Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Self Employment

I can't help feeling that everyone at some point in their life has thought how great it would be to be self employed. After all, you won't ever be late for work, you can normally work from home, you can take holidays whenever you like and to put things simply, you are your own boss.

That has to be a naive view of the situation.

Immediately after graduation, I was in a situation many of my contemporaries were in due to my employment status. I didn't have a job and I was stupid enough to think that if I applied to a couple of places on the internet, they would get back to me, or that someone would headhunt me for my incredible academic mediocrity. The thought also entered my mind that I could make some money working for myself. The one critical error in that train of thought is however that I did not have any sort of saleable skill that I could have marketed at that time, nor for that matter do I have anything right now. I'm honestly not too sure what was running through my mind, or what I was hoping to achieve; maybe I thought my writing would earn me some money, despite the fact that I wasn't really writing anything of any substance or worth, maybe I thought my comics would pick up, despite an erratic update schedule and being remarkably sub-par compared to the competition, or maybe I thought that unsolicited bags of money would somehow fall into my bank account. I know people who are self employed and I know that they don't really sleep. Of course, they can chose when and where to work to a certain extent, but what that usually means is that they chose to work all the time so that they can keep their head above water in terms of money. A nine-until-five office job may be soul crushingly dull and repetitive, but somehow I’ve never found that monthly deposit into my bank account dull and repetitive. It’s good to know that it’s coming. It is certainly true that if you want to see the big money and truly great success, you have to work for yourself. I’m currently standing at a fork in the road with regards to my legal prospects as I agonise over whether or not to train as a solicitor or a barrister. A solicitor works in an office doing similar things to what I’m doing now, along with the monthly wage, national insurance and paid leave, whereas a barrister who is self employed gets the dramatic TV-drama-friendly side of the legal career standing up before a judge on behalf of their clients, presenting cases and just occasionally nose diving in court destroying their career because they haven’t slept in five days. It has been said that the way to make serious money is by becoming a barrister. It is also painfully clear that “becoming a barrister” is not simple at all in the first place, and staying successful as a barrister is just as hard. I have frequently thought that I am imaginative, I have the ability to think outside of the box and am probably smarter than the average bear, so therefore surely I can think of a way of making money that does not involve me going in to work every day for eight hours. That is probably true, I can certainly think of ways to make money. What I would be unable to do is to stick it out for any length of time. I turn up to work every day because I have to, but if I knew I had the option of not working, it would be far too tempting to do just that. For anything where you are your own boss, you really do reap what you sow with the amount of work you put in being directly proportional to the success you receive. Of course, the added bonus to the “work = success” equation is that sometimes that won’t be the case and you’ll fail anyway due to some unforeseen complication. One of the legal definitions of being self employed (from Ready Mixed Concrete v Minister of Pensions) is that an individual shares the benefit and loss of the organisation. That is a perfect definition in my opinion. I’m sure all of us can deal with the benefit, but I myself am not quite ready for the loss right now and so the only course of action left to me is to run on the office hamster wheel for a little longer.

Additional Notes:
I haven’t given a full citation for Ready Mixed Concrete because I am lazy and a poor academic. If anyone wants a summary on the case, do what every high performing student does and pay a visit to the best refernce site in the world.

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