Think You’ve Got What It Takes to Become Self-Employed?


Mother of three and full-time employee shares her story and what she’s learning on her journey to self-employment

Carla Dawn Perez first acquired bookkeeping clients when the attorney she’d been working for began referring colleagues to her. As she helped more clients with their accounting needs, Perez realized her journey to becoming self-employed was underway.

“I just started getting referral after referral after referral,” Perez said in an interview with TSheets. “The clients just kept coming, so I was like ‘I’m just going to jump right in.’”

And jump right in she did. Now serving 18 clients, Perez is not unlike the majority of American self-employed workers. She has more than one job, she juggles her work-life and her home-life, and when considering self-employment, she decided to just “go for it.”

With the goal to become totally self-employed, Perez says she has to work really hard, at this early stage, to curate the client list she needs to start her own bookkeeping business.

“It’s going to be tough for a couple of years,” said Perez, speaking frankly, “but I think it’s going to be worth it.”


Self-employed workers ‘just go for it’ despite challenges

It takes guts to accept a challenge like becoming self-employed while keeping your current job, especially when the outcome isn’t crystal clear. One of Perez’s biggest fears was that she wouldn’t be able to figure out, logistically, how she could become her own boss.

Of course, self-employment comes with tons of perks like an improved work-life balance and sometimes more money. But along with the benefits of working for yourself comes the increased responsibility of paying healthcare premiums and learning to balance the needs of your clients with the number of free hours in a day.

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Perez has become acutely aware of how much time she spends with each client, to ensure she is never in over her head and can give clients the attention they deserve. She said this was especially the case for clients with growing businesses who might require her assistance to an increasing degree. So attention is key to the quality of her service.

“I like my clients to feel like they are the only one,” said Perez. “And I think I’ve been able to do that so far.”

Facing these challenges head-on could be the key to making the self-employed dream a reality. According to a survey by QuickBooks Self-Employed, simply “going for it” is the top piece of advice self-employed workers give to those considering self-employment.

When it comes to helping people work for themselves, Perez echoes this sentiment. “I just go for it,” she said. “If you really want it, you are going to do your best.” She said once you start repeating “next year,” you’ll never do it. Stressing the importance of stepping in without excuses, Perez advises self-employed workers to hold themselves accountable and stay organized.


Balancing work, life, and then some

Speaking of organization, how does a working mother move into the self-employed sphere? By striking a balance between her work-life and home-life. With three kids, ranging in age from elementary to college students, and a husband who works nights, Perez says there’s always an activity for which to prepare or somewhere to be. Fortunately, the family has her back, and with their support and a lot of planning, they are making it work together.

A fully self-employed lifestyle would afford Perez the flexibility she needs to spend quality time together with her family. But for the time being, she’s trying to keep things as simple as possible.

On top of the calendars, schedules, and whiteboards, Perez makes a point to get the whole family in the same room at least once a week. “We have a weekly family meeting so that we can get together and see what’s going on during the week, what they expect for next week, and what they want to eat. You’ve got to be really organized,” said Perez.


How to make every minute more valuable

The reality of self-employment is working long hours and even keeping two jobs, especially in the beginning. To have her full-time job at the law firm and keep her self-employed dream alive, Perez makes use of every second of downtime. On her commute to work, she’ll do an hour of client bookkeeping work and will dedicate additional time to her clients during her lunch break and after-hours.

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To keep track of how much time she spends on each client, Perez uses TSheets and QuickBooks together, which has increased her bottom line.

“I use TSheets every day,” said Perez. “It’s really simple to click on a client and clock in, and that has probably helped me recoup a lot of my income because, most of the time, I wouldn’t write [my hours] down.”

Before TSheets, Perez would have to revisit emails and look back on calendar events to see what she’d been up to. Now, whenever it’s time to start working on a client’s books, she immediately clocks in to make sure she’s billing as accurately as possible.

By taking the guesswork out of time tracking, Perez can make sure she is paid for all the hours she works. And of using TSheets with QuickBooks, Perez said it’s easy. She simply tracks time, reviews it, and accepts it, and TSheets moves it over to QuickBooks where she can bill clients.


What do you think it takes to the journey to self-employment?
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