Also late to the party, but count me in.
I spent 10 years working as a sole trader, doing marketing and copywriting. I’m going back to it in a few months. In between, I’ve been taking a break to work in a fast food restaurant. I’ve also qualified as a teaching assistant in the meantime, but won’t be going down that route purely because I’ve discovered that it is not going to be family-friendly enough as a job.
And that’s what I love about being a sole trader, to answer your second question. I love that it’s flexible. It suits my family. I started years before I started a family, but my motivation was that I was planning for family life and I wanted to be around for every moment of my baby’s first few years. I was able to do that.
Things I found stressful, to answer your third question, were:
Clients that thought they knew better than me because of something they read on the internet, and would make me change things to suit that thing they’d read on the internet. Or clients that were very specific about the (terrible) way they wanted things done, and required me to go against my professional experience.
Chasing overdue invoices, trying to get people to pay.
That I got wrapped up in the ‘feast and famine’ situation. When I was in ‘feast’, I would spend every spare moment trying to maximise my earnings to cover the ‘famine’. When I was in famine, I’d be constantly trying to get more work to earn what I usually earned. At first it wasn’t like that, but as I built my client base larger and larger and became more and more popular, there was this temptation to earn as much as possible whilst the going was good - and when my daughter was about to start preschool I realised that I couldn’t handle that stress - being constantly switched on and thinking about how to earn as much as possible - and I decided to pack it all in and use my new free time, whilst my daughter was in childcare, to go for an easier job.
I’ve been working in a fast food restaurant for two years and it’s genuinely been the best job I’ve ever had, but won’t work for me again once my daughter starts school, so I’m going back to self-employment but using the lessons learned previously to stop it from taking over my life. I will be strictly working a set number of hours each day, only when my daughter is in school, and I now know from my fast food experience that I can survive fine on minimum wage. Savings are pitiful, but I have been able to buy everything I’ve needed over the past two years and with plenty of money spare, which I’ve impressed myself with.