really be true that it’s been six months since I left my job? It’s gone so quickly on the one hand, but on the other, so much has happened and it feels like an age…

So here are 6 things I’ve learned in those 6 months:

1. There is a learning curve

My goodness, there are a lot of processes and paperwork to get your head around, especially when starting a limited company. You can’t imagine all the aspects that you took for granted in your corporate role that now appear high on your agenda. Insurance and taxes and laws, oh my. It’s fun, though, to learn, and to feel like you’re getting your head around all these aspects of running a business. If that ever happens…

2. There are ups and there are downs

The “exciting” (or stressful) part of the independent lifestyle is not knowing what’s coming next. You can have ten potential projects on the horizon one day, that all fizzle into nothing the next. On the other hand, things can be a bit slow and then suddenly a fantastic project will materialise right before your eyes. So you just have to be flexible, always thinking about what’s coming next and always staying open to new opportunities.

3. There is a balancing act

Those ups and downs also mean that you can’t have it all – at least not at the same time. Having some downtime from business means that you have time to read, time to travel, time to see your friends and family … while landing that big contract means you have less time to yourself but instead you’re on an exciting project, meeting people, and earning money. I enjoy the more relaxed way of life, but I also thrive under pressure. So it’s a question of making sure you’re managing your income expectations and career development with your lifestyle choices.

4. There are temptations lurking in the shadows

You may think you’ve made a decision to go independent, but there are many temptations to go back to your previous life: recruiters calling about a new job in Dubai, clients asking you to stay on for longer, parents telling you to save for your pension… Now this is not a bad place to be in (minus the pension part) – and you may decide that a full-time role that crops up is in fact your dream job – but it does mean that you constantly have to re-evaluate your choices.

5. There is an amazing network behind you

I’ve been so impressed with the people I’ve come across in the past months, people who I might have interacted with a little in the past and who are now incredibly supportive and full of ideas for projects. You never know when there might be an opportunity for them to help you or vice versa, and if nothing else it’s so much fun to share stories and advice from your different experiences. There’s a whole world of people out there doing all sorts of things!

6. There are endless possibilities

Running through all of those previous five points, there is an ultimate truth: that there is no one right answer. You can choose to be a sole trader or start a limited company. You can hire an accountant or you can manage your books yourself. You can say yes to the contract or you can say no. You can go back to a full-time job or you can stay independent. You can travel or you can stay put.

“Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

– Rainer Maria Rilke

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