This article was first published on The Malta Independent. You can view it here.
The Europe 2020 strategy recognizes entrepreneurship and self-employment as key for achieving smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in Europe’s economy. In this regard the European Commission promotes business start-ups by unemployed and vulnerable individuals and offers support for social entrepreneurs as well as micro financing.
According to a 2017 NSO study, being self-employed is a way of life for more than 33,000 people in Malta. Around 23, 000 do not have any employees and on average, those who are in full time self-employment work 46.4 hours a week.
Being your own boss has its perks of course, with independence, flexibility and autonomy being top three, however, as with everything else, being self-employed comes with its very own set of headaches.
As an employment lawyer by profession and being self-employed myself, I am fully aware and personally familiar with the advantages, the drawbacks, as well as the worries that come with being your own boss.
Work life balance
For many, the main attraction of going from being employed to being self-employed is no longer having to answer to a manager or boss. What we need to remember however is that sometimes, answering to ourselves, can prove even harder than answering to anyone else. In the beginning especially, branching off on your own can mean longer hours and bigger risks, but getting it right can mean success on many levels. The freedom to do what you love comes with recognising when to stop and when to take time out. I for one know how difficult this is to achieve, and how many self-employed individuals end up being workaholics. I myself have to try hard not to fall into this trap!
Being self-employed means that you can no longer be fired; that’s the good news right? But it also means that your salary is not guaranteed, that you get no leave or sick-leave and that you’re responsible for your own tax and insurance arrangements. Being self-employed always feels like you’re heading out into the unknown. It’s rarely obvious what you should do next and you learn how to rely on yourself for most things. There will be days when you’ll feel like it’s too much too handle but with a passion for learning – a trait most entrepreneurs possess – you’ll find the courage to commit and persevere.
When you’re your own boss you can take a risk on yourself. If you do not have formal qualifications, self-employment is in fact one of the best options for a great career. As many entrepreneurs will tell you, sometimes a qualification from The University of Life can prove to be more useful than any other. Whilst it is unlikely that an employer will hire you without official qualifications (if the role requires it), as a self-made entrepreneur, you can prove that experience and resourcefulness are key.
Many will claim that those who are self-employed make more money, or at least have the opportunity to make more money than those who are employed. Whilst this is true because as a self-employed individual your hourly rate is likely to be higher than what you would earn in employment, on the other hand, there’s no guarantee of constant work and you can potentially make less money. You will also have to spend time working for free – in the form of marketing yourself, getting yourself known and in administrative tasks.
In its support to entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals, the European Commission seeks to raise awareness and spread knowledge about being an entrepreneur and self-employed and building capacity in EU countries and regions. It also supports entrepreneurship financially via the European Progress Microfinance Facility and the third axis of the Employment and Social Innovation program to help stimulate self-employment and the creation of micro-enterprises.
I strongly believe in individuals who have opted to be self-employed or who are about to take the plunge. It can be hard but with will power and the right support it is a journey which may lead to great satisfaction and success. In view of this belief I will keep working on this sector and aim to give support to all entrepreneurs and will work towards ensuring that any European laws will have at the forefront self-employed individuals and small businesses.
Roselyn Borg Knight is a PN candidate for the EP election