Self-Employment IS Proper Work

Self-Employment IS Proper Work

Happy New Year to you all! I hope you had a fabulous festive period, and are all fired up with some life-changing writing goals for the year ahead. (How are you doing with your New Year resolutions? The first week is almost over.)

I found myself getting quite angry on New Year’s Eve. Let me explain why.

My sister and her partner moved into their new house a couple of weeks before Christmas. She’d given notice to her landlord and her old property had to be cleared by the end of the day on Monday 31st December. This had benefits, because it meant that the move before Christmas didn’t have to happen all on one day … which was useful as there are only so many wardrobes I can move in a day! (And my sister and her partner have the joys of merging two houses into one.)

But by the evening of Sunday 30th December it was quite clear there was still plenty to do to finish clearing her rented property. The result? A phone call. Could I help them for the day?

It’s times like this when I realise that my self-employed time is not respected as much as my employed time. Monday 31st December is a normal working day. It might be New Year’s Eve, but it’s just a normal working day. 

I’m currently employed on a short-term contract and part-time basis on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays, which means Fridays through to Mondays are my self-employed writing days. So Monday 31st December was a self-employed writing day.

Except it wasn’t. I was helping to clear out my sister’s old rented house. (And let’s face it – but who understands a deadline better than a writer? When a property has to be vacated, a property has to be vacated.)

But would I have been called had they needed my help on the Wednesday? Would they have rung, knowing that Wednesday is an employed day? Would they have asked me to take a day’s annual leave to help them out? I not sure.

Of course, the irony is, had that been the case and I had taken a day’s annual leave from my employed work, I would still have been paid for the day, because that’s one of the benefits of employment: paid annual leave. But as I gave up my self-employed writing day, not only did I not get paid, but I also lost the opportunity to do any self-employed work. (This loss of time was compounded by the fact that I have three commissioned projects, all with deadlines for mid-January. Eeek! That’s just over a week away!!!!)

We’ve since had the conversation now where I’ve reminded the family how important my self-employed time is. I am not just sat at my desk playing at being a writer, I am trying to earn a living. The employed contract is useful, because it is regular money coming in, but it is not enough to live on and I need my self-employed time to earn a living.

Writing is a business. It doesn’t matter what we write. If we’re writing for publication, with a view to selling our work, we are a business supplying services to a publisher or magazine. We have the right to have our business time respected.

But that wasn’t the only reason for my anger on New Year’s Eve.

While it’s important to remind family of how vital self-employed time is, it’s also useful to remind ourselves of the fact too. I could have said No, when that phone call came through. (But it was family, it was urgent and there was a deadline.) And the way things are going with my deadlines at the moment, things could be tight. I have a lot of late nights ahead of me. Perhaps I should have bargained with my family more … just helped out for the morning, or something.

It’s all well and good thinking that our families owe us respect for our writing time, but it’s just as important, if not more, that we respect ourselves too. We need to stand up and defend our writing time. Self-employment IS proper work. Writing ISproper work. That doesn’t mean to say we can’t help out family when they need it, but with a little respect on both sides perhaps they’ll help us out a bit more after we’ve helped them out.

So start the New Year as you mean to go on. Self-employed writing time is just as important as any employed work. If we’re generating an income from it (or plan to), we have every right to expect some respect for that. But we also need to respect ourselves too.

8 thoughts on “Self-Employment IS Proper Work

  1. I think it’s just that people know you *can* change your schedule if you want to, so they try their luck. Most employers would expect at least a week’s notice, so you probably *can’t* drop everything on an employed day, but you might be able to drop everything (subject to deadlines) on a writing day. But yes, it is quite annoying. I get asked to go and make my dad a cup of tea if he’s on his own for a few hours, because he’s got Parkinsons, is immobile, and apparently, can’t be without a hot drink for longer than an hour. Yes, I’ve suggested a flask etc!

  2. Great post for the start of the year Simon. Respecting and valuing yourself is key. I have a notional hourly rate I apply to myself so if I’m not doing the ‘real work’ of writing, I have a sense of what I’m not earning. I find a lot of folk don’t have a realistic sense of what their time is worth.

  3. A very good reminder Simon. I’m finally at a stage where I’m having to get tough on this myself. Too many people don’t understand that you’re still ‘working’ sat at your desk.

    Happy New Year.

  4. Sort of related.
    I work from home and I’m paid by my employer to do so! – I do my personal writing early am or late into the wee hours.

    You would be amazed at the things that happen to me between Monday to Friday – the elderly lady across the road pops over on her walker to advise me I can ‘nip to the Post office for her, or drop a letter by hand to her accountant.

    My self employed brother, advised me that I was to do all nine of my mums hospital appointments as he only gets paid for what he does! Clearly my employer is very happy to let me go off on five hour hospital appointments once every two weeks. My husband is self employed and it is perceived that because I’m based at home, I can make lots of calls to a variety of businesses such as the council, EE, or the builders merchant.

    You are correct, it’s about respecting yourself. I wised up, and have had to be very blunt, especially with people who turn up to advise me, they saw my car on the drive and thought they’d call in for a brew!

    Of course it would be fine if I popped into the building society, the dentist and the operating theatre and advised my friends I’d dropped by their place of work for a brew!

    Yes, you have to be tough, and yes, you risk upsetting people but there has to be a line, otherwise it starts to happen all too often.

    1. I know what you mean, Maria. Within weeks of first going self-employed I was approached by a neighbour to become a volunteer driver for the Good Neighbour scheme, because it would be easy for me as I was “at home all day!” 🤣

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