When I made the decision to become self employed 15 years ago (at the mere age of 12, ha-ha), it was because I saw self employment as the single-best way to never limit my income potential. And as a daughter from a VERY traditional family, I thought self employment would allow me the flexibility to support my husband in his given career. That reason makes me laugh now; I’ve changed a lot in 15 years! But following are ten reasons a person may not be suited for self employment, based on my years of observation and consultation.
While I am very satisfied with the three “Fs” of self employment – finances, flexibility and freedom—I have made decisions about my life and challenged myself in ways that would make a lot of people uncomfortable. I had no idea what I was getting into when I first became self employed, and I chose to prioritize my life’s work over relationships and starting a family. I have no regrets in that respect. I have started and sold two businesses, completely screwed another up and took WAY too long in my current one to get online. It’s been quite a ride.
Can You Stand The Self Employment Roller Coaster?
I have PLENTY of examples of personal mistakes to draw from, but here is the list of 10 things that I have witnessed that derail most people on the road to self employment:
- You can’t settle on an idea. I love the idea of a multi-passionate entrepreneur, and I admit that I get bored if I have to do too much of the same thing all of the time. However…if you flit around from business concept to business concept, you never gain a firm footing in any of them. Start one idea, then when it’s profitable and self-sustaining, move onto the next.
- You’re not willing to “vet” the idea. I come across people all of the time who are convinced they have a profitable business idea…and then want thousands of dollars to invest in the business. Do some research. Start small. Or get hired as an employee at a competitor for 4-6 months for an inside look at operations. Perform a small test case to prove your theory.
- Your finances are messed up. Actually, my finances got messed up BECAUSE I became self employed! I knew how to make decisions as an employee, but not as a self employed person (I learned). I’m not saying you can’t be self employed if you have debt, but you need to understand the “why” behind any financial messiness, so you don’t carry the issue over to how you make financial decisions in your business.
- You have trouble self-starting. I used to be one of those employees that needed zero management; I just got stuff–A LOT of stuff–done. I’m the same way in my business; believe me, I have LOTS of flaws, but being a self-starter and doing what I say I am going to do in record time has saved me in self employment. If you’re already self employed and have issues with this, the best thing you can do is hire yourself a weekly project manager (or someone like me) to keep you working close to your revenue line.
- You have trouble promoting yourself. Some people have trouble promoting themselves because they lack clarity in their brand; others have issues with self promotion because they lack confidence. When you’re first starting out, it isn’t cost effective to hire someone to do this, so you need to understand and correct your issues so promotion becomes part of your daily practice.
- You have issues with self worth. Some people feel like they don’t deserve to be paid for what they do (this could be a whole post in itself—in fact, it is, right here). I’ve spent the past 15 years building confidence in this area, but it’s been a bumpy road and an ongoing process—something that I constantly have to challenge myself with to continue to grow. Yes, even after 15 years.
- You tend to freak out when things go wrong. If I freaked out for days every time someone questioned my worth, someone unsubscribed from my email newsletter, my income went down a little or something didn’t go my way, I’d be a basket case. Emotional competence isn’t about NOT getting upset; it’s about how fast you can get back on track when you’re thrown for a loop.
- You’re not willing to work for it. For the 15 years before I became self employed, I did straight plays and musical theater year-round. You rehearse 20-25 hours per week, so this meant I would go directly after school or work for 6-7 days per week and rehearse until 9:30 or 10 pm every night. I LOVED it. I was energized and in perfect health. I don’t work this much in business, because when I did it my first 5 years, I developed adrenal and thyroid burnout which I am still managing. So even though I don’t work as much as I did those first 5 years, I kept a strict schedule. I see people on Saturdays and in the evenings. Building my business is my top priority, can it be yours?
- You don’t like doing things yourself. I believe in hiring experts to help me implement, however, I always work to understand the principles behind a tactic before I delegate—this has saved me thousands of dollars when I ferret out a contractor who is trying to half-ass the service he is offering! You have to constantly be learning in self employment, so your strategies don’t become outdated and you don’t waste money paying someone who can’t deliver. It’s an ongoing process.
- Your mate isn’t on board. After several failed relationships (never married), I realized I wasn’t meeting anyone who understood and (emotionally) supported my entrepreneurial spirit. They wanted babies and I wanted 20% growth! And every time I got close, I realized I wasn’t willing to compromise my vision. I meet entrepreneurs all of the time who are terrified that they will lose the trust of their spouse or have to go back to employment if they don’t succeed. The solution isn’t to leave their spouses; it’s to know that this is a minefield that you have to negotiate, and make sure you have agreement over the vision as well as have a plan in place for the other potential obstacles to business success.
Actions This Week
Take a hard look at this list and decide what you need to work on. Rather than jump into self employment with both feet, you might need a phased approach. If you’re already self employed, don’t dismiss the touchy-feely aspects mentioned above.
Talk with your mate. Often, self employed people forget to include their mate in their business plan, but like it or not, they own 50% of your business. They deserve a voice (which is why I am not married yet!).
Prioritize your life. What other areas of your life are you willing to fail at in the short term to achieve stable self employment? When I first became self employed, I didn’t do anything for the first 9 months but work; I didn’t have a choice, I had to support myself.
P.S. If you think any of the above might fit for you, I encourage you to take a look at your money energy with my free ebook, Money Chakra. You can download that here. Or, you might like Profit Clarity, a free workbook to help you navigate pricing and profitability for your business. You can download that here.