On the nature of ‘tomorrow’.

Now as we know, it is often said that tomorrow never comes.  Well that’s kind of not true, however it does need a bit of thinking about.  Here goes:

Today, tomorrow is the day after today.  Then when tomorrow comes it will be today and today will be yesterday.  The the day after tomorrow, tomorrow will be yesterday and today will be the day after yesterday.  Confused?  Good.

The point of all this nonsense?  Well I’m just trying to convey the message that the only day you can really count on is today, so use it wisely.

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Insurance For Self Employed

As a self employed person there are any number of different situations that may arise for which you may need insurance. If you’re a builder and you accidentally damage someone else’s house you may be liable for costs if they make a claim. This is where Public Liability Insurance would come in helpful for you.

Or, if you’re an IT Consultant and you give a client the wrong piece of advice, which they follow and then suffer some kind of financial loss, then Professional Indemnity Insurance that would form part of your self employed insurance would cover the cost of the claim. These are just two forms of insurance which you should consider:

Public Liability Insurance
Professional Indemnity Insurance
Business Equipment Insurance
Buildings Insurance

Public Liability Insurance

This is a very important form of insurance for self employed people. It protects you if somebody makes a claim against you, if in the course of conducting your business, you accidentally cause injury or damage to another person or their property.

Professional Indemnity Insurance

This form of insurance is important if your business involves you giving advice to others. If, following your advice, someone suffers financial loss, then this insurance will protect you.

Business Equipment Insurance

You can’t do your job without the necessary tools. With this insurance, you can protect them. This extends to traditional tools and new fangled ones like laptops and other office equipment.

Buildings Insurance

Should you work from home, then you can insure your home office via this type of insurance.

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Work From Home Companies

As with going out to work, there is any number of work from home companies. It really does depend upon what you want to do. I think that it’d be useful also to say that as well as working for yourself, or being freelance, you can also work from or at home for an employer.

There are some genuine work from home companies out there, and also some scams. Please be wary of such work from home scams. Normally, a job won’t come with a fee, so never send money up front to people or companies who claim they can give you work at home. If you are interested in an advertised work from home job do some research into the company and contact them with your questions. A legitimate company will be very glad to speak with you and give you as much information as you require.

Beware the Scammer

One of the more common ones involves adverts about addressing and stuffing envelopes which ask for a registration fee. If you pay the fee, all you get in return is advice to place adverts like the one you saw, but no actual work. Another type will ask you for money for home assembly kits, promising your money back and additional payment for the kits that you complete. The advertiser will pocket any money you send and then claim the kit you assembled didn’t meet the necessary standards. If you feel that you have been the victim of such a scam, you will need to inform your local Trading Standards Department – be insistent with them too. Sometimes you can get passed from pillar to post, insist that someone takes responsibility for your complaint, after all it’s their duty and they do have this responsibility to you.

Three Legitimate Companies

I’d like to discuss three of the more well known work from home companies in the UK. All involve catalogues, but all have different business models. No doubt you will have heard of them, but I’ll give you the names anyway. There’s Kleeneze, Avon and Betterware. All are direct sales companies, that is, there is no middle man between you as a distributor of products and your customers. I believe that Avon and Betterware both operate with territory systems – that is they tell you where to put your catalogues, where as Kleeneze does not – it is up to you.

With Betterware you receive your catalogues from the company at no cost, but you are told how many you need to put out. Avon does charge you for your books as does Kleeneze, but the difference is that with Kleeneze you can put your books anywhere – you build your own territory. I have heard of a lady who was advised by someone from Avon that she could just drop her books out wherever she wanted to. This resulted in nothing more than an irate call from the lady whose Avon territory she’d stepped on. Ouch!

