working solo

Five secrets no one tells you about working for yourself

That’s a clickbait title if I’ve ever written one! Hopefully, it made you chuckle.

Reality check: there aren’t really any secrets about working for yourself. For you guys reading, the self-employed, solo entrepreneurs of the world, you probably knew that.

But you probably do hear your friends or family idealizing what having your own business is really like. You might even hear fellow small biz owners do it!

We’ve all got our own stories about building a business and what that is like for us, but I think there are some fairly universal issues we all deal with. Stuff that people looking from the outside tend to gloss over, or not even realize can be problems. So let’s talk about those!

In no particular order here, because none of these are really more important than the others.

“You’ll make more money if you work for yourself!”

Hands up, who heard that a bunch of times before they made the leap to owning their own business?

You know, this seems to be a common misconception about running a business. If you have full control, you’re going to make more money, because you can do things the way you want to, right?

That might be true in some situations! Maybe you currently work in an industry that has really low salaries for the employed folks, but those doing the freelance/contractor/own business thing tend to make a lot more. Or, maybe you’re currently a contractor who has to pay a large percentage to the place you’re doing work for and know if you cut the ‘middle man’ out, you’d be making quite a bit more.

But the crux of this issue is really that there isn’t some magical thing that happens when you decide to go solo. For most of us, it doesn’t mean all that work you had, all the clients, all the connections, will follow you to your own business. Nope. Some probably will, yes! But be real with yourself: your business only works if you do.

Often when we go solo we have to work twice as hard to get clients booked and get people checking out our businesses. At least in the beginning, until you get processes in place and a good list of folks you work with or who are interested in referring work to you.

Even once we’re rolling, we STILL need to work hard to keep things going. A story from ‘real life’: I used to work with a massage therapist who was booked solid most weeks. She once told me that even after her years of hard work, she found that if she let her marketing and client retention practices slip, she’d start to see it negatively affect her schedule.

It takes hard work and dedication to make your business work, and there really is no guarantee you’re going to ‘make more’ if you go solo.

“You must have so much free time! I wish I could go to yoga/art classes/geocaching/lion taming during the day!”

I think for most entrepreneurs hearing that makes them shake their heads a bit. As much as we might dream of having a ton of free time, that’s just not the reality for most of us. Remember what I said above about having to do the work to be successful?

So yes, we do have more flexibility with our time. We can go to a daytime yoga class, take an afternoon break to do some gardening, or go for a long walk to clear our heads without having a boss tell us to get back to work.

But that flexibility can be a curse. If you, as your own boss, aren’t very good at telling yourself to get back to work, you can end up wasting a whole lot of your time, and your work will seriously suffer as a result. As well, many of us self-employed types tend to work odd hours in order to allow for that flexibility. In my life, for example, I like to train circus aerial and acrobatic arts. My classes are during the day on Tuesdays for several hours. Some Tuesdays that means I don’t get much work done! But other weeks, it means I’m working into the evening and putting in extra time on Wednesday to make sure everything gets done.

If you aren’t good at motivating yourself to get stuff done, you probably don’t want to work solo. If you tend to get distracted a lot and aren’t willing to take measures to cut out the distractions, you need to work on that if you want your business to succeed.

“It must be so amazing getting to work on stuff you really love!”

Working for yourself is not a one-way ticket to only doing stuff you love. Really, nothing in life is only ‘doing stuff you love’! (I’ve got a whole post about that coming up – watch for it! 🙂 )

For the vast majority of us (who can’t afford to hire someone else), it means we spend as much time on keeping our business running as we do working with clients.

That means doing things like: filling out paperwork, entering receipts into our bookkeeping software, ordering supplies, answering emails, doing marketing activities, returning phone calls, and so on. Don’t like doing administration, record-keeping, or marketing? Sorry, no one is going to do it for you!

Sure, it is true that if you’ve built a business around something you enjoy doing and really care about, it is totally possible to have a career that you, generally speaking, really love. But it doesn’t mean there won’t be ups and downs, or days where you’re dealing with difficult people or stressful times. It just means that the core of what you’re doing really resonates with you and is something you feel great about. Even if there are times that really suck.

“Being your own boss must be great!”

Well, other than what we said above about time management and keeping your business running, let’s be realistic here. If you work for a company and something goes wrong, who is responsible? Often, it’s not you, or at least, you share the blame with a bunch of other people.

Being your own boss? That means you get to call the shots! But it also means you are responsible for every single one of them. There’s no one else to help deal with upset clients or people who don’t pay their invoices or lean times in your schedule. It’s all up to you.

It also means there is a battle between your creative side and your practical side. The creative side might want to be freer, or do projects in new and interesting ways. But the practical side of you is always thinking about the bottom line, about making sure you meet deadlines and have cash flow coming into the business.

So those are some things I hear all the time about what working for yourself is ‘supposed’ to be like. But how about you guys? I would really love to hear from you! What’s your small biz story? What things do you keep hearing about being self-employed that just don’t match your own situation?

And before I sign off, I did want to mention one last thing: we listed a bunch of reasons why being your own boss isn’t all rainbows and kittens. A reality check, if you will. But it’s also very true that working for yourself has a lot of benefits (otherwise, why would we bother?).

Having real control over the direction of your work and the types of clients you work with? Awesome. Doing something you believe in, even when the going gets tough? Fulfilling. Being able to take vacation time when you like, and having control over your work environment? Huge perks.

So yeah, it can be tough. But it can also be worth it.

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