Good-bye, upper management. Hello, business of one.
Becoming self-employed is equal parts exciting, scary, empowering and grueling. It’s a career path coming with many twists and surprises, but once you’re on it, you can’t imagine traveling any other road. I’m seven years into the full-time independent contractor lifestyle. Each week, I learn something new, and every month, I work toward refining and improving my career.
Making the leap from being someone’s employee to being self-employed comes with many realizations. As you contemplate making the switch, keep these ideas in mind.
1. You’ll Make Your Own Schedule
Balancing your workload equates to learning how you work optimally. Because you’re the boss, you can create your entire schedule around those needs, which means personalized balance, efficiency and stress management.
Be sure to share your working hours with family and friends, so they don’t assume that being home means you’re available. Set boundaries early!
2. You Can Dress for Casual Friday, Every Day
A lack of any semblance of dress code takes a whole extra element of the traditional workday off your plate: deciding what to wear. However, you should plan to dress up when tackling a videoconference call or a meeting with a potential client at a local coffee shop. Slippers and sweat pants are only for home office wear.
3. You’ll Have to Explain That You Actually Work
Too many people associate self-employment with not working, trying to find a traditional job or being between jobs. Enlighten them with some details about a current project you’re working on, so they can better grasp how hard you work and how well you manage your time and clients. After all, you never know who may have connections to potential new work partnerships down the line.
4. Sometimes, It’ll Feel Lonely
Although the quiet time makes me incredibly productive, I still schedule time away from home to exercise, socialize and rest. Screen breaks and human contact are important, both for your eye health and your mental health.
5. Promoting Your Business Will Be Top of Mind
Have a business card handy and 10-second spiel at the tip of your tongue.
The most common question a new acquaintance asks is, “What do you do?” When you mention owning a business, people are instantly amazed and intrigued, so be ready with business cards representing your personal brand.
6. Saving Money for R&R
Since you no longer have employer-paid benefits, it’s up to you to tuck a little extra in a dedicated savings account for paid time off, vacation days and retirement. Figure out a savings plan ASAP — you’ll feel more secure, relaxed and ready for anything life may throw your way.
7. You Need to Evaluate Your Business — Often
Study monthly profit-loss statements. Determine which services or products give you the best return on investment and crunch the numbers. You have to keep your business running smoothly, so stay aware of pain points, make corrections where needed and do it all again tomorrow.
8. You Have to Remember to Schedule Time Off
When you’re a solopreneur, it’s easy to never feel caught up. Guess what? You never will be, so don’t feel guilty about taking an entire weekend off or planning a vacation. You need to recharge just as much as any other working professional, and you’ll work better when you feel your best.
9. Time is Your Money
Muster up every ounce of self-discipline you have and get organized. Use tools that make sense for you, whether they’re apps or routines, to stay on track. Procrastination will cost you time and money. If you need some motivation, set a few unpaid bills on your desk, front and center.
10. You’ll Want to Get Involved in Professional Organizations
It’s incredibly invigorating and comforting to meet other people who do what you do. Splurging on attending an industry conference to network with like-minded individuals is money well spent.
11. You Can Be Employee of the Month, Every Month
Seriously, becoming self-employed is hard work. Not only do you develop and grow your business, but you also offer a service or create a product, market it, keep the accounting sorted and manage your customers. Never feel guilty about rewarding yourself for a job well done.
Becoming self-employed is a decision that doesn’t come quickly or without hesitation. Thankfully, there’s a huge workforce of independent contractors out there who are ready to network and support you along the journey.