Kleeneze charges an upfront fee to join. Now as I have discussed above, a legitimate company which Kleeneze (like Avon and Betterware) is, will be glad to answer any queries that you have. Furthermore, it is likely, especially with Kleeneze, that you will be joining up with a sponsor, again they will have no problems in discussing the business with you. In many respects there’s something which seems almost shady about some of the methods used by Kleeneze Distributors to encourage enquiries. You may have found a mysterious card on your card, or seen a flyer or even poster – not to mention newspaper ads. This is because upfront mention of the name Kleeneze does put people off. However, if you were to look at the Kleeneze opportunity in any depth you would realise that there is a direct relationship between work done and reward received.


With all three opportunities, as in life really, you don’t get anything for nothing. You have to put in some work, there’s just no way that you’ll make a single penny if you do nowt. I guess what concerns people is whether or not they’re doing the right thing, as doing lots, but of the wrong things gets you the same place as doing nothing. So this leads us back to another question, namely how do we know if we’re doing the right thing. Well dear reader, research is key, as is listening to your own gut instinct, if something feels wrong then it probably is, so leave it alone. Try and make sure that your research is as independent as possible. There are plenty of forums out there and all sorts of people will post on them. People post for various reasons – positive, negative and neutral, so be wary and read as much as you can to get the best possible range of opinions.  Ultimately though, it’s down to you.  Good Luck.

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Why Does Self Employment Require Self Control?

If you are self employed, you manage everything. Now, this might be a bit of an over simplification, but this basically boils down to task lists and income profiles. I remember that as an employed person, the only thing that I had to remember was that my income would arrive on the 15th of the month – sometimes as early as the 13th (whenever this was a Friday funnily enough)! So I arranged my most important direct debits, mortgage, council tax, sky subscription(!) to come out before the 20th. And I did my socialising around the same time of the month – in the 2 weeks after payday. That was it, job done. Well almost, because very quickly I had to build in things like credit card payments, as I had borrowed on them to tide me over after the last batch of direct debits had gone out around the 1st of the month. Just the simple expedient of writing things down, knowing that 50% of my salary (after tax) would be gone in the week after payday, that another 25% would go out around 2 weeks before payday and that the remaining 25% to buy food and go out etc would have to be spread out over the full month. Simple? Well yes, but did I do it? Mmm, as the reference to my credit card would illustrate, no I bloody didn’t.

Progress Meetings

Work was a similar story. I remember as a project manager we had monthly team meetings which doubled as progress reports. We’d all be at there in a semi circle, with our manager in the middle at the front. We’d go through all of our projects, and would have to give updates on how things were going. Despite knowing a full month in advance of this meeting, I would have done nothing but the bare minimum until a week before this meeting. This brings another theme here, that of negative motivation, but that’s another article for you to read.

The week before this meeting would have been a whirlwind of rushing around trying to get things done – unfortunately, quite a few of these things had to be done by other people, so at our progress meeting, I’d be sat there defending myself, saying things like ‘such-and-such-a-body hasn’t been able to complete task x, so I can’t report progress here and now’, or ‘contractor z has only just started task y so I won’t have anymore news until next month’ and so on. I’d then have to spend the next week, frantically tidying all of these loose ends and then relax for a couple of weeks. And the number of times that AN Other got me out of a hole, well…

The Buck Stops Here

When you are self employed, this doesn’t work – the buck stops with you. For a kick-off, there’s not necessarily a regular monthly income – even though your bills will still go out, as regular as clockwork. So you need to manage your income and outgoings. Stagger your direct debits across the month, giving yourself space to make up any income gaps. Use the fact that there are four weeks (minimum) in any given month and have things go out on the 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd. Then schedule your income (and hence task list) around this – allowing time for cheques to clear or late payment from customers etc.

Longer Period

Then of course, you will need to play this out over the longer period. Unexpected things will happen, so you need some form of contingency fund. Also, never mind making Jack a dull boy, all work and no play is a recipe for burn out, so schedule time off. This means managing your money so that you can afford the time off. Annual events such as Christmas, your wife’s birthday(!) need to be planned and accounted for, both in terms of time and money. So do it. NOW!

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Can A Self Employed Person Get A Mortgage?

