Starting your own business is one of the most empowering things you can do. Despite the challenges, most of us would make the same decision again. We love our work — and our lives. The one thing many of us miss from our life working a traditional job is having built-in support systems, especially advice is needed.
“You’re entering this world where you no longer have co-workers. The biggest thing that’s helped me was having people who were doing it same time as me or had done it before me. It’s nice to talk to others when you need a bit of help.” Cait Flanders, personal finance writer
Outside perspective from someone who’s been there can make the difference between being stumped on an issue to having a solution so you can keep moving forward. It can mean the difference between having horrible clients and ones that pay you on time — for work you enjoy. But when you’re facing the steep learning curve inherent in working for yourself, advice from someone who has been there before is essential.
Giving new solopreneurs perspective and tools so they can build their own sustainable future is a big reason I created Bet On Yourself.
My article about the Four Things I Wish I Knew Before Going Independent was so popular that I wanted to share more advice — this time from other solopreneurs who offer what they wish they knew.
Play The Long Game
"Always remember that you're playing a long game and work WILL come. I remember when I was first transitioning to full time on my own, I made a lot of calls and sent out a lot of messages and got no response. It's easy to panic when this happens, but it's expected. Months or sometimes even years later, those people who said "I don't have anything for you" will call back and say, "so, are you still available?" You'll find work, even if it doesn't seem like it at first.” Erik Dietrich, programer and author
>> It can be painstaking at times but don't give up, sitting on the sofa eating potato chips and drinking a craft brew. You have to keep putting yourself out there.
Celebrate small wins
“I’m still learning so much! I wish that I made more of a habit to look back and appreciate the smaller steps of progress. You miss so much of the beautiful learning process when you are just looking to the future all the time!” Kate Anderson, Kate & Design
>> Working for yourself is a journey -- a long one. Don't worry about arriving at some set point. Focus on what your progress.
Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Community
"Get involved in your community early; preferably before you go independent. My early business was word of mouth and it wasn't enough. Business only got better as I got out to visit meetup groups, blog more, and get actively involved in mailing lists.” Jim Gay, Software developer and founder, Saturn Flyer
>> Meeting new people in your industry will not only help you expand your network, it will keep you up-to-date with the latest developments.
Don’t Go It All Alone
"Loneliness is such a huge issue for freelancers. Find your people. Find your tribe.” Sharon Panelo, digital brand strategist
>> Going on your own is an unconventional path but there are others out there -- find them!
Pay Attention To Contracts
"Before you think about money or anything else, create the best contract that you can. This contract, with a statement of work, gives you a scope of work for delivery. It makes it clear what's included, and what happens when the terms are violated. You won’t have to negotiate over the extra work.” Karl Weber, programmer
>> Contracts are a powerful way to eliminate communication issues and keep your project moving forward, and of course your income.
Your Email List Is an Opportunity For Relationships
"Never underestimate the power of your email list. It is one of the best ways to be in direct contact with your readers, which builds a personal relationship on an ongoing basis, and it in return, builds trust." Mickey Aceska, Visual Content Creator
>> People buy from people, not businesses. Remember to be personal in your email newsletters. Rather than using artificial sales language, use your regular speaking voice.
"I believe that you have constantly have good ideas or plans. You can look at them and think: "I don't think I can do that or I think I need a business coach or...." Stop! Trust yourself and grab those ideas by the balls! If inspiration and imagination knock on your door, let them in, get them coffee and listen. Trust yourself and map out the steps you have to take and then just start walking. You don't have to run!” Manon Toma, personal brand stylist and designer
>> She's right. You have to take a risk. Follow your gut. It's also easy to think you have to take BIG actions but actually small steps every day will likely get you there much faster.
Embrace The Learning Curve
"What surprised me the most was how doable it was. By "doable" I don't mean easy, because it was definitely a challenge and there was definitely a huge learning curve. I think a lot of entrepreneurs/business owners get caught up in how MUCH there is to do instead of just taking that first step. There are also a lot of resources out there (paid and free) that I was able to take advantage of.” Megan Close Zavala, Founder, Turn the Page Book Coaching & Editorial
>> Working for yourself is best education you can ever have. Embrace it. In fact, if you like doing the same thing over and over, independence might not be for you.
It’s Ok To Say No
“I wish I had known that it was okay to say no to clients you don’t want to work with.” Rebecca Frederick, Creative Nobility
>> This is a lesson I really wished I'd learned sooner. It would have helped me avoid under-valuing myself and whole heaps of stress. This one is actually one of the most challenging, especially when you're worried about income but it will change everything. Trust me.
Don’t Put All Your revenue In One Basket
One more piece of advice —from me.
Be wary of being dependent on just one client. There are obvious financial reasons, as you can imagine. If they suddenly go away, your income ceases. But a hidden reason is the danger that this one client will evolve into more of an employer/employee relationship. I was in this situation once. Even though my client was wonderful, I noticed that worried, I’d lose income, I started to contort myself to please them. It was so easy to slip back into this mindset
We’re used to having just one “boss” making it easy to fall back into the sort of imbalanced relationship that accompanies working for someone else. And, if our entire financial stability is dependent upon them, we’re more apt to do anything we can to keep the work even if it means twisting ourselves into a knot or causes us stress. It’s just human nature. Find more clients or diversify your services. That’s the only way to really be independent.
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