In a complete reversal of previous beliefs, I have come to realise that for me employment is so much better than self employment. I’ve taken a hit in pay, I don’t get to choose how many holidays I have in a year, I work 8:30am – 5pm Monday – Friday and quite honestly, it’s the happiest I’ve been in a long time. Let me explain.
When I was a teenager I worked in a local chip shop. That was my only form of employment until after I graduated university with a BSc Podiatry and I went straight from my 3rd year to work for the NHS. That lasted a little under a year before I found out I was pregnant at 20 years old and off on maternity leave just after turning 21. I had no option for returning part time and so from the time my son was 18 months old (and I was 22) I started my own business. It was great! I only saw a couple of patients a week in their own homes which kept things simple and the business grew alongside the kids. My parents are self employed and it seemed like a natural progression that I would be too.
The issue with me as a self employed person could be perceived as both a blessing and a curse. I am absolutely FULL of ideas and drive. Sounds great eh? And to an extent, it is! It’s what led to me moving from home visits only to ultimately opening my own 4 room clinic with an employee and a multitude of self employed therapists working from the clinic. The clinic is really successful, in some cases almost too successful and struggling to keep up with demand! So, what on earth was my problem?
Looking back I think I could partially blame the PG Cert I undertook over 2019 into 2020 (I blame said ideas and drive). I was writing my final assessment as I made the decision to temporarily close my business because of the first covid lockdown. It was mentally a really tough time. Things that had niggled me before, like patients calling my house phone in the evening* or cancelling appointments last minute or not showing up at all or calling and expecting same day appointments began to weigh heavily. Burnout approached.
* One of the most shocking/laughable/ridiculous examples of this was when I received a phone call one Christmas Eve at 7:30pm from the disgruntled niece of a patient I apparently neglected to visit a few days previously. My first instinct was to panic that I had in fact forgotten to go and see this lady! I got out my diary and saw that I had gone past her house but she hadn’t been home. First rule of home visits – patients need to be home for the situation to be a success. Once I hung up the phone and accepted I wasn’t in the wrong, the sheer disbelief that someone had phoned me in the evening of Christmas Eve about this hit me. What was I expected to do anyway?! That one will never leave me.
When you are self employed, you are never really off. You don’t get proper downtime unless you’re some kind of mind control meditation guru and you can switch off. Or else you need to be someone of a completely different personality type than me. I think what made me good at my job is that I really genuinely from the bottom of my heart, care about people I want to help. I want to fix. And that’s what made it so hard! I wanted to keep everyone happy. If I couldn’t I felt like I was letting them down. It is a rod I had (still have, to be fair!) for my own back. On holiday I was too scared to check my own social media for personal reasons in case I saw a message from a patient. Once I knew it was there, I couldn’t forget it and felt I had to deal with it so I could put it out of my mind.
My once plentiful ideas for my business and excitement for acting on them completely dried up. The weight of responsibility was getting hard to carry. When I found myself over the Christmas holidays literally wishing I had covid so I didn’t have to go back to work, I realised something was far from right. I actually didn’t care anymore.
After a conversation with my husband (he said, “do something about it then”) I did something about it. I decided to apply for some jobs. The idea of not having full responsibility, having a steady pay check, pension contributions, sick pay, being actually OFF when I was off etc was overwhelmingly appealing.
I’ve not looked back since accepting a job offer with a company I had already done some ad hoc work for. For all the reasons above. The first time I said to a colleague, “can I leave this with you, I don’t feel comfortable discussing that with this client” (it wasn’t really my job so I passed it on) was an absolute revelation!!
Don’t get me wrong, I still do uncomfortable things. Public speaking… hello! But the weight of responsibility has been greatly lifted and if I am feeling it I’m supported by colleagues.
For me, right now, employment is the way ahead. We’re generally led to believe that self employment is where it’s at and for some, it is. But my lesson here is that sometimes less and simple is actually way more.