Even in these days of credit crunch, getting a mortgage if you’re self employed is not the trial that it used to be. It’s even possible to get a mortgage if you don’t have the best set of books. Traditionally, lenders would wish to see regular income guaranteed by employment. However as we have been seeing, the economy has changed with and more and more people have becoming self employed, not to mention that fact that even having a job is not that secure anymore. Whilst there are still specialist lenders who specialise in mortgages for the self employed, it’s probably true that most lenders will deal with self employed people. Your best bet to find this out is to seek out an independent mortgage adviser. In an initial half hour to an hour interview with one of these fine individuals you will find out an awful lot more about just what you could obtain, what products are out there and such like. Just a little piece of advice here, and paraphrasing Orwell, some independent mortgage advisers are more independent than others.

Being able to show that you’ve been involved in a particular industry for years can be an advantage. This is because lenders are still wedded to the idea of seeing how employable you are. This is a slightly bonkers example, but it proves the point – a plumber may well be in a better position than a successful film director as they would be able to show steady, weekly work. By contrast, the film director’s few months of work here and there would look more patchy. By the same token, being new to a particular area of business may prove a problem until you are able to demonstrate regular income. If you have a short term contract it would be advantageous for you to be able to show that you have regular such contracts with the same employer, obviously the longer that this history goes back, the better.

Cautious Creatures

As I have hinted, mortgage lenders are cautious creatures and don’t always appreciate the ins and outs of different types of business. But this is changing, so do your homework and shop around, or get your mortgage adviser to shop around. It used to be the case that if you’re self employed and you wanted a mortgage, the lender would seek proof of your income, you’d need to show three years audited accounts or if you haven’t been in business for long enough the lender would accept a letter of confirmation from an accountant.

If you’re not able to show the three years accounts, you may have to pay a larger deposit, or go down the route of self certification. As discussed, historically, those of us who were unable to provide evidence of all their income have often found it difficult to get appropriate mortgages, either being offered mortgages that were too small, with punitive rates or even being refused completely.

Self Certification Mortgages

Self certification mortgages provide a solution for people whose full income cannot be guaranteed or suitably demonstrated. Although often associated with self employed people, self certification mortgages are available to people from all walks of life, regardless of their employment status. As the name suggests, a self-certification mortgage is just like a ‘normal’ mortgage except for the fact that you don’t have to prove your income. What is required instead is a signed declaration of your income and your ability to afford the mortgage for which you are applying. In return, your accounts are not checked, you don’t have to prove your financial or employment status and the only checks that will be carried out will be standard credit checks.

In going down this route however, please remember that standard mortgage warning, YOUR HOME MAY BE REPOSSESSED IF YOU CANNOT KEEP UP REPAYMENTS ON ANY LOANS SECURED AGAINST IT. Thinking that you’ve pulled a fast one by getting the loan approved, and then realising six months down the line that you can’t actually afford it is extremely sobering.

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Why You Should Develop Yourself

You need the skills to be able to do your job. FACT. From the least techincal job to being a brain surgeon or rocket scientist, there is no getting away from it, you aren’t going to last long if you do things the wrong way.

Call it training, call it personal development. Whichever way, look on training as an opportunity to change your look on life and your approach to it – and therefore to change your life to something that you want it to be. As with Time Management, you need a list of goals, so that you can set your training requirements accordingly.

I’m going to say that there are two type of training. The first is how-to-training. The nuts and bolts of your chosen business. If you’re a plumber, you need to know how to bend pipes and to join them together and so on. But then you’ve also got softer skills to learn – lets call this personal-development-training. E.g. improve your confidence, improve your conversational skills, and win more customers.

Magic Wand

Remember there is no such thing as a magic wand. Many personal development books and courses make very similar, highfalutin claims. These are not entirely untrue. However, no book in the world will make you do the things that they claim, unless you do something too.

