Sick as a parrot

Sole trading? It’s enough to make me sick.

Picture the scene. It’s half an hour before you’re due to head off to deliver some work for a client, when the words that strike fear and loathing into the very soul of every sole trader or small business come calling. No, not “hello, this is HMRC, we’d like to talk to you about your tax return”,  but “Mum, I think I’m going to be sick!”.

That single short sentence is the one which causes self employment tailspin like no other.

Maybe it’s not quite so bad if your sector of small business means that you always work from home, but for those of us who are often out and about, and who can’t quite stretch to a live-in au pair, a wee peely wally person with raging temperature and dicky tummy is enough to make you feel sick too. Not that you necessarily need to fight the wee blighter for space at the lavvy pan, but a wabbit wean sure is stressful.

Never ever, in the entire history of commerce has a sick kid ever given sufficient warning that they’re feeling peaky. Oh no, it’s always at the last possible moment, when the usual babysitting suspects are unavailable/on hols/got a tummy bug themselves. The pale face and puking only ever happens when there’s a roomful of clients waiting to share the benefits of your wisdom, or a deadline looming a scant couple of hours away.

Yes, yes, I know it’s not quite on the scale of natural disaster or stock market crash, but these domestic doomsday scenarios are definitely sent to try the sole trader. Try us to the very limit of our patience. The wee blighters can’t help being sick of course, but do they always have to do it when you’re on such a tight timescale?

I’m less than a year into my self employment odyssey, and can honestly say that the appearance of a wee, wan and white face has caused the maximum amount of mayhem, and caused it more than once. It is these moments which make you realise exactly how fragile the business of running your own business can be.

Of course, we sole traders haven’t got the benefit of phoning the boss and throwing a sicky. Our income stands and falls on being able to stand and deliver when we said we would.

It’s at times like this when family and friends are begged, entreated and even blackmailed to come galloping to the rescue. And when that fails, we are left to rely on the good grace and understanding of our clients and customers, and that’s not something to be taken for granted.

So this edition of the Weekly Word comes from the seat beside the sick bed, and is delivered with undying gratitude to the client who was, until a couple of hours ago, waiting for her very own one-to-one training session from Word Up. Thanks Michelle, magnificent business woman and mother, I owe you one.