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A Reflection on Employment

Here I am, working from home again and writing a blog that is a little bit different than my usual output. Why? Because this time I'm not focusing on music directly - I am instead focusing on the joys of being self employed in the hopes that either somebody with the motivation to be self employed will understand the things that I was never told before I made the move, OR those who wish to use my services - or that of any self employed individual - better understand what their money is going towards.

I would like to make very clear, however, that I love what I do and I wouldn't change it for anything. This blog post is for informational purposes purely, to give folk an insight into the importance of supporting those who are self employed.

Jack Mitchell Smith piano teacher tutor macclesfield Congleton Cheshire self employed sole trader


My previous employment was not necessarily in the category you might call 'exciting', but it was certainly of a nature that I considered I did laborious tasks for little recognition. However, I would like it to be known that I will never again (should I go back into employment) be ungrateful for being there and for the work I'm doing.

Whether I'm sat there bored because I haven't got work to do or I've caught up, or I consider the work I'm doing to be "more than my job's worth" - to coin a phrase that may have been used by me in a past life -, there is one undeniable fact:

I get paid for this. It is a guaranteed income and - what's more - the figure that went into my bank at the end of the month was following standard deductions (pension, National Insurance, Tax), I had between 5 and 6 weeks of paid annual leave per year, I didn't have to worry if I was ill because I had long enough sick leave that I could justify being ill every now and then...

And whilst I've never been blind to what self employed people's responsibilities are, they didn't really start to hit me until now...

Piano Practice

Needless to say, piano is a major part of my livelihood. Even if I were to commit entirely to teaching, I'd still need to stay relatively ahead of the game, therefore play every day and practice every day. In order to do this, I put aside a couple of hours a day in which to go over scales and exercises and look at pieces I'm working on. This does have the potential to pay off if ever I get the opportunity to play for a recital for which I am paid, but ultimately it is unpaid.


Being self employed, I am responsible for absolutely everything.

That includes marketing. And whilst Facebook and the like are excellent tools, even they have limitations when used purely on a cost-free basis.

Therefore, social adverts, magazine / newspaper articles and even this website are the result of money. This will, of course, be no surprise, but bear in mind the following:

As a sole trader, they are all my responsibility.

Therefore, I have to find time to keep my website fresh, type out blogs (such as this very one), update or create social ads, contact venues and societies to keep my name fresh in their minds...ultimately it's a lot of work that further goes into the 'unpaid labour' category.


Income is another one that I am responsible for managing. Fortunately - because I spent a load of money on my piano - I am still not quite paying tax on my income. However, there will come a time when I do.

Bear in mind also that all of the outgoings above still need honouring.

In addition to this, deductions that would have been taken off prior to me receiving any money in previous employment has to be done be myself.

For example - it is up to me to hold on to so much percentage of my income for tax payments. It is also important I keep some of it held back for outgoing costs before I officially 'pay myself'. In addition - whilst not compulsory - if I want to prepare in any capacity for later life, it is now entirely on me to pay into a private pension.

What does this mean for the customer...

In short, the purpose of this blog was to highlight

  • the realities of your financial responsibility as a self employed individual in any sector (which I think I have achieved), and

  • why self employed individuals charge more, which I will come onto now.

On a few occasions I've seen ads and heard remarks such as 'make a fortune by being self employed'.

It does, indeed, sound tempting. If you can charge - let's say - £30 per hour for your time, that's...£210 per day!

That's £1050 per week!

That's £4200 per month!

Sounds wonderful!

Except it's not that simple.

First of all, this sort of regular income will incur heavy tax anyway. True of everyone, naturally, but bye bye £1680.

Now you've got £2520. Still a nice figure, yes?


So, exactly how did you get to a point where you can earn this much money?


Does small time marketing work?

No. Regardless of all those fantastic ads you see that say spend little and get big results! But unless you've struck gold on a real word of mouth reputation, chances are you'll be putting big money into marketing. Like, hundreds.

Granted, this is tax deductible, so my equation might not be 100% accurate, but let's imagine not and you've spent £800 in advertising this month. Now you've got £1720.

Still a handsome figure considering what's gone out, but nowhere near what you started with.

Now consider your national insurance contributions and pension if you wish to set one up.

It's starting to come down.

But it's still a nice figure, yes?

True - but here's the kicker.

You only get paid for the hours you 'work'.

For example, I only get paid when I give a piano lesson.

This means that if I were charging £30 per hour then I would need to be seeing back to back lessons all day every (week)day.

Aside from being rather exhausting, this allows me no opportunity to do any of my other non-paid work. Such as marketing. And without marketing, I don't fill the lessons!


It's not all doom and gloom, however. Self employment is a wonderful thing. The sense of control - of being able to provide a service that you wish could have been provided for you because it's done your way! However, it is difficult and it is stressful.

Please be mindful that those who are self employed are trying to make a living too, and whilst we are getting much better with grasping the idea of 'it pays for the materials' when discussing higher prices, it's important to consider that you're also paying towards marketing, travel and even breaks for the sole traders.


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