Advice for the Self-Employed
I’ve been self-employed for 10 years after spending decades of my working life in permanent, pensionable jobs. My advice for the self-employed is based on real, on-the-ground experience.
When I made the decision to jump into the unknown, I got a lot of encouragement from some and a lot of criticism for others – about 40: 60 (criticism 60%).
There was no middle ground in the advice I received, even though none of those who gave me advice had ever been self-employed. It was either ‘go for it’ or ‘you must be mad’.
Advice as hidden agenda
I didn’t ask for advice, but advice poured in from both sides. And in those outpourings, I saw that my decision to become self-employed was touching people’s own buried dreams or their secret fears. Their advice masked their own hidden agenda.
I didn’t expect that my personal choice would make so many people uncomfortable – remind them of their unfulfilled lives, confront them with their insecurities, expose their deep unhappiness with their ‘success’, etc.
So, ten years later a lot of water has flown under that bridge.
I’m older, wiser and happier than I was back then.
And I’d do it all again – only sooner.
My advice for the self-employed
Recently I was asked by a group of younger self-employed consultants what advice would I give after my 10 years.
Here’s my top 3.
1. Your Well-being
Make your well-being your non-negotiable top priority. I worked in environments where ‘busyness’ was the mark of your worth and it led to enormous suffering, self-effacement & sickness.
2. Build Relationships.
You cannot run a business on clicks and numbers. Invest in the long-term, because that’s where the gold is. Create a mutual support group – you’ll need it in the lean times and in the good times. Ask for help when needed – and you’ll need it. Invest big in client relationships because the return is huge.
3. Know Thyself
Invest your energies in what flows for you and outsource what doesn’t flow. What that means on the ground is this. Don’t work with clients who don’t ‘get you’ and your service. Practice saying NO to what doesn’t float your boat and what drains your energies.
Is there a hidden agenda in my advice?
If there is then it’s this. The self-employed life is both challenging and rewarding. To keep a healthy balance you have to take care of yourself first. And to do that well, learn to identify the following:
– what devours your energies; what gives you energy
– what is aligned with your values; what compromises them
– what brings you the most joy, what creates the most struggle.
When you pay attention to those issues, the day-to-day decisions in your self-employed life fall into place.