I used to search for this very term, 4 years ago: 5 ways to make a success of being self-employed.

I used to post statuses on social media asking the titular question, until I got repeated contact to sell cordial at £20 a bottle from Forever Living or something like that.

Forever pestering, more like.

Now though I love being self-employed.

I recently blocked someone who insisted on selling me his business scheme of pestering people for energy schemes.

Four years ago, I’d have played along with Vera and Bill, but now, longer in the tooth, I can spot a dud opportunity a mile off.

To be honest, I don’t think it can be condensed into just 5 ways.

But there are key principles, so here goes:

Choose clients carefully when self-employed

It feels counter-intuitive when starting out to be picky, but good lord, with hindsight, I should have done. I’ve got quite a good bellend radar now and I can quickly judge whether someone needs to be worked with or shoved away. It’s a skill I’ve honed now over 4 years. I’ve developed a thick skin too. If someone pisses me off, messes me around, I remember that Get Pro Copy is my business. I own it and fund it. I run it. Firstly, I don’t do bosses or tolerate micro-managing. In the early days, I’d bend over backwards to appease all clients. Now I don’t. Not from arrogance but from experience. A bad client is a mood hoover. Your best bet is to refund and find better people to work with. Trust me.

Get paid upfront.

There’s a rule here I’ve learned – the bigger the company, generally, the worse they are at paying. It’s like going out for a meal with someone who’s loaded who won’t pay a fair share. These companies and individuals who are rich are tight. They like 60 day payment terms, with your work done in a week. The freelancer however, the non-bellend clients, pay immediately. Guess who I then focus on when asked to do more work? Yes, the ones who pay me promptly. People do take the piss. Your job is to stop them doing that with robust payment terms. I moan about late payers. But, generally, 90% are fantastic to work with.

Pick the client not the bank credit when self-employed

Nuff said. I hope this is self explanatory.


Firstly, it’s not good when you’re starting out to have a one role. You must diversify. I’m pretty good at multi-tasking, for instance, and I think this stems from 27 years of teaching. Thirty kids demanding attention, as well as colleagues, line managers with an endless workload, makes juggling web design with estate agency possible. Someone a couple of weeks ago commented on people who are Jack of all Trades. Before blocking the snidey bloke, I was tempted to respond, but like those bad clients, I ignored and pushed on with doing what I do. I’m a writer. I design websites. Social media is another passion. As is property. Why can’t I do all these? I’ve gallons of motivation and an eye for excellence. If I was shit at any, I would need to focus on one area. But I’m good at these things. Excellent and modest too.

Keep outgoings low

If you want to go freelance, do it. You’re a long time dead. I spent too long teaching and only saw the light when it made me ill and I left. My first business was an estate agency partnership. We did well too, but portal costs were too high. Our outgoings exceeded income and the business became unviable. My second business was this and its costs are low. I then had enough collateral to invest in estate agency again and work with Nest in Essex. My own new company is Nest in Norfolk. I love that business like this one. It will take time to establish I know. But it will become a success.

Remember your past

Finally, don’t bury the past and your own skills. I was a very good English teacher before becoming self-employed. Personally, I have a vast reservoir of skills from doing that since 1987. I make money from education. You see I mark exams. I get paid consultancy fees too by schools. This led to a new venture – Get Pro Marking which has low outgoings and high profit margins. It would be easy for me to go all Billy Casper and fire Vs at education. One or two shitty experiences though at the end of my career shouldn’t though destroy the career I had? I liked teaching. It was a good career. When I draw my pension in April, teaching will be looked at fondly again. Stuart Walton remains a teacher, but one who has developed other talents. I write, I design websites, I manage social media, I mark.

Finally, a call to action. If you’re stuck in a poor job and know you have the drive and ideas to escape, contact me.

I was fearful of the future in 2015. I had to replace a permanent salary. My outgoings were high from having two salaries and a liberal elite lifestyle of nice cars and San Pellegrino.

I had no choice though. I dived into self employment. It’s been a long haul but a success.

You can do it too. I can help you with your journey. Look at my portfolio of websites and writing here. Read testimonials on Google and you decide.

Don’t have a web agency charge you an arm and leg for a website; don’t be taken for a mug – contact me instead. I’m not a greedy git looking to make money from you. I’ll help you – as long as you’re not a bellend.