Forty Four.

When it feels like being self-employed isn’t worth it anymore.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from Hannah Harvey who runs pregnancy yoga workshops and online courses. She says:

“Is it still worth being self-employed? With some employers offering flexibility around working hours / childcare / working from home — is it time to return to employment?”

• • • • •

This episode is supported by Nutmeg.

Nutmeg offers customers a high-quality investment service at a reduced cost, whether they have £500 or £5 million to invest. Nutmeg now manages over £2bn on behalf of over 80,000 customers, making Nutmeg one of the UK’s fastest growing wealth managers and the fifth largest wealth manager in the UK by customer numbers (Source: PAM Asset Management, January 2019).

[Risk warning: Capital at risk. JISA rules apply]

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:01:09] – Frankie
Hello, you’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:01:19] – Steve
Yes, hello! Each week we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids community. Do our best to answer it, but of course, we start each episode by going back to last week’s episode and taking your comments on that. Last week’s episode was…?

[00:01:30] – Frankie
It was Suzanne talking about pitching for work when she doesn’t know when she’s going to have childcare.

[00:01:35] – Steve
Oh, yes. So did we get lots of comments about that?

[00:01:38] – Frankie
We got lots of comments, but not about that.

[00:01:41] – Steve
No. Every single comment was about Vienetta.

[00:01:45] – Frankie

[00:01:47] – Steve
Amy Harrison says, “Vienetta. Ice cream of champions.”

[00:01:51] – Frankie
Straight to the point.

[00:01:52] – Steve
Daniel Atkinson said,

“The world is always a better place with Vienetta, the enduring 1980s ice cream dessert of choice.”

[00:01:59] – Frankie
And Samantha Slater says,

“I have a tenuous claim to fame with Vienetta. The ex brand manager is now my daughter’s head teacher.”

[00:02:07] – Steve

[00:02:08] – Frankie
And apparently there’s a name for the crunch when you slice through it.

[00:02:12] – Steve
I saw this in the thread on Facebook. I must admit, after she wrote that. I then Googled it to try and verify this information, but instead ended up watching loads of YouTube videos all about Vienetta. The ‘How It’s Made’ one is just a thing of beauty.

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:07:03] – Frankie
This week’s question comes from Hannah Harvey, who runs pregnancy yoga workshops, but obviously in current times has had to pivot a little bit. So she’s doing, like, online Zoomy type things and sells an online course as well. Her website is

Hannah says,

“Is it still worth being self employed? With some employers offering flexibility around working hours and childcare and working from home — is it time to return to employment?”

[00:07:37] – Steve
Drops the mic, walks out.

Wow. Okay. This is a fun one.

I guess this comes from a place, of course, where a lot of people — particularly in the group — become self-employed because they almost have no choice. Obviously, you were self employed before you had kids…

[00:07:55] – Frankie
Yeah, but a lot of women, particularly, are pushed into it.

[00:07:59] – Steve
Yeah. So I totally get where that question is coming from. The fact is, some people become self-employed and they go through it because of that flexibility, but really, maybe, they don’t necessarily get a buzz from the business side of things, or they’re not necessarily massively enjoying the work that they’re doing, but they’re doing it because that’s what works for them and their family.

[00:08:23] – Frankie
Right, yeah.

[00:08:24] – Steve
But then there’s other people who do get a buzz from it and can’t imagine working for somebody else. Usually it kind of sits into those sort of two things.

So, for a start, I think you have to question beyond the flexibility thing — why are you self-employed?

There’s lots of ‘whys’ aren’t there? So for me, my ‘why’ is the flexibility for the children. But then, since then, I’ve discovered I love the creativity, I love choosing what I work on. I love the fact that I get to work on lots of different projects with lots of different people. I love the fact that actually I can earn more money than I ever could have done, probably, within a company. Or rather that if I choose to work extra hours and stuff, I feel like I’m being rewarded for it in a way that I wasn’t when I worked in-house places. So, yeah, the ‘whys’, think about the ‘whys’.

[00:09:23] – Frankie
And this feels like a real watershed moment, right? Because I would like to think a lot of companies, as a result of this madness, are going to be a lot more flexible. People are going to be working from home more if they want to.

[00:09:39] – Steve
And here’s the thing. If you are, let’s say… you’re a marketing manager who became self-employed because of family. The fact that you have managed to run a business and work remotely for however many years — when you’re applying for those roles which might now become flexible, those are actually huge bonus assets.

[00:10:05] – Frankie

[00:10:06] – Steve
Those skills that you have learned in communication and working in a remote manner are going to be really valuable.

[00:10:14] – Frankie
You might need some help writing a CV though! If someone asked me to write a CV tomorrow, I’d be like, ‘erm…’

[00:10:22] – Steve
One thing’s for sure, there is no shame in stopping.

[00:10:29] – Frankie
Oh God, totally, yes.

[00:10:29] – Steve
But I feel like some people feel there is.

[00:10:31] – Frankie
Yeah, like they failed. Yeah. There’s a whole load of baggage that comes with that.

[00:10:38] – Steve
Whereas, in fact, I’ve spoken to people who have been freelance and then maybe gone into a company — an opportunity has come along, they couldn’t say no to it, they’ve gone back in. And actually, while in that new place, they have learned new skills, they’ve met new people, increased their network, come out the other side of it, gone back to being freelance, but now they’re at a ‘higher level’, if you like, of confidence and skills and earning potential than they were when they were freelance before.