When I was an -employed person, we’d get sent on many such courses. I’d go along to the workshops, join in all the fun, really throw myself into learning the techniques. I’d learn stuff like ‘how to get my boss to do what I want him to with him knowing’ then go back to the office and attempt the techniques in the work place… deathly silence… tumble weed blows across the office…

The course notes would sit there and gather dust. I’d always have excuses. ‘Yeah, but it’s all right doing it in the workshop, that’s only a bit of fun,’ and so on. FACT, these were free courses that my employer had sent me on. If nothing else, it was my duty to take on board what was said and put it into practice.

Used To Wonder

I used to wonder why the people who run such courses can manage to convince big companies into paying them extremely large sums of money for taking their employees out of the office for a couple of days at a time, whilst neglecting the important business of carrying out the company’s core tasks. Now, having been self-employed for a while, I’ve realised that what these consultants teach is worth so much more that whatever pittance they get paid.

This article, written by me, has previously been published on my former on-line incarnation, www.thesimonlewis.co.uk.

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Why Is Positive Motivation Better Than Negative?

Just a quickie here, on the difference between positive and negative motivation.  When you are self employed, you have to motivate your self.  This is a major difference to working for someone else.  I have found that working for someone else depends to a certain extent upon negative motivation.  Self motivation needs to be positive.

Put simply, positive motivation rewards you for achieving your goals and objectives whereas negative motivation punishes you for failing to complete your tasks.

Now that’s not to say that with the negative motivation model you can’t make a success of your career.  Far from it, one of the key skills to learn as an employee is that taking control of your task list and defining it yourself, setting targets and goals is incredibly important.  The best companies out there will encourage their employees to do this – it’s called empowerment.  I was unfortunate in this respect, not that my employer didn’t empower me, but that I didn’t grab this empowerment myself and make it work for me.


No, I used to rely too much on the negative motivation model.  I based my approach to employment solely upon doing just enough to avoid censure.  I didn’t, at any stage, take hold of my job and make even the slightest attempt to define it myself.  On becoming self employed it took me an age to realise that there was no longer this external person (bogeyman, if you will) to define my task list, I just did the bare minimum – and being self employed, the bare minimum isn’t enough.

Once you can grasp this fact, then positive motivation becomes an incredible tool.  For a kick off, you can use it on yourself.  When you have achieved a goal, reward yourself.  If you haven’t yet achieved a particular goal, then you have to work that little bit harder until you have done.  You are working for something good, rather than trying to avoid censure.

This article, written by me, has previously been published on my former on-line incarnation, www.thesimonlewis.co.uk.

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95% of People in Employment Behave Like This

I am guessing that you are one of the 95% of people in employment (as opposed to self-employment) who see themselves as having to attend their place of work for a set number of hours every day. I may be wrong on this and you may have a different take on things, but for most of you out there, you put in the hours you need and then call it quits, head for the door and go home.

Some higher ranking managers will have a task oriented view on things, rather than my narrow, time bound description of working life. In fact they, in common with any successful business man or woman, will have this task oriented view. Looking back over history any successful person, of any description, will have approached their work in the same way.

Put simply, it’s all about lists. So, if you’re self employed, you need to make a list. Before you make your list, it is essential that you know what your goals are, because I don’t mean a simple list. It needs to be a prioritised list. Knowing your goals allows you to assess your list in the light of what you need to do in order to achieve your goals. Some things will be ‘nice to do’ – they’re not important in the grand scheme of things, so they come low down. Other things will appear to need doing straight away, but don’t offer much in the way of progress towards your goals, again these come low down on your prioritised list.

What you should aim for then is a list of tasks that will deliver the results that you have identified in order to get you where you want to be. Achieving them is then a matter of application.

This article, written by me, has previously been published on my former on-line incarnation, www.thesimonlewis.co.uk.

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Why Be Self Employed?

Please accept this bit of wallowing (c) Paul McGee. It won’t last long – just the first paragraph. You can skip to the next one if you want to. That way you don’t have to read my whinging. But, it may strike a chord, it may help you to make the decision?

