I talked in yesterday’s lesson I’ve learned (link in the comments below) about being a one-person business rather than ‘just’ a freelancer. I’m aware that there are those in the business community who either can’t or won’t see a single person as a business – that a business has to have employees to be a ‘proper’ business.
Look at the training and learning events offered by business support organisations, chambers of commerce and even universities and you’ll see the words ‘growth’, ‘employees’, ‘team’, ‘recruit’ and ‘retain’ time and time again.
I’m certainly not anti-growth. I’m certainly not anti-success. I’m absolutely not against creating new jobs and opportunities. What I do rail against, though, is the assumption that every business wants to grow by taking on staff and that somehow a business that isn’t growing in head-count isn’t growing at all.
What about growth of turnover? What about growth of reputation? What about personal and professional growth of that one person in that one person business? Do they not count?
When I was running the PR consultancy I did have two part-time team members who I took on to work on my biggest account. I loved working with other creative people, even remotely (and I really miss working with others – but that’s for another lesson) and I loved not being alone in my business, but I didn’t enjoy knowing I was (at least partially) responsible for them being able to pay their mortgages or feed their kids. Every month it was just a relief to be able to pay them – and of course I paid them before I paid myself.
Eventually that client account fell apart and I ended up paying those team members while not being paid by the client and I (well, the business) ended up thousands of pounds out of pocket and I had to end their contracts early. Perhaps that has coloured my view of being an employer, but it made me realise that I’m happy on my own, I don’t have ambitions to grow a large business – and that doesn’t make my business any less important or less ‘business-like’. Now I have some trusted sub-contractors (and again, that’s another lesson I’ll pick up over the next few days) but it’s taken me a long while to learn the lesson that I don’t want to be an employer – and that that’s OK.