Just because you go back to a full-time role now doesn’t mean that you can’t go back to being self-employed again in the future. So I don’t think it has to be ‘evil’. And for that matter, I mean… we’ve all shown how we can juggle various side projects and families. We are kings and queens of multitasking! Just because you’re going full-time somewhere doesn’t mean that you can’t even keep something going on the side if you wanted to, depending on what you were doing.

[00:11:36] – Frankie
And maybe, these shifts in the traditional workplace environment and how that operates, maybe the boundaries are going to become increasingly blurred between being self-employed and being an employee?

There’s going to be more and more crossover in terms of where you work, how you work. Yeah. Maybe that transition, moving in and out of those two will become easier. But like you say, I think a lot of the time that’s about that fear of moving between being self-employed and being employed and vice versa. A lot of that comes from ourselves and telling ourselves that if we get this job that’s it, we can’t ever work for ourselves ever again. And that’s just not the case at all. But it’s more complicated than that, particularly work now where no one has a job for life anyway — even if you’re employed! It’s just not a thing that exists anymore.

[00:12:22] – Steve
Yeah, you see, there’s another point in itself because at the moment everything sounds rosy about going back into a job. Right? But one of the things that I would say is that being employed isn’t necessarily being more secure. If anything, being the master of your own destiny and having multiple income streams from a diverse range of clients makes you more, I don’t know the word… resilient?

Yeah. Basically, if somebody turns around and decides they don’t want to keep you in a job anymore, suddenly you’re unemployed. Whereas when you’re self-employed, hopefully you have numerous clients.

[00:13:03] – Frankie
Hannah’s already done. She’s pivoted her business to go online.

[00:13:07] – Steve
Right, yeah. That’s one thing — I don’t believe in the job ‘security’ of full-time employment.

[00:13:14] – Frankie
Yeah, and we’re, well… not potentially, we ARE heading into a massive recession. We are in a recession and the worst of it is not yet hit. Is this the time to go back into employment? Yes, on the one hand. But as you say, it’s a volatile situation. But I guess in the times that we are living in, maybe for some people having an employed job — even if they don’t know that employed job is secure fully — but just knowing how much money comes in every month and what their hours are, is just one level of stress taken away that they need right now because there’s so much other shit going on. Maybe that would just make life a bit easier?

[00:13:52] – Steve
Yeah, that’s true. Yeah. There’s no shame in taking a part-time role and continuing to be self-employed if that’s what you want to do. I don’t know if ‘shame’ is the right word.

[00:14:09] – Frankie
No, it definitely is. As per episode, I don’t know what number it was… where we talked about the ‘cult of busy’ and all that. There’s just this pervasive, like, ‘work hard, grind hard, be successful, hustle, hustle’ narrative, right? All that. So, like, when you turn around and say, “yeah, this isn’t for me, I’m going to go work for somebody else”, I would totally understand why somebody would feel ‘shame’ about that. I’m not saying that’s justified. It’s definitely not!

Do whatever you want. It’s your life! It’s like if you go to a party or something or you’re out and about and you’ve done something embarrassing and you feel like the whole world’s looking at you and like laughing and mocking whatever you’ve done… NO, they’re not. They’re just wrapped up in their own stuff. They don’t care what you’re doing. Ultimately, nobody cares whether you’ve gone back to an employed job or not. They really don’t. So if, like, that’s one of the things that is stopping you — don’t let it. Just get on and block any Instagram accounts that tell you otherwise.

Ultimately you know what’s right for you and your family and that will change over time. We’re all on a journey. Where we’re going isn’t linear. We will go in and out of things and things will shift and change and we’ll get sick, or our family will get sick, or our kids will want to do this, or we’ll want to live in a different place, or there’ll be a GLOBAL PANDEMIC and priorities will change. Like, things change over time and you change as a person over time, and what is important to you shifts. So, like, yeah, don’t worry about what you think you think you should be doing and what other people think you should be doing. If you want to go and work with somebody else, absolutely. You have my blessing.

Sante, cheers to that!

[00:16:01] – Steve
Wow. That was a good one, that was a good Frankie rant.

[00:16:03] – Frankie
That was a good rant.

[00:16:06] – Steve
That was a class A. I love that. I wish people could see it.

If I were to go back into full-time employment, though, I would still make sure that I kept my profile up. Maybe that sounds wanky, but, you know, a lot of us have invested-

[00:16:24] – Frankie
Keep your finger in the pies?

[00:16:25] – Steve
Yeah, we’ve invested time into our personal brand. I just feel that whilst the whole phrase ‘personal brand’ is a load of wank, it is actually a really important part of the modern way work works and everyone, in a way, should build one. Even if they’re freelance or if they’re in a job.

And so whatever you build as yourself, you can take into a full-time role and then, like we said earlier, you can always come back out of that and you’ve kept it alive or keeping you visible might lead you onto another job. There is no negative side to sort of like keeping you as a person and your personal brand — if you’ve already started building one — going.

[00:17:16] – Frankie
That’s a really good point. Yeah. If you do go for it, don’t shut down what you’ve built, essentially.

[00:17:23] – Steve
Yeah. I mean, you might literally shut down your ltd company if you’ve set up a ltd company.

[00:17:29] – Frankie
But keep a website or some sort of presence?

[00:17:33] – Steve
Yeah. Keep Hannah Harvey the person and what you’ve built up and what you stand for going.

Oh Hannah, what a question. I enjoyed that.

[00:17:45] – Frankie
Great question. I went into first class rant mode!

What would your advice be?

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