5 Steps You Must Take Towards Self-Employment

5 Steps You Must Take Towards Self-Employment

Being self-employed is not for everyone. This kind of lifestyle is certainly a riskier proposition than working at a traditional job. I have just recently become self-employed. Before that, I had been working odd jobs and running my web-dev business, infinFX, on the side, since I graduated from high school in 2003. It was frustrating because I had very little time to market the business between work and school. I would often have to work 10- to 14-hour days between work, school, and marketing in order to make any business progress.

I was thinking about the steps necessary before I was able to quit my day-job at Apple and focus soley on my personal enterprises. Here are 5 steps I took to become self-employed:

1. Write out a clear plan for your life after you quit your day-job. There are many ways people can earn money on their own and many ways that they can spend their time when they are making their own schedule. It is absolutely mandatory, however, that you have a set-in-stone plan for how you are going to spend your time daily and what your 3-, 6-, and 12-month goals are.

2. Create some short-term security. Ideally, you should save up to 6 months of living expenses. When you first quit your day-job and start working full-time for yourself, you are no longer able to depend upon a regular pay-check. You may get paid one month and little the next. This is why it’s important to have a healthy savings in case the money isn’t there one month.

3. Become super committed. You must be prepared for the fact that the first few months of being self-employed are not easy and are not predictable. Be prepared for short-term failure and be willing to learn from your mistakes. Several times over the past few months I have considered getting a part-time job as I have been worried about insufficient revenue from my personal ventures.

4. Focus your energies. When a person becomes free to make their own schedule, he often becomes lazy. Traditional jobs provide a solid daily structure to many people – they know when they have to wake up, leave for work, eat lunch, etc. When that structure is taken out of the daily regiment, chaos may ensue. This is where your game-plan comes into play. Resist the urge to get comfortable and realize that being self-employed is often much more work than a traditional job.

5. Realize you are not going to become successful overnight. The rewards of self-employment are much higher, but so are the risks. It has taken me 3 months to see some financial benefits of self-employment. Persistent networking enabled me to secure 7 new clients this month.

As I stated earlier, self-employment is definitely not for everyone – some people simply prefer the predictability and security provided by a nine-to-five job. Others, such as myself, would rather set their own schedule and take the risky plunge into self-employment.

Do The Pros Outweigh the Cons?

In my experience, the pros of self-employment absolutely outweigh the cons. Self-employment has many benefits, including setting your own schedule and (generally) higher pay than working for a company. However, it may take a while to see the perks. In my first few months of being my own boss, I feared that I would spend a great deal of time networking and marketing and see very limited returns. It has only been in the past month that I have started to see the benefits of self-employment. Being completely in control of my success is a great feeling and it has motivated me to work even harder to achieve my long-term goals.

23 thoughts on “5 Steps You Must Take Towards Self-Employment”

  1. Great stuff Nate!

    And every gameplan requires a set amount of hours to market and actively sell whatever you’re doing. Especially for a new business. That’s hard to do and it’s intimidating for a lot of people who are new in business and don’t have total confidence in their own product yet.

    Without a commitment to spend X amount of hours out “sellin’ it” everyday, it’s easy to get into development hell and continuously create new things, but not bring in any cashflow.

    1. Hey Shane, you are absolutely right. My friend, Matt, is about to quit his day job to market full-time with me, and it is going to mean i will have to be twice as on top of my work to lead by example for him. I am going to force us to write down how many hours we worked each day doing what. Working for yourself requires so much more effort than working for someone else.

  2. Hi Nate,

    Completely agree with your post, its easy to slip into lazy habits when the structure of traditional employment is taken away. I finds its helpful to have a timesheet for each day so you can just make a quick note of how you have spent your time, that way its easy to review how to manage your time more efficiently 🙂

    Keep up the good work,

  3. Hey Greg, thanks for the comment. You have a great point. Actually keeping a timesheet for each day is an excellent way to monitor one’s efficiency. That is such a good point that I am going to incorporate it into my daily routine. Thanks for the idea and I hope my readers looking to become self-employed will also take that into consideration.

