Self-employment is on the rise, even in times of unemployment. Many dietitians know early on in their education that they’ll open a private practice, providing nutrition counseling outside of traditional healthcare settings.
In theory, going it alone offers a huge amount of opportunity, with the only limits being your drive and determination to succeed. However, being a freelancer or business owner isn’t all sunshine and rainbows - far from it, in fact.
Whether you’re a freelance nutrition coach, your own boss in private practice, or making money from your cooking blog, there are certain risks that go along with self-employment that we don’t often think of when job-hunting.
Being prepared and having some security in place is important before you “take the plunge” into the world of “permalancing” and self-employment.
All can be going exceptionally well in your freelance career, but it only takes a client or two to not pay you for your work and you could be in serious trouble. Cash flow is critical if you are going to survive self-employment, so it’s important to put aside emergency money and overall manage your finances responsibly. Be wary of inconsistent cash flow, and handle large sums with the future in mind.
One aspect of self-employment that differs from a typical day job are the financial aspects. How will you file for taxes, separate your ‘salary’ from business profits, and write-off business-related expenses? Understanding these money management principles can make or break any freelancer or private practice owner.
Similar to financial management, you need to consider the health aspects of your job. Health insurance is typically included in an employment packet along with retirement funds and vacation time. But if you’re self-employed, how will you meet those same goals? Taking the right steps to have everything in place means when something goes wrong, it won’t go all wrong. Having an emergency fund isn’t just for dry months, but also for personal emergencies. For example, what will you do after an auto accident? You may not be able to work for several months, draining your savings without bringing anything else in.
As a rule, small businesses are more adaptable, nimble and agile - they can perform many of the functions of a larger business with fewer people. But as the business owner - or the freelancer going it alone – it can be easy to stretch yourself too thin. Focus on your strengths and develop them to their fullest instead of trying to do it all. Setting goals for your business means knowing what to say yes to, and what to pass along to third parties.
selling yourself short
Don’t sell yourself short. In the early stages of self-employment, it’s tempting to take on low-paid work. While you think you’re getting the ball rolling, you may get trapped in a cycle of gigs that take up too much time for too little reward. Set your goals and know your strengths, and stand firm to an established pricing list.
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