Self-employment: 3 tips for success

When I tell people I’m self-employed and work out of a home office, quite often the response is: “Oh, that’s great; I envy you!  I could never do that myself.  You must have so much self-discipline.”

Well, here’s a secret:  I do not have tons of self-discipline.  In fact, I can be downright lazy on occasion. But what I’ve found during more than 20 years of self-employment is that having an anemic-looking bank account when the mortgage is due will make even the most self-indulgent person snap to it!

So if you think you aren’t cut out for self-employment because you aren’t always highly motivated in your current work, think again. Being on your own brings with it an entirely different mind-set, comparable to the mental transition that comes when you go from renting to owning a home. When it’s your own home, you are more apt to do whatever’s necessary to keep it in good shape. The same will be true of your own business.

For those times when motivation flags, however, here are some things I’ve learned to do to get it back:

o  If you will be working in a home office, recognize from the start that it is isolating. Because of the nature of my business, I often spend all day “chained” to my computer with no face-to-face human interaction. To overcome this, I build into my daily schedule times when I get out and have a chance to be among other people.   Visiting the gym or eating lunch out instead of making a sandwich at home can provide a little lift when my spirits sag. Even a stop at the post office or bank can be refreshing.  Everybody knows me by name where I bank and buy stamps, and it’s remarkable how a little chitchat about the weather can make me feel part of the human race again.

o  Build a support network. Being able to reach out to other people who also self-employed and trying to build a business has been a God-send to me. When my accounts receivables are high but cash-on-hand is nil, when a prospect who wanted a proposal ASAP is now taking forever to say yea or nay, or when I’ve got so many project deadlines in the same week that I am tempted to weep, being able to call somebody who has “been there; done that” is invaluable. Even if the person on the other end of the phone doesn’t have any concrete suggestions (although they often do), just having someone say, “Okay, this too shall pass and you know it,” is reassuring and gets me back on track.

o  Set a financial goal and break it down into “achievable” chunks. I have found that dividing my annual income goal into weekly and then daily goals serves as a motivator. Especially when I first started out, it was daunting to look at the entire yearly sum I needed to earn to replace the salary and benefits I earned previously plus the share of FICA that my employer had paid. Instead of getting to work, I was more likely to sit there and fret about how I could ever reach that goal!  But by looking at it in bite-size chunks, it seemed  “do-able.” And having that figure in my head each day helps keep me on target.

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