Archive | February 2014

# 18 (2014) Second Job Syndrome

It’s Friday. Another week at your desk job has bitten the dust and you’re thankful for the weekend. But seeing the months fly by may be unnerving you as you think back to where you wanted to be this time last year. And yet you’re still here, doing the 9 to 5. Welcome to Second Job Syndrome.

If you’re lucky enough to not be in this situation you may be passionate about your chosen career and you may be good at it. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that you’ll find paid work doing it. There will be times when you have to improvise. Cue the 9 to 5.

I’ve always been an advocate of getting skilled in the real world as well as your chosen life job, so that if push comes to shove you’ll find a job somehow. I learnt how to type and secretarial became my back up. And I can honestly say it’s saved me financially more times than I can remember. But it also made me complacent. Most notably last year when I needed a regular guaranteed income. And so 2013 just flew by. I earned enough to pay my bills but me as a person and as a business stood still. I regret much of 2013. And I regularly berate myself for the years wasted in office jobs.

I guess had I not been able to sit in an office and type I’d of had to get up off my backside and make my business work, but I took the easy route. And I see around me friends and colleagues getting stop gap jobs that sometimes last years.

This is one of the problems with Government work schemes and the job centre. It only cares about getting you into work. It doesn’t care about your ambitions or your skills. It cares that you are paying your National Insurance and your income tax and that the work figures go down.

How you create your ideal job so you don’t have to become someone else’s lacky whilst you complete your master plan of world domination is not easy to answer. I guess setting up your own business is one option, but that still doesn’t guarantee you a regular pay cheque.

If time is on your side and you’re not yet panicking like me about how you’re going to cram said world doimination into your remaining work years, you’ll take some comfort in this article from Hello Magazine. But don’t relax too soon. Your twenties fly by. Your thirties? I barely remember most of them.

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# 17 (2014) Inventing Your Own Job – The Solution to Unemployment?

A couple of weeks back there was an article on BBC News about women taking up the mantle of enterpreneur (about half of the new figures for the last couple of years). At about the same time an article on UK unemployment numbers falling between October and December remarked on the record level of new business start ups – up 172,000 to 4.37 million.

Whilst this might be hailed as an achievement of sorts it should be remembered that a lot of these new business owners might simply be inventing their own jobs because of a lack of suitable or meaningful employment in the job market.  If you’re a photographer but the Job Centre keep sending you to interviews to stack shelves in Morrisons you shouldn’t be blamed for setting yourself up in business.

According to the statistics, 1 in 7 people now works for themselves and whilst that may look good for Government figures it’s surely not an accurate portrayal of the number of people in work and actually earning a living wage. Many enterpreneurs are financially living on the edge.

The question ‘Self-employment boom: Good or Bad?’ is therefore a very valid one. What the statistics above do not detail is when and in what numbers those businesses folded or simply didn’t make enough money for their owners to survive on.

Businesscasestudies.co.uk suggests 1 in 3 businesses fail in their first 3 years but that does leave the other two thirds surviving and expanding over time. The reasons for failure are wide and varied and come down as much to the abilities of the enterpreneur as they do to any economic issues out of their control.

But that the number of small business owners has increased significantly since 2011 suggests many people may be setting up as a reaction to the lack of suitable work available. At least they are being proactive. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are finding enough work to get by on but at least it’s better than hanging around in the dole queue wondering when it will all end.

# 16 (2014) Being An Enterpreneur Can Be The Loneliest Job

Sometimes I need reminding that what I’m doing is the right choice. There are certain elements to being your own boss which only make sense to people who have experienced it. And you have to try and understand that getting through these times is key to success so long as you don’t go mad in the process. This article in Enterpreneur is one of the best I have read on the reality of being an enterpreneur.

I don’t consider myself a people person. But when this article said ‘There is a sense of isolation that is really profound‘ they weren’t kidding. If you run your business from home you will inevitably end up spending more hours there, with only yourself for company, than you can possibly imagine.

