When you start working for yourself, becoming self-employed and your own boss, the novelty of managing your diary is exciting. You can choose what you do, when you want, with whom you want. No more unnecessary meetings, unrealistic targets and a day that is full of potential and opportunity. Everything you do will have purpose and will be fun.
Someone times things can be a bit lonely when you are self-employed, especially if you have come from a bustling, busy office with a team, different departments (IT anyone?) and a regular salary! But don’t fear, here are the seven top ways to stay happy, healthy and productive when you work for yourself, all from personal experience.
Mark your successes every day
This is advice I give my clients, and it comes from personal experience. Since starting my career in sales, I am used to marking progress, considering what is working and how to replicate that. Whilst I did struggle in the early days working out what my targets and success measures are, this really helps in start-up phase when the financial results aren’t as clear. Incremental successes, from great conversations to seeing my email signups increase, all lead to my financial goal, which leads to my social impact mission!
“Comparison if the thief of joy”
I am an academic at heart; I researched, researched, and then researched some more when I first started my business. I pulled together personal SWOT analysis, and wrote lists, and plans. I studied the people that I admired, reviewed the market place and sent out questionnaires.
Then I started to panic. I didn’t know enough. I didn’t have enough money to have swish marketing campaigns. I had a wobble.
WHAT. HAVE. I. DONE?
It didn’t last long; I quickly realised that in business appearances aren’t always what they seem. Often the loudest people in social media are the least busy in their actual work.
The great quote from Theodore Roosevelt really helped me in these moments. Comparison is the thief of joy. I started to concentrate on what I was doing and the joy came right back! Two years on, this is advice that stays true. As the business grows and my brand is better known, it can be easy for those insecurities to creep back, so I always return to that quote.
Don’t get stuck behind a screen
The internet and all its communication channels are amazing. It is opening up my business and I to people across the globe. However, it can give you the illusion of activity and connection, and before you know it, you haven’t spoken to anyone face to face (apart from your family) for days. I moved from a bustling, busy department and organisation to being on my own for up to six hours a day. Not every day involved client time, so I could actually have days in the early stages where I didn’t talk to anyone between 9:30 and 3! If you have ever spent any time with me, you can imagine how that had me climbing the walls.
Self-employment can be incredibly lonely if you aren’t proactive. I have built up a great network through networking groups and having some great clients (both 1-2-1 and corporate) so my sense of tribe is being recreated. I proud to call many of them friends. They inspire my, motivate me and also open up business opportunities in ways I hadn’t considered.
This is not just important for my own wellbeing and business support, from a practical perspective, people are who I want to work with! So, if you are working on your own, either as a remote employee or self-employed person, I implore you to find your tribe and meet them regularly!
I don’t know everything
I am “eldest child – Type A – overachieving” stereotype, so accepting this level of vulnerability was hard. But so worth it. I held back on launching the business as I felt like I had to do and know everything. As soon as I realised I didn’t need to, and worked with people that had the knowledge and skills I hadn’t, things moved so much faster.
For the topics I wanted to know, but didn’t, nothing makes you learn quicker than taking action!
I have also worked with my own coach who helped me “unpack my own inner bulls**t”. Some of what I needed I could learn; the rest I needed to just “get out of my own way”.
SAY YES …
Then work out how to do it. This is the oldest advice in the book, but trust me, it will take you places you never considered before. This has led me to open up my coaching to a whole different client base that I hadn’t considered (parents that are also university students) as well as ignite a passion to giving talks that I had actively avoided in my corporate career!
Don’t take things personally
Building a brand and business takes time; even the most supportive friends and family don’t always engage or support the way you would expect them too. DON’T TAKE THIS PERSONALLY.
On a practical level, platforms like Facebook are always changing how information has been presented. There was a time I assumed that a programme I was promoting was being ignored. It turns out people hadn’t seen it. Use old fashioned techniques like phones, email and face to face conversations, and don’t believe the “sales hype”. You can’t go from 0 to multi-figure turnover in eight simple steps. It takes time and patience to build trust and relationships.
Set your boundaries
Finally, the most important points. All the above are great, but if you are working all hours, not having any down time to celebrate your successes and burning the metaphorical candle at both ends, you WILL burn out. Things will become frustrating and stressful and impact you and your business. Whilst there are many business and marketing gurus I admire, I am not from the school of “hustle”; it is about working on things that make positive impact on your business and your life.
Switch off your phone. Use your out of office. Learn to say “No” or “No yet” to clients. Give yourself time off.
When you love what you do, it energies you; it is easy to get caught up and working more hours that you did as an employee! So use your head and schedule your diary; don’t forget, you ARE THE BOSS.
About the author:
Clara Wilcox, aka The Balance Collective, is a straight talking, practical and experienced coach helping clients navigate the tricky waters of returning to work, career changes and professional development. The Balance Collective is a social enterprise focused on improving the lives of parents, by working together to build inner confidence and promote a healthy work/life balance.