The Costs Of Being Self Employed

21st Dec 16


How To Turn A Mess Into A Message

You guys know of my self employment story and how it came about. No one coached me no one mentored me. I kinda just did it on a whim. I’ve literally been winging it; it’s derived from a trial and error basis. Even though  I knew it would be challenging, I didn’t foresee any of the things that I have experienced so far. I really find that a lot of people tell your their hardship from the highest point of their success and although it’s inspirational, we become a little desensitised to their strife because we see them at the pinnacle of their success.

I really want to change that narrative and let you guys know of all the shit that’s been happening to me whilst it’s still happening. I think a lot of you think I’m super successful and already have all my ducks in a row and obviously, it sometimes does look that way because like the rest of the world, I put my best looking bits on social media. I’m not saying that I’m curating life that isn’t true to the one that I live, it’s just that I don’t always want to wallow in my misfortunes on instagram everyday (as i’ve said previously positive affirmations are a must). Just as many great things happen to me, shitty things are a regular occurrence too.

This post is going to be a round up of things I didn’t expect to happen to me whilst I’ve been self employed and I hope that if you’re ever thinking about taking the leap of working for yourself, this gives you a heads up on what may occur. Think of this as a precautionary post that will give you another perspective and better yet time to research and figure out preventative methods to avoid the crappy parts.

Blazer – &Other Stories

Trousers  – ZARA

Earrings – Balenciaga

Trainers – Nike C/O Size

Bracelet – Celine

Photos by Alain

Convincing people to pay you when they already know your value.

One thing I’ve realised is that people will know and see how skilled you are at your craft, want your services but not think that you’re worth parting money with for commissioned work. I think that seeing and appreciating how good someone is at what they do is something that many of us are capable of doing but a lot of big corporations and people will refuse to pay you for the very thing that they know you’re capable of fulfilling. 

It’s crazy how many people want you to do things for free and not only that, how low the budgets are for the crazy things that they want you to do. Some brands will offer you next to nothing but want, (for example) 1 blog post, 3 instagrams and 5 tweets from you for a fee that probably won’t even cover your phone bill. In another case (a stylists perspective), some people want me to run around London puling from designers for a week, style a whole shoot that’ll probably take me 8 hours to complete and do all of this for free. There has even been a time where I’ve been contracted for an interior project but the client though that my fee was unnecessary and tried to haggle the contracted rate down after myself and my team had started working.

It’s still mad to me that it’s a reality that sometimes, you actually have to convince brands and clients to pay you/pay you what you deserve and basically sell yourself to them when they already enlisted you for the project and they know how much of an asset you are. They approach to you to propose the collab yet when you tell them your rates, they suddenly need and explanation of everything sans your blood type? This is why I say that many know your capabilities but do not value your value or what it is that you do. Some people don’t even consider your craft as an actual craft and it’s something that leaves me so baffled.

They don’t take into consideration how many man hours it’ll take you to produce everything from the brief in a short amount of time. I never really though that I’d ever have to really sell myself to a company/client that approached me to work with them. Well I kind of knew but I didn’t think it would be a vigorous as it has been in the recent past. One thing I’ve learnt this year is to not back down. Before you go into the world of working for yourself, make sure you know your value and you know that you ought to be paid for being as good as you are. Don’t let anyone undermine or undervalue what you do.

If anyone questions you, hit them with the statistics and let them know why you should be paid to do what you do. Make sure you’ve got your examples of previous work and testimonies at the ready. If they don’t like it let them leave. Trust me when I say that better is on the way or better yet, they will be back. Now, let’s get to the bits that left me baffled.

Figuring out your rates

When you do a creative job it’s hard to figure out how much to charge people. It’s even harder when the people in your field don’t and won’t discuss anything about money/rates so you have no guide to base your fees on. For a long time, It took me a while to figure out how much to charge and how to measure my time in relation to money. I can’t even really give you a solution of how to do this. I did however make friends with people in PR agencies and marketing companies and that’s how I caught wind of how much people were charging to do the same things that I do. This gave me an idea of what to charge and how to go about it. If you’re a blogger or social media influencer, the two vital things that you need to have are a media kit and a rate card. Social Blue Book is s helpful site that can help you figure out how to monetize your social media platforms. 

Feeling alone

I found it really lonely during my first few months of working for myself. In fact I was lonely up until a couple of months ago and I found it aided in inducing my anxiety which so counter productive for me. Working of yourself means that you will be by yourself for a majority of time. Sometimes you just cannot cope with the work load or the entrepreneurial life itself and it can make you really down. I found that even when I spoke to friends and family, although they sympathised, no one really understood what I was going through as this was a new world to them just as it was to me. I haven’t really found a solution to this, but I know that prayer has helped me a lot as well as remembering my goals and realigning my focus and telling myself it wouldn’t last for long. Another way to combat this is to try and make friends with people who are doing the same thing as you. Even if it’s just tweeting them or commenting on each others instagrams back and forth, it’ll help a lot!

Not having faith that you’re actually as good as you’ve been made out to be

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and think that I can’t dress. For me, this a a very scary thought because a majority of my money is based off my knack for creating good personal style. As soon as I have that thought, my anxiety kicks in and I convince myself that I’m a shit stylist with nothing going for me. The same thing happens in regards to interiors as well. I convince myself that I am the shittest person walking and nobody will want to hire me. Now that I type this, I feel like I sound like a mad man but this is my reality sometimes! Again, the only way I combat this is realigning my focus as well as looking at my portfolio. Words of affirmation are great too and I’m always telling myself that “I’m a badman who’s got this ting on lock”, literally.

