Self-employment is good and can work for many

Big decision. Plan before quitting your job to venture into self-employment. Photo by Godfrey Lugaaju

What you need to know:

  • Time comes and no employer is interested in giving you any more full-time employment due to age or other factors.

In 2013, I resigned from my full-time employment at Standard Bank to embark on a journey of self-employment. I was not worried because I had gathered over 20 years’ work experience (1992-2013) in international organisations namely PwC, KPMG and Standard Bank. 

I had been a full professional accountant since 1997 and hence it was easy to establish an accounting firm licensed by the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU). I was encouraged to see that some of my colleagues had set up their firms even much earlier with much less experience. 
In 2013, my firm J. Samuel Richards & Associates was licensed by ICPAU to start business. One of the key components of self-employment is gradual accumulation of contacts and relationships.

Remember that while in full-time employment, one may be pushed into a comfort zone but it is important to accumulate business cards at every opportunity. This is in preparation for self-employment where every friend becomes important since you no longer have an employer. 

You are both the employer and employee at the same time. The good news is that whilst you no longer have an employer, you now have potential customers. It is important to inform your contacts that you have established your own business and feel confident that you made a right choice.  

One of the challenges of self-employment is cashflow/liquidity.  In the first few months, there may be no inflows into your bank account like it used to happen. To make it work, one must set aside at least three-six months’ salary equivalent before venturing into self-employment.

This money is for operating expenses as well as a small office from where to operate, before customers start bringing in money. 

The second challenge is trust by potential customers. Despite 20 years’ working experience, some customers trusted me in so far as I worked at Standard Bank. I used to undertake information technology audits and quality assurance assignments in Africa. 

However, some customers were not confident that my new firm could replicate the same quality. To make it work in self-employment, one has to be patient and gradually build trust over a number of years. The procurement process is unfortunately skewed towards the experience of a company as opposed to the experience of the human capital. This means 20 years’ experience of the owner is rendered redundant if his/her company has been in operation for only one or two years.

In conclusion, professionals should not fear to join self-employment. You have accumulated a lot of experience, contacts and relationships. Those contacts can be informed about the new business venture and can support in the form of business or referrals. Those still in full-time employment can be supportive of their colleagues who are in self-employment, especially by paying their invoices on time. Be mindful that the self-employer does not have a regular monthly salary. Lastly, most people eventually join self-employment so acquiring these skills and knowledge early enough is important. 

Time comes and no employer is interested in giving you any more full-time employment due to age or other factors. One option is self-employment and it has worked for me; hence, it can work for anyone. 

 CPA Dr Albert Richards Otete, Research partner at J. Samuel Richards & Associates.


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