Roadmap to Self-Employment: What is Your Why and Who?

So you’ve determined that you want to be self-employed and that you’re cut out for the entrepreneurial journey. Now what?

The decision to be your own boss can come with a big rush.  Like a YORK Peppermint Patties commercial of the days gone by.  That’s fine for a while (like maybe an evening of some fine cocktails), but then what do you do?  This is where business planning comes in.

Take heed of the well-worn quote:

“She who fails to plan, plans to fail.”

That said, you don’t’ want to fall into planning paralysis either.  I’ll talk more about business planning and whether or not you need a business plan in the next installment in this series. For now, let’s focus on the big picture WHY.

A few very important questions to ask yourself:

  • Why do I want to be in business for myself?
  • What positive impact do I want to have on others?
  • Who do I want to serve?
  • In what way do I want to serve them (i.e., what is your product or service?)?
  • Who am I and what do I stand for as a person?

It can look tidy to line these questions up in a bulleted list like something you can knock off your to-do list before lunch, but these questions require some serious introspection. [Read more…]

5 Top Lessons from the First 5 Years in Business

Lessons from First 5 Years in BusinessThis week I officially celebrate 5 years of being full-time in my business.  Or as I like to say, “My name is Paula and it’s been 5 years since my last paycheck.”

The entrepreneurial journey is the fastest path to self-growth you could ever want.  That’s what I have learned. You can either take the long, slow road and try to do it all yourself, or get support along the way. I vote for support. One of the things I am most excited about when I work with clients is to literally save them months or years of struggle, time, and money by shortening the learning curve.

So in the spirit of giving, reflecting, and celebrating, I offer you the top 5 things I’ve learned over these last 5 years.

Be Yourself & Create What You WANT to Create

It can be easy to fall prey to the well-meaning advice of others.  You have to do this. You can’t do that. You need to be a certain way.  That simply is not so.

From the get-go, get clear on what you want to create and why you want to create it.  What is the deeper reason you chose this path?  What type of lifestyle do you want to live? What do you want your days to look and feel like?  These are all very important questions. Yes they will evolve over time, but you need to start with a navigational compass.  Know what you REALLY want (not what others say you should want) and then get about the business of creating THAT in a way that is authentic to you.

Life will happen along the way, so don’t wait for the “ideal moment” or “someday” to do something.  I learned that powerful lesson through personal loss in the third year of business.

You are in charge of this operation. Be yourself because your own uniqueness holds the key. Trying to be anything else is a waste of your precious life’s energy.

Open to Receive Support

You aren’t meant to do this self-employment thing solo.  Open to receive support and connect with real, live people in various ways.  If I could overcome my stubborn nature (and stereotypical Polish stubbornness) to receive high-level and deeply personal support and release my old control freak, perfectionist ways to delegate work to others on my team. So – Can – You.   You can’t do it all alone, and the sooner you are willing to open and receive, the faster your business (and you) will grow.

[Read more…]

Roadmap to Self Employment – Are You Cut Out for It?

Do you have what it takes to be self-employed?  It can look so easy from the outside looking in, but that is a total mirage because it barely provides a peek into what it really takes to run a successful business.

In Part 1 of this series, I talked about “How Do I Get There?” and the path I took from corporate employee to solopreneur.  Mine was truly an accidental entrepreneur journey.  Because of that I never gave a ton of thought to whether it was a fit for me or not (at least not proactively).  What I did do, however, was employ my secret weapon of conducting informational interviews with people I knew who were self-employed.  This gave me a great baseline of what to expect, expanded my network, and allowed me to get a peek behind the veil before taking the leap. 

That said, there is nothing quite like being IN it to truly get what’s required of the job.  When a mentor told me that self-employment would be the deepest, most transformational personal growth journey I could undertake, I thought she was exaggerating.  She was not kidding!  And the journey continues because as your business grows, you must continue to grow yourself over and over to that next level. So, plan on it being a lifelong journey of personal growth and be willing to get the support you need to do so.  If you try to be a lone ranger you will suffer along the way and likely fail.

When I wrote about the 10 red flags that signal you are not cut out to be your own boss, I focused on personality traits and habits that would likely set you up for failure.  Today, let’s look at who you need to be if you wish to be a success over the long haul.

Be Willing to Take and Tolerate Risks

Nothing spells risk like ditching a paycheck to blaze a new trail. When you are self-employed the risks never end: hiring team members, making investments, launching new products/services, becoming more visible, and the list goes on and on. It is never-ending.  That’s OK.  It’s part of the variety, excitement, and potential of taking the entrepreneurial journey.  The key is to take calculated risks and to be fully conscious of what you are doing, why you are doing it, and possible outcomes (from the greatest successes to the biggest flops).