A way that you can combat this sans repeating the road man slang is writing down a list of everything that you’ve achieved and reading it back to yourself. My brother said to me the other day “you’re so focused on the top of your mountain that you forget to look down” which just hit the nail on the head for me. So when you’re feeling like this, look down from your mountain!

Waiting to be paid

This one is the WORST. I never would have though that I would be waiting for months to be paid for work that I had already published. Some companies can take 3-5 months to pay you for something that they’re breathing down your neck for. As soon as you supply them with what they want, they’re all of a sudden so slow with getting your money over to you.

One piece of advice I’d give to everyone is ask for your money upfront or issue the company/client with a invoice for a deposit. You could literally be minted in unpaid invoices and be eating noodles in real life (not going lie I love noodles but that’s not the point). It’s that real. I honestly can say that you cannot depend on people to pay you on time so make sure you stand your ground and get your money on time. One thing my friend Sarah Akwisombe did was emailed the company telling them she’d taken the post down and wouldn’t reupload until they paid and they did. So that’s helpful!

Knowing when to stop working

The hardest thing for me is knowing when to stop working. As I type this post, it’s 00:24 hours and I have a trapped nerve travelling from my neck to my spine. Prior to working for myself, I was working a job that payed me a £30,000+ a year job including bonuses so can you imagine going from that, to fending for myself! I found it so hard to turn jobs down which meant that I didn’t have any down time. My immune system was so low, my anxiety was through the bloody roof because I just couldn’t handle being broke. Not only that I thought that If I wasn’t working then I was wasting time o rbeing unproductive.

I couldn’t stop thinking about how I was going to make more money and how I could work more and it would consume me so much. I would work through weekends (still do) and would do projects that weren’t really in line with my end goal just to ensure that I had enough money to live my life. I was so up tight about money and I’d never want to spend any money which meant that I was constantly worrying about bills and staring at my bank account. For a girl that used to be so frivolous, buying all types of designer shoes, drinking expensive champagne and eating all types of expensive fish from the sea, it was very weird for my to adhere to this new level of extreme budgeting, my new life. It also made me mismanage my time as I was accepting jobs that I didn’t have the time to complete out of the fear of not knowing when my next paycheck would be.

That really is some bullshit now that I look back at it but I’m glad that I experienced it and more importantly learnt from it. I’m glad that I’ve gone through this phase so that next year, I can really refine what I do and how I do it. 8 months in and I have a an understanding of how much I can make on average and work around it.  

I wrote this post to inspire and not to deter you from fulfilling your dreams. I just want to keep it real so you know what to expect and so that you can figure out ways to handle it. Throughout all that I’ve been through nothing will overcloud the much more fulfilling life that I live whilst working for myself. It’s  a different type of intrinsic satisfaction. I’m happier and most importantly I feel more accomplished. It’s great to look at something and say to myself “I did that!”. I am blessed to be able to do what I love, travel because of it and thoroughly enjoy it and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

  • Great post! I admire you for your determination and drive – this is a tough journey but I always see those who push hard for what they want reap all the rewards and benefits. Good luck in 2017 – I hope its your best yet!

    • melswardrobe

      Thank you so much! Thanks for the well wishes too xx

  • I love the honesty of your post and you are right, its about knowing your value. I think even props that have been in the business a long time constantly still have to justify their rates so you continuously have to show how much work goes into producing the quality of work that you put out there.

    • melswardrobe

      Thank you so much for reading! Very true! xx

  • Kb

    I can definitely relate to all of this, though it’s taken me about 3 years! There definitely needs to be more of a support network. I’ve joined a co-working space and I have a buddy, so fingers crossed we can motivate each other. I also need to sort my finances and work life balance. It all just takes time, but sharing definitely helps. Thanks so much!

  • Seyi Famuyiwa

    wow…thank you so much for sharing this girl. Appreciate the total transparency. It’s so crazy how so many companies would expect you to do something for free when they clearly reached out to you!

    • melswardrobe

      You never know what’s going on behind closed doors ! Thank you for reading! xx

  • Chloe Pierre

    The best post I’ve read all year! Thank you! Xo

    • melswardrobe

      Thank you Chloe! xx

  • WOW, what a great post! I TRULY appreciate your transparency in all aspects of being self employed. You’re right, people usually hate sharing it during the process but this is actually the best way! It shows that we are progressively going through similar headaches.

    TYSM for this!


    Aïchatou Bella

    • melswardrobe

      Exactly! The process definitely needs to be documented the good and the bad! Thank you for reading x

  • Wow, Melissa. I’m speechless. May God bless you for sharing this, because I know it’s not easy! Your hustle is inspirational. Thank you!

    IG: MAGhairng

    • melswardrobe

      Thanks so much Naya! Was skeptical about writing this but it seems that it was needed! x

  • I’ve always sppreciated your honesty. This post is a real eye opener and yes to what your brother said. I definitely have to get some things in place before going on my self employment journey too.
     Princess Audu 

    • melswardrobe

      Thank you so much! i hope it works out well for you! x

  • Tyeishia Timlet

    I just found your blog through Pepper Your Talk. I absolutely love your transparency. Keep going! Everything will work out in due time.


    • melswardrobe

      Thank you so much! xx

  • Andrea Hellweg

    Love this post! It’ll help me and so many other bloggers! Thanks for sharing hun x

    • melswardrobe

      Thank yo so much for taking time out to read it xx

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  • Thank you for being so honest, I’m a new entrepreneur and this post made me more aware of what to look for and how to go about being a professional. So glad you shared this because not a lot of people tell their in between success from becoming an entrepreneur.

  • Perpetua Adoyo

    Thank you for this post. It is so encouraging….really God bless!