Friday, 19 February 2016

Six Months Self-Employed : What Have I Learnt?

I can hardly believe that it's been a little over six months since I left my stable office job and took the plunge to become a fully self employed Personal Trainer. Gosh. Time has flown and I've learnt so much in that time; about the industry, the work, being self employed and myself. I've shared so much of my journey to this point on the blog I thought now might be a good time to share some of what has changed and what I've learnt in the past six months.

Location, location, location

The biggest change was not having to go into an office everyday. Of course I have other places of work that I go to regularly, like the gym, but I have surprised myself by missing the office a little. What I missed wasn't the place as such, but more the routine, the physical distinction between work and home life, and the buzz of having people around.

Initially I spent a lot of time sitting at home, and that was all very nice for a while but there was a lot around to distract me and it started to get a bit lonely. In order not to turn into a hermit I turned to my local coffee shops and libraries. These make excellent substitutes for offices, providing a place away from my DVD collection, with free wifi and hot drinks on hand. I get loads done and a few pounds for a coffee once or twice a week is an overhead I'm willing to accept. Sometimes I walk or cycle which makes it even better as I get a bit more exercise and it clears my head.
Coffee shop working. I am now hipster.

No woman is an island

I used to think I didn't really need people around me. I'm introverted by nature and thought I would adore the time alone when I first made the switch. How wrong! I made a resolution to see at least one fiend a wee, which helps me not to go stir crazy, and having a housemate for the last few weeks has made all the difference, just knowing there's another presence in the house even if we do pass like "fish in the night" as she said once.

I also really love the groups I work with. No mater how low I might feel, I head home of an evening full of happiness at having seen my clients, my classes and my run groups.
My RunFitUK group.
I've learnt that we all need people in our lives, not just for the social aspect but as a support network. I may be self employed but I'm not on my own. People have been and continue to be so generous with their time and advice and it's been great to be able to start giving back, talking to others looking to make similar moves, supporting other businesses and so on.

Changes in spending habits

Of course my financial situation has changed considerably. I'm not bringing in as much as I used to but I'm still able to cover all my outgoings. I've become much better at managing my finances whether that be accounts, invoicing, starting a personal pension and changing my spending habits. I buy less frivolous stuff but still go out for lunch occasionally. I use more petrol because I'm driving to and from multiples places of work, multiple times a day. While I can cycle to the gym, most days having to carry gym kit for classes I've got going on elsewhere directly after PT sessions means that's just not feasible.

I also plan my spending more, saving for things, staggering my race entries (and entering fewer) and making sure I'm not over spending on simple things like household bills.
I buy less lycra, but when I do it tends to be LOUD!

I'm an early bird and night owl

The format of my work day has changed dramatically. The nature of what I do means that early mornings and evenings are popular times to train and while I have few daytime clients or classes my day is usually broken into two halves. I'll often work from 6:30-9:30am and then again from 4-9pm. This means antisocial hours, strict bed times and changing my eating habits. Large lunches and small evening snacks are now the way forward. But I have time to train during the day and have learnt that I can manage early mornings without caffeine (all hail green and ginger teas).
Getting in some boxing practice after morning sessions

Admin... oh the admin!

I really wasn't prepared for just how much admin is involved in being a PT. Session planning, marketing, project meetings, event planning, managing course attendees, study, accounting... there always seems to be something that needs doing. Hence the frequent re-location to coffee shops to get my head down.

A Personal Trainer still needs to train

For something that on the face of it seems to be a physical job, I spend a lot of time sitting (see above). Even when I'm working, I'm rarely as active as my clients or class participants. I'll demo exercises but otherwise ensure they are safe and working hard. So I still need to work out myself. Although I have time to train during the day, it isn't always convenient; the pool might not be open for lane swimming, the classes I would like to go to are at times when I'm delivering my own sessions. I may only have enough time for a short run between sessions or no shower facilities. It's so easy to sit on the sofa and binge on Netflix but I try and make sure I'm active every day and be fit for my job and beyond.

Still learning

I may have finished my diploma but I am still learning all the time, both formally and informally. I took courses in Boxercise for Kids and KT Taping last year, for example. I have a Functional Training course next week and I'm hoping to take become a fully fledged Running Coach in the next 12 months. 

Even though I have been working in this industry for about a year I'm still a novice compared to many of those around me, so I'm constantly striving to be better. I'm learning where my strengths are in terms of client, class and collaboration types. I keep on reading and learning to avoid going stale, dedicating at least 5 hours a week to this.

I've also learnt that not all projects go the way you expect. I started a Monday Mile walking group last year but even though I had a few people come along occasionally it never really took off. I may look at starting it again in the Spring but it's ok to try things and then let them go.

I wonder how things will be different after the next six months and look forward to finding out. Ultimately I love what I do and I have no regrets about making the jump.

If you went self employed, did you have similar experiences? Any pearls of wisdom you wish you'd had at this point?

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