Fact is, I worked for the same company for twelve years. At first, I though that they were great – after all said and done, they were the only company that had ever offered me a job and they still are! However, once my skills and knowledge started to develop and I acquired specialities I soon realised that this was a company where you didn’t necessarily get on just because you were good at your job. In fact, quite the opposite was true. It was the gobby ones, those with self-confidence and a high profile, those people with the ability to get up and speak to a crowd, to portray knowledge of their subject under pressure who got on. I’ve also got a few words for so-called positive discrimination. Basically, this is a myth, and a dangerous one. This is because for every instance of positive discrimination, there is always someone affected in a negative way. Coupled with my lack of self-confidence, lack of profile and a lack of the, ahem, attributes required to have positive discrimination work in my favour, I was holed beneath the water, waiting to sink to the bottom of the ocean. Of course this might just be paranoid nonsense, and in fact I should have been looking a little closer to home in order to find out why I wasn’t cutting it. But hey, I did say that I was going to spend a few moments wallowing (thanks Paul).

What to do as a self-employed person?

Ok, you can start reading again… There are many jobs that you could do as a self employed person, and it’s not for me to tell you what you should do. Choose an occupation that you are comfortable with. You need to be able to make you living from it, so don’t do anything that you don’t feel at home with. HOWEVER, please remember that self-development is only possible by placing yourself in a series of situations of which each one challenges you to move on and improve on the previous one. You can stay in your comfort bubble for the rest of your life, e.g. by remaining in employment, having your training organised, your tax and NI paid by PAYE and ultimately your salary and other rewards decided by someone else. Or, you can set yourself a series of goals, each one building upon the previous one, by putting yourself in ever more challenging situations. Once you are comfortable with a task, it’s time to move on and take on another challenge. This is called EXPANDING YOUR COMFORT ZONE.


No daily grind.

M62, M25, M6, M40, M whatever. A1, A14, A5, A-now-hang-on-a-minute. I hear about these roads and many others on the radio in the morning as my wife and I are preparing the kids for school. We hear them all again in the afternoon when the kids are having their after-school snack. It can’t be right can it? All this stress, this sitting in a queue of traffic just to get to your place of work, and more importantly to get back home again when your day’s labours are done.

Now I’m not advocating that we all give up our well-paid job just to avoid sitting in traffic. Think about Lynne Bowles and Sally Boazman. If you all give up our jobs they’d lose theirs. But my point is, why do it, if you don’t have to? There are plenty of people with vocations to be engineers, lawyers, bankers, teachers, journalists etc, but if you’re not one of them, than why on earth are you joining them day after day in all of this traffic. Just think, if the really driven, career minded people were left to get on with going out to work and keeping the country running, there would be so much less traffic on the roads that their drive to work would be so much more pleasurable, and Lynne and Sally would be able to offer a much more positive message to their listeners. Well it’s just a thought.

You choose your hours.

Just to go back to my previous point for a minute, there are many responsible employers out there who do encourage their employees to stagger their working hours in order to help with their childcare commitments or to avoid the really ugly traffic queues. To be fair, when the going got tough for us for a while, mine was one of these employers. But there are just as many who demand that their employees arrive at nine on the dot and don’t leave until five, with a half an hour break for lunch. Ask yourself, what hours would you keep if you were your own boss? Obviously, you will have to fit them in around your clients, but this can be done by negotiation. If you are say, a plumber, you can discuss with your client, when you are going to arrive and when you are going to leave their premises. You may have to pick up tools and equipment, parts and the like. This can all be fitted in around your actual time commitment to complete the work for which you’re being paid.

You choose your salary.

This is closely allied to choosing your own hours. Seems strange I know, but when I was going out to work, I knew that for every hour extra I put in, my financial reward was negligible. Now I accept that putting in the extra time to do the job quicker is a good thing in the grand scheme of things, in order to get yourself noticed by your employer and move your career on. But think on this, if your employer is a large company with a large workforce, the only person likely to notice is your immediate boss.

This then begs the following question:

Q. In how many large companies does this person have the power to give you a pay-rise?

A. Not very many.

If this person were indeed highly enamoured with your performance, how many hoops would they have to jump through in order for you to be recognised with more pay? From my own experience the likely upshot of such a request would be that personnel would respond saying that you already get paid as much as your current job is worth under the Hayes scale, so if you want to earn any more money, then you need to apply for a new job. So, you apply for a new job possibly upsetting your current manager and spoiling a good working relationship.

