Simon* spends most of his time at home with his wife, and he clearly wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We’ve been together eight years, and we’ve spent genuinely the majority of that time together. Not just the majority of the evenings, or the majority of the weekends, we have spent a majority of that time together.”
“It’s just lovely. I can pop out of work and see my wife immediately.”
Simon’s wife also works from home, in her own business.
“It doesn’t always work out when one partner has their own world that they work in, and the other partner goes off to work, and when work finishes that’s the end of work.”
He has worked for other people in the past, but it sounds like there’s no going back. “I’m no longer house trained to go and turn up at anybody’s office for any length of time.”
“I guess what keeps me working in this way is a few things. Firstly there is inertia, which should never be discounted.
“Secondly I like working this way. I get to spend time looking at the things that I am interested in, hopefully turning that into money. Rather than looking at the things that my employers are interested in, and trying to still be interested in that. We have a limited amount of time so you might as well do something that you find fun. I try and find it fun.”
“Finally, flexibility. I like to have lots of flexibility. I like to be able to say, yes, I’m not going to work today. Or, I’m not going to pay attention to this thing, and so I don’t. It doesn’t always turn into good business but it does create a sense of happiness. It’s fun. I get to do my thing.”
He’s evolved the work that he does so that it’s not all about working with computers. “A lot of my time is spent looking at how other people are interacting, the biases that they have, the processes that they have. Seeing how those can be nudged or revealed and turned into something that is more useful.”
I don't like marketing very much
I ask what he doesn’t like about working for himself, because I assume there must be something. “Well, earlier on, we were talking about you getting stuck with building this website.” And it’s so true, it’s been such a process of two steps forward, and then three days struggling, until I have a breakthrough and surge forwards again. All fits and starts.
“I think actually most people who work for themselves are mostly stuck most of the time. It’s just they are stuck on a dozen different things and one of them resolves and off you go. I don’t enjoy the stuckness, I find it frustrating.”
“Also sometimes people need things done at the very last minute, and you think, oh bugger. I’d like to carry this relationship on, so I’m going to have to put a few things on hold. I’m better at saying no to those now.”
“I don’t enjoy marketing very much. I don’t mind marketing when it is going well – it’s a nice little analytical thing to do but the grind of writing marketing copy is pants and I find so few people who can do it well enough to do it for me.”
“Some things are a grind – writing marketing copy and finding new customers – but they are a delight at the same time if you approach them in the right way.”
“Accounting is s**t. Once a quarter, getting out all of your VAT receipts, it shouldn’t be difficult. I’ve been doing VAT since 1994, I should be good at it by now, and perhaps I am. But the faff of remembering all of the little bits and pieces – I’ve never found a satisfactory way of writing that down. On the days that I’m doing accounting, I’m always very fed up that I’m not doing the thing that I find more productive.”
The internet has been transformative for Simon’s work. “It’s a very interesting time to run a boutique because you can have your boutique on any street in the world. All sorts of people will walk in and interact with you.”
“So I think a lovely thing about working for yourself these days is that you can genuinely be yourself. There is more of a hope now than there was 20 years ago of actually turning into something which can sustain you with milk and cookies and rent. The connectedness has changed and it is lovely to be in that space.”
*“Simon” prefers not to be identified, and he works in IT