Believe in Yourself

Without belief, nothing is possible. I’m not talking about airy-fairy wishful thinking here. I’m talking about a to-the-core confidence and belief in yourself and your ability to handle whatever comes your way.  Whether you work alone in your home office in a strictly virtual business or grace large stages your belief and personal presence will be felt by everyone. People make choices based on what they feel from you.  You will need to be able to maintain this confidence in the face of adversity and during the shittiest days in your business (and don’t fool yourself, you will have some of those).

Practice Excellent Self-Care

You are at the hub of your business.  Without you, there is no business (or at the very least the business becomes a lot less important).   While you may burn the candle at both ends at times, it cannot be your mode of operation.  You will burn yourself out, potentially get ill, and most certainly decimate the personal relationships that matter to you.  Remember, this is a distance run.  Treat it as one.

Persevere

Speaking of distance runs, you need to be willing to persevere.  That looks like continuing to walk the path even when it is difficult and following-up far more than you might think necessary.  Plan on having a stash of cash to keep you going as you build.  One of the reasons I see so many solo businesses fail is simply because they ran out of cash and had to close their doors.  It takes time to get established, so plan for the worst case scenario and then add more working capital.

Create a Structure

One of the biggest joys about being your own boss is that you have total freedom over your schedule. Hurrah!  Without disciple, though, this freedom becomes your downfall. I see one of two things happen – the highly structured, came from corporate, high achievers (like me) tend to initially over structure themselves to the point that they hate their boss.  As I said when I hit this point – if you’re self-employed and working for an ass, you have only one place to look (hint: in the mirror). Or alternatively, the idea of freedom leads people to no structure at all resulting in a lack of focus and thus a lack of results.  Think of growing your business like you would a plant.  It needs a container in which to grow, but too tight of a container will kill it.

Seek to Learn

There is so much you can and need to learn about running a business.  If you don’t love learning new things, you will not thrive as your own boss.  As the Chief Everything Officer, there is never a dull moment. Always be willing to learn and budget time in your schedule to learn new things consistently.  That said; avoid the drinking from a fire hose phenomenon of trying to learn everything all at once (or trying to learn the things that you’d be better off delegating).  Focused learning and application.

Love What You Do

It takes a lot of time and effort to build a business. If you don’t love what you do, you should really just get a job.  Being clear about what you offer, why it serves other people, and feeling passionate about it is very important.  It is pretty hard to persevere if you don’t have any oomph behind it.  Passion and loving what you do provides the oomph.

Relax and Take it in Stride

Yes owning your own business is a choice not to be taken lightly. That said I was so terminally serious about what I was doing and the money part of the business when I first started that every day was a form of self-torture.  In today’s business climate being self-employed is not necessarily more risky than having a job (we’ve seen a lot of those vanish at the drop of a pin – so much for “security”, right?).  It is very different, though, so you have to be willing to roll with the punches and enjoy the journey. If you can’t enjoy the journey, what is the point?

Get Support

You are not meant to do this in isolation.  This is no time to try and figure it all out by yourself.  You have to be willing to invest in yourself and open to receive support.  Tap into resources and people that can help you shorten the learning curve and increase your chances for success.  You can find resources through local business organizations (for example: SBA, SCORE, small business divisions of your county, and local colleges); professional networking groups (women’s groups, chamber of commerce, etc.); mastermind groups; private, custom, individual support through coaches and mentors.

What do you think?  Are you cut out to be your own boss?  If you’re already  your own boss, what other traits have you found crucial to success over the long haul?  I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences, and questions in the comments…

How to Become Self-Employed
Credit Image: Joel in Southern CA via flickr

This post originally appeared on BlogHer.com.

 

 

No Apologies – An Accidental Entrepreneur

Do you have to be a business geek in order to start your own business? Can you be successful if you are not inherently entrepreneurial? Ever worry that you won’t cut it if you take the leap for self-employment?

In this episode of No Apologies I tell you a bit of my own story about the path to being a small business owner.  It’s not what you think. I was never a lemonade stand selling or paper route carrying kid.  In fact, I was never big on studying business related things (despite my degree with honors in accounting). Yet after 17 years in a career that did not fit, I discovered the path to freedom. You just might be an accidental entrepreneur too.

Like what you’re hearing? Share with your friends and colleagues (that’s what those buttons are for down there 🙂

No Apologies – Building an Authentic Life and Business

Welcome to No Apologies! The new weekly video series where you get to go behind the scenes of what it takes to build a successful business and learn more about me  as well.  Got questions you want me to answer in future episodes?  Contact me via email or let me know on my facebook page.

Offer no apologies for how you live your life or run your business. In this kickoff episode I offer up no apologies.  With wit and bold honesty I’m here to set the stage for what will become a behind the scenes look at what it takes to go from corporate America to small business owner, succeed on your own terms, and peek behind the veil of what it is like to work with high-level mentors. Learn what it takes to build a successful business and have time to live the rest of your life as well.  Like what you’re hearing and seeing? Share this with your friends (click those handy buttons below!)

How to Prioritize When Everything is a Priority

Get the 7-Day Solution