My message here is that the career structures in large companies are not tailored to get the best out of the workforce in order that the company can grow. Whatever the intent in such organisations, what happens is the stars of the organisation are generally, not technically capable. They are good at getting up on their feet and speaking with authority on any subject on a superficial level. Question them further, and if the question is not on the area of their original expertise then the stock answer is given, “I’ll get back to you on that one.” The vast bulk of the work done in organisations such as this is done so by an army of technically gifted people who do not receive the financial reward that they deserve.

As a self-employed person, however, you do stand or fall upon you own abilities and the effort that you are prepared to expend in carrying out your chosen job. In my chosen self-employment spheres, I know that my reward is directly proportional to my training, aptitude and effort.

Being in control.

If you are employed, you are not able to set your own acceptability parameters. Setting aside the concept of having clients for a moment, being self-employed means that you are the final arbiter of what is or isn’t acceptable. In doing work for a manager, you could spend many hours finishing and refinishing the same piece of work in order to make it satisfactory to them. They may then take it to their own manager who will no doubt require you to do yet more polishing. As a self-employed person, even working for a client, it matters not what anybody else thinks of your finished work. You may shout, that this sounds odd, and it probably does, but let me explain. If the standard of your work is not up to scratch then your client is perfectly at liberty to withhold payment. So, you’ll soon learn that you need to get things right or you won’t make a brass bean. If you get a picky client, complete the job, get it right and move on. Choose a new client. This is much preferable to constantly having your work criticised, and you having to re-hash it in order to please your manager’s-manager’s-manager.

This article, written by me, has previously been published on my former on-line incarnation, www.thesimonlewis.co.uk.

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Being Self Employed

Before you make the leap and plunge in headfirst to the world of self-employment, you need to remember one thing. This is more of a semantic point than anything, but I believe that it requires some careful consideration.

Of the two words ‘self’ and ‘employment’ one is more important than the other. It’s not necessarily the one that you’d imagine. For me, the key word is self. Through years of agonising about giving up working for ‘the man’ to go self-employed, I worried about what I would be able to do to facilitate the leap. This is a perfectly rational, understandable set of concerns. But looking back from where I am now, I’d say that I was missing the point somewhat. So long as you recognise and understand that it’s all down to you it perhaps doesn’t matter so much what you actually do. Now of course it’s much preferable to be doing something that you like and enjoy doing – else why leave employment? – but ultimately it’s about understanding that you are in charge now. You are the boss. You stand or fall purely on your own abilities and competences and ultimately your own actions, or lack thereof.

It’s interesting to think a bit more deeply on the employer/employee relationship. Once you become self-employed, you take on both roles. You may have staff, or you may be working on your own. For a while, let’s ignore the situation where you have employees and just consider the situation when employer and employee are the same person, i.e. you.

Whatever you can get away with not doing in your current employment (and let’s face it, we all tried to get away with something when we were working for the man), you are answerable to yourself now, so any ickle white lies you tell are lies told to yourself, and tasks not carried out with 100% effort, concentration, commitment, or whatever will end up costing you reputation, goodwill and eventually money. Sagging off at 3.30 – 4 o’clock on a Friday afternoon is a well and good when you’re working for somebody else, but when you are your own boss, you cannot afford to do this unless you have planned it. By this, I mean that as a self-employed person, your working hours are significantly altered. Perhaps not to the extent of being 24/7, but certainly, you will need to make time sacrifices. I quite often find myself out and about in my line of business in the evenings. But then, I’ve been able to do the school run at both ends of the day, and stop EVERYTHING (except Radio 2) to make pizza (from scratch, with fat and flour in a bowl) on Friday afternoon, so it’s quid pro quo.

This article, written by me, has previously been published on my former on-line incarnation, www.thesimonlewis.co.uk.

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