Yes, I’m flying solo.
No, I’m not flying to visit American friends and relatives in two weeks and leaving the kids behind. I’ve not suddenly taken up extreme sports or trained as a pilot. Nor did I decide to celebrate my double chai (life) birthday by risking chai and limb going paragliding or skydiving. Nothing so exciting. Instead, one of the most exciting things that happened to me recently was getting my payslip in the post.
I can imagine any reader’s response to that statement. Is it so unusual for a person to receive a payslip in an envelope through their letterbox? Of course not. Personally, I’ve been sent them that way ever since I went on maternity leave. But, and it’s a big but, I’m not on maternity leave anymore. I was serving out my notice period and that was my last payslip from my employer of 8 years.
Then I received another item from my employer in the post. My P45 (tax form) for a leaving employee. It had three pages. One for me and two for my new employer. Except that I don’t have a new employer to give them to. I may not have jumped off a plane, but I have taken a big leap into the unknown.
Am I unemployed then? For the month of August, technically, yes. Although, I would challenge anyone who considers being a mother to two young children a lack of employment. Paid employment, yes. Employment, no. And my children and family needs are a major reason behind my resignation.
However, I plan to do more than be a full-time mum. From September, I’m going to be registering myself with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs as self-employed. A sole trader. A freelance transport planner. An independent consultant. My own boss. Flying solo.
My own mother has been telling me to try it for years, but it’s not an undertaking to be taken lightly. There’s a lot more to it than feeling one has the experience to be technically qualified.
I will be required to fill out my own tax returns and pay my own national insurance. I must have professional indemnity insurance and keep my own accounts. I need an online presence, I must market myself, network and use membership to the professional institutions wisely. And yes, it is necessary to make time to work without interruption, which, for me, means initially hiring a childminder one day a week. No matter my intention to work mainly from home, nor how modest my ambitions at present, all these things equate to start-up costs and therefore a commitment to win work to recover those costs.
Then there’s the commitment I’ve made to myself and to the friends, family and former colleagues with whom I’ve shared my plans. They have done me the honour of taking me seriously, so I must pay them due regard by putting in the effort it will require to not only keep up to date with the industry and keep contacts fresh, but also to earn commissions, participate in projects and deliver quality transport planning advice. I have my trepidations, but they believe in my ability to do this and are willing to lend a hand or a kind word or a bit of time or a reference along the way. Perhaps I won’t be flying completely solo on this journey after all.