You are the only one making business decisions, arranging customer contact and doing the work. How much you earn depends entirely on you, and that in turn affects the rest of your life. Saying farewell to your social life is also inevitable because your funds will be stretched to the limit. And if much of your previous social life was thanks to your former job, that’s a big chunk of your contact with the outside world gone.

If I arrange my work correctly I can legitimately find two days in the week to leave the house. Any highlight of the week might be venturing up the high street to buy stock for shoots or to the supermarket where I am easily annoyed by members of the public.  Any other days are things that I made up to get myself out – like posting a letter. Unfortunately I’m crap at aimless wandering and coffee shop visits are beyond my budget. Besides, it’s not really socialising is it – window shopping in New Look?

On the upside if there’s one thing you learn from working at home it’s how quickly you can lose track of time. A week can pass and you’ve only been out to empty the bins. At least I am busy.

I can easily fill a 5-7 hour working day six days a week – considerably more if you include all the admin, social media updates and blog postings that have to be created to give you the online presence you need.

There is however an added pressure on your personal life, no matter how separate you keep your business from the rest of your home. If you live with other people who do go elsewhere to work, they will inevitably start looking on you as the one who’s always there, always in the way and never goes out. Like some kind of crazy hermit.

It’s an awkwardness you don’t need. You’ve already got a complex about your limited funds and feeling like you don’t know anybody in real life (Facebook is a saviour for lonely business owners) but if you add to that the guilty feeling you get for just being there, the conflict of emotions can be tough. If you live on your own at least noone can see you there. Noone needs to know when was the last time you actually breathed in air from outside or the last time you put on makeup or did your hair.

Changing those situations is hard. With limited funds your options aren’t endless and you know that wherever you go you need the space to work. Sadly for me that means at least one spare room so the best money saving accomodation options aren’t open to me.  I’m still working on the solution to this but I guess it all boils down to the financial success of my business. And that means many hours spent working.

# 15 (2014) Can You Ever Really Trust A Food Brand?

It’s been in the news a lot lately. Evidence of the food we eat not being what it says on the packet. And just this week further news that things are not well in our supermarkets – still.

I’ve never had much faith in big companies. Anyone motivated by profit on a grand scale will turn a blind eye to anything in search of it. The manufacture processes, and distances covered for products to reach the shelves, are so long and arduous you just know someone out there is cutting corners.

When I go to the supermarket (bearing in mind the budget restrictions we’re facing right now) my motivations are price first and product content later. Also in this second place is animal welfare. I am always reminded of it. But I have two conflictions which I cannot resolve.

One, that I don’t believe most of the ‘free range’ packaging claims, so buying more expensive with the little blue tractor I’m being sold a lie. And two, I can’t afford an apparently happy and free until the day it was brutally murdered chicken for £7. In my quest to avoid these problems I even bought my own hens so I could avoid the free range egg conundrum and still be able to afford eggs in my life. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made I might add.

Generally most things I make from scratch including bread and anything that requires mixing ingredients together. I do homecut chips, pasta dishes, chinese meals and cake amongst many other culinary delights. And if I can’t afford ingredients I go without. Simple.

But I’ve recently changed a few of the basic meat products I buy (chicken, sausages and beef mince) to stay on budget and have enough to eat. Even more than before I am acutely aware that what I’m eating isn’t strictly what it says on the label. I am buying value range of course, but as the news reveals, even top range brands have fallen foul.

I figure that all the time I am buying from a supermarket I am in a no win situation where sticking to an unmoveable budget (even though prices around me continue to rise) is the name of the game. And I’m in no position to review my tactics any time soon.

Eating frugally is fine for us. It’s healthier in quantity terms and removes many temptations such as snacking, impulse buying and ‘treat days’. It’s easy to work out when you actually need to eat and when you’re being greedy.

But it does mean guilt trips every time I go shopping because I loathe contributing to a system I am so angry at. If I could afford it, and if food wasn’t one of my life’s loves, I’d go vegetarian again and have done with it. But on a tight budget, it’s an impossible diet to keep interesting.