I’ve been working for myself for four weeks now and I love it. I feel like I’m finally in my true element. But that being said, it’s also been an adjustment. In fact, I learned a few lessons in my first four weeks — some lessons I knew, but were reinforced; and some of that surprised me. Today I offer you the lessons I have learned (so far) going into business for myself.
1. Develop a thick skin. Working for yourself is kind of like being in sales, you’ll probably get dozens of “no” answers before getting a “yes.” You have to be okay with that and know it’s part of the process. You may feel like you’re pounding the pavement for nothing. But you’ll be surprised where opportunities come up.
2. Don’t take every job and know your worth. As you start out on your own, you’ll be tempted to take every business opportunity that comes your way because you don’t want to pass up income. While it’s important to keep your financial goals in mind, also know what you are willing to do and not do — and stick to it. I believe that if you know your strengths and play to them, soon enough, you won’t have to consider every project.
3. You will lose “friends.” You’ve probably heard that when alcoholics become sober, many lose friends because said friends are not comfortable with the new sober lifestyle. Sadly I’ve found this to be true as I’ve become self-employed. For reasons I cannot understand, individuals I once considered friends are no longer so. It’s a harsh and sad reality, but it has made me realize the true meaning of friendship.
4. Start thinking of money differently. For someone that’s had a steady paycheck every month, it was tough knowing that many months won’t have that same amount in the bank account. You have to be okay with this. A few years ago, the thought of financial uncertainty would have ignited a panic attack. But I am now comfortable with the unknown, and I only focus on the present and moving forward.
5. Your house will not be cleaner when you’re self-employed. I think my house was the messiest it ever was during the first week of being self-employed. Dirty dishes lingered. Toys and clothes were everywhere. Laundry was piling up. It was not pretty. You think because you’re working at home, you will be taking breaks with a duster in hand. No, that doesn’t happen. I just learned to ignore the mess and work, work, work.
6. There is an adjustment period with finding the ideal schedule. And I’m still trying to figure it out. My entire life, I went to an office in the morning, worked until 4:30, left to pick up Sophie and then started my evening at home. When you’re self-employed, that all changes. It’s tough to find the perfect schedule. Give yourself a break if you haven’t figured it out yet.
7. Remember your old work habits that worked. I manage my time and projects the same way I did in my office jobs for 15 years. Every day I start with a “to do” list and work off that list (which includes projects, writing, email, social networking, etc.). And then at the end of the work day, I re-evaluate the tasks and write the “to do” list for tomorrow. It worked for me for 15 years. It will probably work for 15 more.
8. Get used to people thinking you don’t really work. Some people have a tough time understanding that you can sit at your computer for six to eight hours a day and actually work. Get used to those people thinking there’s no way to work from home and just ignore the comments. There’s really nothing else to say. You know you’re working because if you don’t, say good-bye to self-employment.
9. Get the right insurance protections. When I worked full-time for a company, I had all the insurance plans (life, disability, health, etc.). While I still have health insurance thanks to Bryan, my life and disability insurance disappeared as they were group policies. Even before I left my job, I started the process of getting life and disability insurance. I would not be fiscally – or personally – responsible if I didn’t make sure my family and I were protected.
10. Plan downtime. I’m still working at this one, but I’ve already seen that it’s important to plan downtime. Especially when you work from home. It’s easy to work 24/7 since you’re working for yourself and the computer is always available. When you start up, you will likely find yourself working more than you did in a 40-hour-a-week job. But for your own sanity – and the sanity of your family – plan time off for yourself. Take your weekends. Have a fun day with the spouse, kids or friends. You’ll probably find yourself more productive afterwards.
So there you have it: ten lessons I’ve learned while being self-employed. To those of you planning to one day do the same, remember these tips that will hopefully make your transition easier. And while the first four weeks of my new endeavor have been tough, they have been the absolute best four weeks of my life.