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Building my own dreams – What I’ve learnt from becoming self-employed

I knew that having a conviction was going to make finding a job difficult but I wasn’t prepared for just how difficult it would prove. I resigned from my previous job (at my employers suggestion) when news of my court appearance became public. I had a well-paid job, wife, house and a decent car; within months I had lost everything.

Finding a job became fundamentally important to me; not just to provide a wage but I hoped it would also help with my increasing feelings of isolation and anxiety. Unfortunately, I got the same result every time; sometimes it was simply no or a sorry we can’t put you forward, even worse was the silence, unreturned phone calls and emails. This continued for month on month and it began to feel that however low I set my sights the result was always going to be the same.

When I came to the conclusion I was just repeating the same action over and over again I decided to change tack; if an employer wasn’t prepared to take a chance on employing me would I be able to go self-employed or start my own business? I set about doing a lot of research on possible options and quickly found myself making a long list. After a few changes of mind along the way I decided to start a small business of my own.

Having made my decision I invested all my time, energy and a modest amount of cash in my new venture and thankfully I’m pleased to say that after a difficult initial six months there are now signs of progress. Thus far things have progressed slowly but surely and my business turnover is increasing steadily. Financially things are very tight; as business increases so does the necessity for more investment and the bills come in at a scary rate. I still constantly worry about my financial security both in the short and long term; in reality I need to make this work to keep a roof over my head.

Despite the worries, on the whole I have found the process very rewarding. Thus far I’m happy that I decided to ‘go it alone’, despite the difficulties and knock backs the positives still outweigh the negatives. Having a purpose to simply get up in the morning has helped with my general outlook and I dare to believe that there may be a brighter future for me ahead. I know it’s early days but I am at least doing something positive with my time.

I would encourage anyone stuck in a similar situation to consider the possibilities of working for themselves but to also think long and hard before making any serious career or financial commitment. For anyone considering going it alone the first thing to realise is that no one can tell you what is right for you. Like me you’ll need to take time and carefully analyse what options are available to you.

First off you will need to be realistic about what choices are available to you. If you have limited finances you can’t expect to buy a profitable off the shelf business; nor will you be able to kit out a swanky coffee shop with all mod cons. You may have to be more creative with the resources you have available to you, try to think what you enjoy doing and see if there is some way you can incorporate that in a new challenge. Just like applying for employment it’s worth considering what skills and experience you have to offer.

As most of you will be only too aware, having a conviction does put certain obstacles in your path and this is just the same for self-employment. I have had to take out a number of insurance policies with my business and having a conviction has made them all more difficult to obtain and of course, more expensive.

I have no personal exposure on social media; a conscious decision made in an effort to protect myself, similarly my business lacks an online presence and no doubt this has made it more difficult to find new customers. One benefit of being older is that I have been able to dismiss this as a personal choice/lack of tech savvy.

I have touched on the financial difficulties that have been (and are still) of concern to me and I can’t emphasise enough how important keeping track of my finances has been. You don’t have to be a financial wizard to do this, but you do need to be disciplined.

In part it has been easier for me to make the choice of going self-employed because of my personal circumstances. I don’t have the personal commitments that I once had and my social life is limited. On the plus side this has given me time and the energy to pursue a livelihood I would never have considered otherwise. More importantly it has made me more determined than ever to rebuild by life however long it may take; every cloud as they say!

By Robert (name changed to protect identity)


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