For the women who need us most

For the women who need us most

I’m Werking On My…

I’m Werking On My…

A self-employment guide: How to be your own boss
By Lucy Hainsworth
Image: Rebecca Kennedy

Self-employment. It’s like marmite, you either love it or hate it. We’re here at Werk to help you weigh up the pros and cons and help you decide whether this is a path you may dive down yourself. 

With over 4.27 million people in the UK being self-employed since February 2024, according to The House of Commons, it is a route to consider. But, what does it take for you to successfully become your own boss?

Rebecca Kennedy, 31, the woman who made it from a barbering apprentice to owning her own shop, spoke to us about how to make it in the self-employed industry. After spending years being employed and self-employed in the same industry, she gained insight into what it really takes.

Her first piece of advice is to gain experience in your field under the wing of someone else before taking the big leap. After Mrs Kennedy started her career in hairdressing at 16 after leaving school, she also took up barbering as an apprenticeship. Here, she learned the dos and don’ts of the industry and appreciated all the skill behind it.

Fast forward to now, she has owned her own successful barber shop, before going back to being employed as a barber, and has recognised the steps you have to take to be the boss.

Image: Rebecca Kennedy’s barber shop

She said: “It humbled me as I went from a shop owner to back to being employed and although it was a bit more tricky, I gained respect through being in my employer’s position and realising it’s not super easy. 

“It actually made it a lot easier as you have a lot more respect for the person at the top having to find work for everyone underneath. You do end up with a lot more respect.”

With this, Mrs Kennedy’s next piece of advice to anyone wanting to make a success of the self-employed world is to keep those contacts, and never burn your bridges. 

She said: “Be nice to people and don’t tread on toes because at some point you’re probably going to need those people. For me, if you are going self-employed I would say don’t upset the place that you’re leaving because they could always take you back and then it reduces your risk factor.

“The same place I was leaving I was told I could come back at any point if it didn’t work. So in the self-employed world, don’t burn your bridges.”

So from the start of your career, in whatever field you’re in, keep those names and numbers, because someday you may need them. Whether it’s for a helping hand or a backup plan, having both is essential in keeping your cool with a business. 

Being a recognized friendly and cooperative person in your field of work is also important for drumming up your client base. A huge part of self-employment is marketing, and with marketing, comes social media.

Mrs Kennedy spoke about the importance of having a platform for your business: “With the self-employed side I think it’s nowadays especially 50-50 whether you’ve got the skill but also the personality and marketing. You are not going to get anywhere in the self-employed world anymore if you’re not on social media. It used to be word of mouth which still works to an extent but people are still wanting to see your credentials through your platforms and your websites.

“There’s a lot of courses now for self-employed people solely on marketing and people are having to pay for courses to learn how to push themselves further because it takes a lot more to be self-employed. It takes a lot more effort and a lot more time but you can gain more rewards.”

Image: Rebecca Kennedy with her qualification for barbering

Skill and talent aside, your personality and own goals can make the decision whether self-employment is for you. If you’re after a bit more stability and don’t want the hassle of being a self-marketer, employment could be for you. But, for those risk takers out there self-employment can help you climb up the ladder to gaining fulfilment. 

Mrs Kennedy believes that your own personality is a big factor to take into consideration when deciding whether to stick with your boss, or become the boss. 

She said: “There is pros and cons to both, I personally prefer the self-employed side but that’s because I have a mindset that I don’t mind taking risks whereas there’s a lot of people that want security and they want that lower risk that they can go home at the end of the day and not have to worry about their wage. 

“I find being self-employed makes me work harder. If I’ve got gaps in my day I’m going to work harder to advertise myself whereas there are a lot of people that won’t have that time or energy to put into it.”

Although the job itself may entail the same skillset, being self-employed may mean your jobs just gone from a 9-5 to a 24 hour thought process. From your own bills, bookings, marketing and much more, the process can be overwhelming and time-consuming. But for some people, the drive to be the best they can be just for themselves is what keeps them going.

For the driven, motivated workers out there who have got a specific skill set, self-employment may seem the one for you. But those with the same skill set may also want to practice this through the base of somebody else. Both of which, are absolutely fine. 

Mrs Kennedy said: “I believe there is room for everyone. I think employment and self-employment have pros and cons but are both necessary. 

“I don’t think there is a right and wrong answer because I think they’re both brilliant as they suit all the different personalities in the world. I think having them both is a wonderful thing, if you take one away then we’ve got a very unbalanced world. We need both options.”

So whatever path your skillset leads you down, there is room for everybody. If that is self-employment, you better get those contacts, get that skillset, and be ready to market yourself to the world. As Mrs Kennedy said: “Just be smart, keep turning up and work hard. Be comfortable in that situation knowing something will come up, your outgoings will be paid at the end of the month and everything will be fine.”