  4. I would also add that where possible, give your self employment a try before you give up your day job. This is certainly much easier to do if you plan to make money online, but can still be workable if looking to make money in the offline world. By giving it a try whilst still in full time employment, you can test your business plan whilst keeping the security of employment.

  5. Great advice for anyone considering going towards self-employment. I’m a college student and just started going pro with my web dev business in the past 6 months or so. I really should set some goals, however for those of you out there that have the chance to be self-employed, I love the lifestyle.

  6. Hey Nate,

    I followed a link from GoldyWorld, and discovered, I like how you write! I was an entrepreneur as long as I can remember (with brief stints working for someone else.) And since graduating almost a decade before you, I can tell you, the earlier you start, the better. But there ARE downsides, and I’m glad you put that out there for your readers, as well. For many of us, though, entrepreneurship is likely “in the blood,” and such pitfalls of working 14 hour days, when starting out, are greatly outweighed by the satisfaction of saying, “I made this. It is mine.”

    Best Wishes,

    Meg Meyer

    1. Hey Meg, thanks for the kind words. I totally agree – you are either cut out to be self-employed, or you are not. The feeling of creating your own success is one of the best ever I have to say.

  7. Number 4 can be tricky. I had a hard time (still have) maintaining a working schedule at home. I thought I had the discipline, but like Nate said, it’s easy to get lazy.

    Great post.

    1. Hey Ronaldo, it is really easy to get lazy. My first month being self employed, it was easy to slip into the “I already made my budget this month so I can relax” mentality. That is not what being self-employed is about – one needs to continually work to set new higher standards.

      1. … I love self employment, but i also get this metality. What i do is set a monthly goal each month and MAKE myself hit it, no matter what. But also i keep goals within reason… for example i have exams this month so i have to study alot, therefor i cut down my goal this month.

  8. I’m not self-employed yet, by any means. I have however had it in the back of my mind, and I intend to begin setting up one or two websites in winter 2007 (whislt keeping part-time work) and then quit my job and become fully self-employed in early 2008.

    One thing I think that is important to remember is that you must realise in your day when to take breaks etc, and when you should step back from what you are doing to take a bigger look. You don’t want to end up working non-stop, losing sleep etc, cos that leads to getting ill, or over-tired and not working properly.

    Eating properly is vital too. Keeping your energy levels up and staying focused. Getting your vitamins and other good stuff ^_^

  9. As of tomorrow, I will be quitting my job and working for myself. After reading your blog, I’m feeling a little better about it. My blog will certainly get constant updates and I can brush up on the oooo so many CSS books I’ve acquired over the years.

  10. This is a good post Nate, especially since it’s MODERATE.

    I dislike people who post: QUIT YOUR JOB NOW kind of articles in which they are so interested in telling people how cool it is to be your own “boss” that they forget to also caution them to the fact self-employment is NOT EASY.

    I have been freelancing for 5 years and only now I started my own design firm. Weird enough I still keep my job as a radio DJ and earn a decent buck. I want to live off of my earnings as a designer only, but I am not ready yet to make the big leap.

    The contracts are good, but still the wage I get at the radio is a good part compared to what I earn on the web business. And I try to keep this source of income, especially since I don’t have to spend too many hours there.

    Anyone needs to understand that being your own boss, as cool as it might seem, also means you WORK like crazy. When you are in a job at a company you go home after the 5-9 day is over. And do whatever you please. I don’t recall my last free weekend or the night I slept earlier than 2-3 in the morning. Having my own firm means working 10-15 hours a day at least (even in weekends).

    It’s not all daisies and sun, it means getting almost no personal life at least till you kinda settle in the business and are able to think about hiring someone or just relax some more.

    I would advice anyone to think about working on their own since the feeling is absolutely amazing, but also START CAUTIOUSLY on this road.

  11. Perseverance is the key! I like #5 the best. If you are in it for the long haul (and planned and saved accordingly) then one has a solid foundation for self-employment. Too many people see the other guy doing it and immediately thing they can jump in.

  12. These are some great tips you pointed out!

    I remember the time when I first started out as a freelancer, I expected to succeed overnight. Guess what? I am still struggling and there is still no signs (nor smell) of getting there anytime soon.

    But hey, at least during that time I become supercommited to make it, no matter what!

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