I recently made a big career change and am now self-employed. My decision to embark on this career move was made with a desire to be completely in charge of my earning potential, schedule, and ability to manage my own goals and expectations. If you are not self-employed, you may look at these objectives with a twinge of jealousy, and be asking yourself “gee, I wish I could make my own schedule, goals and salary.” If I had that genie in a bottle mentality, and could merely wish my success into existence, the self-employed lifestyle looks pretty sweet!
Here’s the reality of working for yourself:
1. Your time is your biggest commodity – Every activity has a purpose. Every meeting (whether it be a coffee, lunch or whatever) needs to be focused around producing results. The small amounts of creative brainstorming that I used to work into my week exists mostly outside of the work day, or is earmarked through quick conversations to be delved into later. I use my early mornings or quiet time before bed to get my thoughts together for the work day.
2. You (and only you) are in charge of your income – I am fortunate in my new career to be a part of a small team. But at the end of the day, my contribution to that team solidifies my place on the bench. Results need to be quantifiable, and accountable. I don’t get the luxury of waiting until the progress report at the end of a quarter to determine if I need to make adjustments in my strategy.
3. There is no safety net, unless you create it yourself – Being self-employed is a high-risk, high-reward industry. There isn’t a pile of money sitting in my bank account just waiting for me to indulge in a spa day (although that sounds like a pretty good goal to set). Planning is key, and creating a full pipeline of activity builds that safety net a bit faster.
4. I don’t work 40 hour work weeks – Here’s a reality check: self employed individuals work way more than 40 hours per week. A flexible schedule comes with the perks of being able to attend your child’s school program in the middle of the day, but results in cranking up the computer at night to make up for that time away from work. Being in charge of your outcome has a direct correlation to the time you invest to get there.
Being self-employed is exhilarating, rewarding, challenging, engaging, and motivating. It is by far the hardest I have ever worked in my life, and I am loving every minute of it. It also comes with its share of stress, doubt, and competition. I didn’t make the decision to become self-employed quickly, and it took a lot of planning and soul searching to jump in with both feet.