Are you ready for self-employment?

One of the first things you discover when you shift from being an employee to being self-employed, is that your time is no longer structured. All of the reminders and nudges you used to get from your boss and co-workers now come from your own mind as it races to keep track of the obligations you have inadvertently stacked up for yourself.

Your 45 hour week has somehow become 60-plus hour a week. You even find yourself waking up at 3 am, dragging yourself out of bed to write down lists of things to do and then sitting in front of the computer handling email until the sun comes up. Yes, you are in control of your time, but you must be careful what you wish for. As a self-employed person, you always live in interesting times.

In many work situations, your independent activity mainly consists of getting yourself up and into your car in time to make the commute to work. From the time you hit the highway until you are headed home, your time is often other-directed and you move in concert with many others in the same endless dance.

When you first leave corporate life, there is a giddy euphoria that can last for weeks as you experience the new  freedom you have gained. This dies down as you realize the new obligations you have assumed for supporting yourself and your family.

Marketing, which once seemed a distant and esoteric activity practiced by others in the corporate hierarchy, now becomes a major focus of your life. If you are to be successfully self-employed, you need to find out what you can do that others are willing to pay for. That is marketing and you will become good at it or you will have to go back to being an employees again.

As you take root in your new and self-directed existence, you start developing new connections for business and pleasure. Networking, which may have been an awkward and difficult activity while you were part of the corporate machine, becomes as natural as breathing once you are on your own and dependent on new contacts for advice, for work, and for income opportunities.

So you start making yourself known and you establish opportunities for income and a trickle of work starts coming in. This encourages you to keep on marketing yourself in different ways as you find out what people are willing to pay for, as opposed to what they say they want.

Eventually, you establish a workable business proposition and the workload picks up and you are off working 60 hours a week just trying to keep up with demands.

Of course, just about now some of the other opportunities you were working on catch fire and you go into overdrive trying to keep up.

While you are juggling your workload, some of your projects end or the client runs out of money and you need to start networking and marketing yourself again.

If you keep at this for a while, you will develop a rhythm which works for you where you do some marketing every day and your promotional activities become second nature and you reserve time to get your work done and keep backlogs from occurring. You are taking on some of the major functions of a successful corporation.

You may still lack mastery of financial planning, accounting and tax procedures, but you may be able to outsource some of this so you can concentrate on what you do well.

If this all sounds too scary for you, keep your day job and use it to develop the skills you will need for self-employment.

You will probably find that most people who become self-employed would never consider returning to corporate life even though they may make less money on their own. The increased freedom and the ability to make their own decisions give them far more satisfaction than they enjoyed as employees.

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0 Responses to Are you ready for self-employment?

  1. reinkefj says:

    Aug 04, 2007
    Are you ready for self-employment?

    ***Begin Quote***

    One of the first things you discover when you shift from being an employee to being self-employed, is that your time is no longer structured. All of the reminders and nudges you used to get from your boss and co-workers now come from your own mind as it races to keep track of the obligations you have inadvertently stacked up for yourself.

    ***End Quote***

    I’d make the observation that even if you are “working for the man”, as our Japanese friends call it “salaryman”, in today’s economy, you are “working for yourself”. While it may not look like it, you are. You have to be burning the candle at five ends, just as if you were working for yourself.

    Whether you are satisfying a Customer in your own business, or you are satisfying a Colleague in someone else’s, it’s really just semantics. You need to be:

    * delivering value to Customers or Colleagues;

    * publicizing what you’ve accomplished without being a blowhard;

    * anticipating your current Customer’s needs;

    * maintaining your personal productivity in your “guild”;

    * preparing for any shift or change in your “guild”; and

    * managing ruthlessly your personal finances.

    Let’s dive into the weeds, just a tad.

    * You retain value for yourself, regardless of whose business it is, by unleashing value in far bigger multiples that what you “cost”.

    * You must ensure that your “Customers” understand the value you create. And, you have to do it with panache.

    * You have to anticipate what your “Customers” need, want, and will want. In some respects, it’s hard because your Customers may not know what they need or appreciate you “looking out” for them.

    * You have to be continually improving your skill set. Last year’s records become today’s standards.

    * You can be achieving and anticipating, but if your guild shifts, you can’t allow yourself to be made obsolete. CICS systems programmers who missed the memo about Client Server computing. Blacksmiths have to shift to be car mechanics.

    * You are only assured of the last check you cashed. Your “burn rate” must not exceed your “earn rate”. Personally, my AT&T golden handshake became a decade later my seed money for my own business. Ruthlessly, you must have a cash reserve appropriate for how long it will take you to shift from “burning” to “earning”.

    So, imho, it really doesn’t matter if your in your own biz, or not. Regardless if you know it or not, you are.

    # # # # #

  2. tim says:

    Since Q4 2003 your site has been providing me the courage to take baby steps in the direction my heart wants to go. My wife and I were in the same “bucket” for 20+ years. Please let folks know that your advice applies to all workforce levels. Who knows, maybe someday it will again be realized that a vision and purpose of where you want to be at the lower org chart level is a good thing.

  3. I’ve never understood people who find it hard to motivate themselves outside of the office. I find it easier than doing so in the office. Two observations:

    First, I get the sense that some people feel that if they work at the desk for a couple of hours, take a nap, carry the notebook out to the pool and work there, etc., that they are “not disciplined enough” — even if they get all the work done. I measure “enough” by my productivity, not by the amount of time I spend with my nose to the grindstone.

    As a corollary, the inability to get real breaks is precisely what makes me less productive in the office. I find myself surfing the Web when what I really need is a substantial change of scenery.

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