Wanting to be self-employed is similar to the adage about would-be writers: “Everybody wants to be a writer.” At some point, one has to take tangible steps to get there. You can.
One can “get there” in stages if you’re the hesitant type. Plan ahead.
Take on evening or weekend gigs to try it out and build up a client base.
- I know someone who supplements his full-time job by tapping his “full-time-gig” contacts to go on travel tours that he leads via a travel agency. While intended to remain a “side gig,” this pays for his overseas travel. Try something of this sort – tapping folks you know – to build up your future client base for self-employment.
- Know there’s something you can offer people and know people who need it? Offer to do one-offs. It’ll give you experience. What’s more, it will start building word-of-mouth. “Oh, you need someone for that? Pat stepped up for me on that two months ago.” Word-of-mouth is the best type of marketing, hands down.
Taking on side gigs while still at your 9-to-5 has an added benefit – it gives you insight into what it takes to be self-employed. Self-employment is rarely a 9:00 – 5:00 job. In addition to being the product-delivery person (i.e., the 9:00 – 5:00 work), you are the administrator (8:00 am – 6:00 pm), the marketing team, the janitor, and the “and-and-and” person – all-in-one.
Don’t want to be the “and-and-and” person? To a degree, it’s true that one should “do what you do best and outsource the rest” (that’s another article). However, it’s also true that the-buck-stops-with-you. In the end, it’s up to you to be sure everything runs smoothly. When things go wrong, there’s no blaming the boss (you’re the boss), the production team (you’re the production team), or anyone else (yup, you guessed it…). You’re it. You’re responsible for making sure things go well (or customers likely won’t stay with you (except for the inexplicable times when they do…..which is another story yet….). In this sense, you need to know at least a little something about everything, whether or not you “do what you do best and outsource the rest….”
This is all another way of saying that self-employment takes more work – and-time – than working for someone else. Easing into self-employment with side-gigs gives you a taste of what’s to come (and whether you are actually comfortable with the type of self-employment you’ve been dreaming of…..more on that next week).
On the flip-side, the good news is that self-employment comes with freedoms that can improve the quality of your working life:
- Flexibility. Want to work 5:00 am to 12:00 pm, then take off two hours and come back at 2:00 pm to put in your final four hours for the day? You can (I once met someone who did just that. It worked for him).
- The buck stops with you. No more project derailments where the buck stops with someone else. You’re in control.
- You pick your clients and projects. At least when there’s enough business to pick and choose. When there are lows in the available workload, you can look for ways to make the least-preferred projects more palatable.
So how does one narrow down an appropriate form of self-employment and start looking for clients? We’ll look at that next Friday (to put toward your “A future Monday dream”).
Kim Burkhardt, MBA has taught college-level business courses, is an occasional book and article writer, and has a self-employment background. These days, Ms. Burkhardt is working with clients who are starting their own businesses. She’s the author of Agents of Success: Moving Forward Professionally (Personal Application of Marketing Principles). Check out her services at “The Practical MBA.”