There is something that has begun to irritate me when people talk about the recession and our economy. There seems to be a focus on the idea of a job as the be all and end all. I don’t have a “job” and I know loads of people that don’t. Formal employment has its place and suits many (and the vast majority of people I know do have jobs) but self employment often gets missed. Not everyone is an entrepreneur (a term I’m particularly drawn to and like to use to describe myself) but plenty of people are perfectly capable of providing services or products on a freelance basis. I should know, I work closely with freelancers in the running of my own business. Then there are those individuals who probably don’t consider themselves business people yet by being self-employed run businesses. Here I’m thinking of my decorator and other service providers I’ve used.

Whilst eschewing it myself, I fully appreciate why many people want a job. A salary is (relatively) predictable and really helps with budgeting. Doing a tax return is also very daunting. But struggling to find a job surely isn’t the same as struggling to find work. I largely define myself as a writer and such a thing as a writing job is very rare. However, there is plenty of writing work to be had. I’m not and doubt I’ll ever be in a position to hire employees but I send work to several individuals and am still in search of a window cleaner. There are loads of things I’d like to pay someone to do; our guttering needs cleaning, we need a cat sitter, we’re increasingly talking about getting a cleaner. I scour the local papers and Gumtree but the gutters breed, my sister-in-law does her best to attend our felines and as my pregnancy progresses household cleanliness starts to slide.

I have an accountant (self-employed), a web developer (self-employed who has outsourced the graphic design and IT support to other self-employed individuals) and a mentor (yup, self-employed as well). My company team consists of four writers/editors and we’re all self-employed. Perhaps that affects my view that jobs are simply one way of doing work and bringing in an income.

I am in favour of jobseekers losing their benefits for refusing to attend employment program or turning down jobs. I have only once turned down work from a potential client and it was a hugely difficult decision to make. Generally I’m appreciative of each opportunity; I have to be. There are lots of valid reasons to want to turn down salaried jobs (childcare and transport difficulties seem to rank highly) but as a self-employed person I share those reasons. Last week I was in a car accident and am currently without transport. The taxi costs of the next month could make working an expensive exercise but that’s life.

I’d like to see more support and advice for individuals setting up their own businesses. Banks can be confusing with their advice and crucially they are not your friend! But Business Link is an invaluable resource for anyone looking at starting up a business and there are loads of community based organisations offering help and advice. It just needs pushing as an option and it’d be great if a national program could be established whereby individuals could demonstrate that they were “working” and still receive their benefits for a set period. Unsympathetic as I am to those that don’t want to work, new businesses need time to grow and if Cameron wants a more responsible Britain then I think he needs a wake-up call in how we encourage people to take responsibility for their futures!

The Workfare Scheme is a great idea and despite there being some clear flaws I think it’s a step in the right direction. It does, however, need to sit within a wider set of solutions.

I think the world is changing. One of my favourite things is TED and Carole Cadwalladr’s article Build a satellite in the shed: it’s the new DIY revolution in Sunday’s Observer covered June’s TEDGlobal event in Edinburgh nicely. I’ve long been a fan of the DIY approach, having discovered James Lovelock as a teenager and reading about his home laboratory. While this is but one movement, it demonstrates the view I hold that the way things are done will continue to evolve.

When I left high school there was a speech in which we were told that during our lives we’d have many careers and an estimated 12 jobs. I remember some of the parents feeling this was a negative thing to tell impressionable young people. I’m 30 this year and if I count everything with a distinct job description I passed that number several years back. I’m not sure what I’ll tell my children. For now (my eldest stepson being just seven) we’re going with the jobs approach as they discuss the roles they understand (policeman, fireman and most recently, rocket scientist) but while they’ll need to do something, a job is merely a single option.

Will they grow up to find jobs? Maybe or maybe not, but there are a variety of options and as long as they can afford to live and are able to take joy from life, I’ll be happy. I certainly plan to raise them to take a creative approach to earning a living!

Alex L
7/5/2012 03:29:38 pm

The problem with business advise from almost any source is that it is focused on thinking and not doing.

What someone needs is a ladder and a bucket and to knock on your door asking if you want your gutters done.

I looked at the Natwest start up guide recently, the first chapter should be re-titled 'how to blow your first £3k' full of helpful advise like 'join your local chamber of commerce' this is a snip at £500 yet offers exactly what benefits to a person who hasn't even bought their bucket yet?

Res Non Verba

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Kathryn
7/5/2012 07:29:51 pm

I agree there's a lot of advice coming from people who haven't actually started a business. I just started writing copy for people and have gradually joined a networking group, got an accountant and hired a web developer for a proper website.

Start up guides like the one you refer to overcomplicate things and scare people off. As I said, banks aren't your friend! But there are lots of good ones that start with "borrow a ladder, buy a bucket and leave the front door."

Just how do you get the right message to people? I've heard very few stories about Job Centre staff that have much in the way of knowledge and lots of stories about staff who just read off a screen.

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7/22/2013 07:09:42 pm

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