What It’s Really Like to Be Self-Employed
When you read about entrepreneurship, or start looking into becoming self-employed, you’ll hear the usual things: set up a website, have a social media presence, understand your target market, and make sure there’s a need for what you want to offer. And, sure — all of those things are important.
But there’s a whole other side to self-employment that no one really talks about! There are skills you need that no one prepares you for, and there is stuff that comes up that you weren’t expecting.
Here are 9 things that took me by surprise in this entrepreneurial journey, so that you can be better aware of what to expect:
1 | THOSE CLOSEST TO YOU (FRIENDS, FAMILY, SPOUSE) WILL PROBABLY NOT BE SUPPORTIVE OF YOUR DREAM
They’re certainly not going to be as passionate or excited about it as you are… but, that’s okay, as it’s not their dream — it’s yours!
It helps to get yourself into Entrepreneur groups — surround yourself with others who get what you’re going through — and to turn to them with your highs and lows in business.
Family will probably worry about you and, meaning well, encourage you to go out and get a “real job”. Don’t let that deter you. Just know that they aren’t going to understand, and continue to do your thing.
2 | YOU WILL NEED RESILIENCE & PERSEVERANCE TO BE SUCCESSFUL
As an Entrepreneur, you will learn that failures are simply a part of the success process… so long as you learn from them. If you keep getting up, and keep pressing forward — if you’re willing to fight to see your dreams realized — then, in time, you will succeed. You just have to be willing to do whatever it takes to keep going.
3 | (ALMOST) NONE OF IT IS ABOUT YOU
This one really took me by surprise. When I first became self-employed, it was all about me — how much money I could make, what kinds of things I wanted to do or liked doing, colors and fonts and design styles that matched my tastes.
Yet, over time, I’ve come to realize that it’s really about the audience I want to help. They, after all, are the ones with the power to determine whether what I’m offering is worthy of their time, or worth their hard-earned dollars.
My audience and their needs and desires are the most important factor… everything I do as an Entrepreneur must take them into consideration. What do they struggle with, and how can I help? What colors and designs appeal to them? What do they want or need to learn about through my content? What will they see as valuable? It’s all about serving my audience.
4 | YOU MUST GIVE IF YOU WANT TO RECEIVE — SOW, IF YOU WANT TO REAP
A common misconception of new entrepreneurs is that you can set up a website, and put up this great sales page with your amazing offer, and — bam! — you’ll start making the big bucks! Yet, it doesn’t work that way. Firstly, because you need to actually tell people that your offer exists (they won’t just stumble across it, and be amazed), and secondly because, when you’re first starting out, people don’t yet know you. In order for them to buy from you, they first need to have a good understanding of who you are (as a business) and what you can do for them (see point #3, above). So, patience is needed, while you educate others about your business. Which brings me to the next point…
5 | THERE IS SO MUCH WRITING!
They say “content is king” — and for good reason. In order for your audience to get to know and like you, they need to be educated on who you are and what you are offering them. You need to show them that you know what they’re dealing with, and why you are the best person to help them solve that problem. How you do this, as an online entrepreneur, is through writing.
You write content for your website and blog, you write posts for social media, you write content for your email newsletter, you write copy for landing pages and sales pages and ads … it feels as if writing is your main job, even though you never signed up to be a “writer”! (Don’t like to write? That’s okay — you can hire someone to do it for you. But be aware that, first, you’ll need to be clear on your message, and on the tone you are wishing to convey).
6 | MARKETING AND SALES ARE KEY SKILLS YOU MUST HAVE (OR BUILD)
A lot of people have a really negative view of sales, and think “marketing” is a complicated thing. Thus, they try to avoid these two skills. Yet, the reality is, most of us are just misinformed about what each of these things really is, and we only have our experiences with others’ attempts at these to base our knowledge off of.
Based on what I’ve learned:
Marketing is simply creating awareness of your business, and what you can offer other people. That’s it, in a nutshell (not so complicated, huh?).
Sales, on the other hand, is simply educating others about what your offer can do for them, and then giving them options, and the choice of whether or not this is right for them, at this time. The idea that sales is “pushy, icky, slimy, convincing, or coercing” is wrong. When sales is done correctly — from a place of being of service to your customer, and allowing them to choose what’s right for them — it takes all of the “ick” out of it, and ends up being a win-win for everyone involved.
And truth be told, you cannot have a “business” if you aren’t willing to sell, or to marketing your offerings. These are foundational skills.
7 | YOUR PERSONAL GROWTH GAME WILL BE STRENGTHENED
… that is, so long as you’re willing to stay in the fight, and keep pressing forward!
I never would have imagined how much being an Entrepreneur would grow me, personally. It really is more about who you’ll become in the process, than what you do. I’ve become more patient, more resilient, mentally stronger, and I’ve developed more of a servant’s heart through running my own business.
There are also many mindsets and limiting beliefs you’ll need to work through in order to grow and succeed. It’s definitely not easy! But it is so very, very worth it.
8 | COACHES, MENTORS, & GUIDES ARE KEY TO MAKING PROGRESS
… and I’m not just including this point because I am a strategist/guide! I honestly wouldn’t be where I am, today, if it weren’t for the wonderful people and coaches who gave me their time and shared their wisdom and insights with me, along the way.
There were times, in my journey thus far, where I was so confused and frustrated, and I could not see a way forward. Yet, in reaching out to, and then talking through things with these coaches and other entrepreneurs, they helped me to untangle the messes inside my head, work through the mindsets or beliefs that were holding me back, and they gave me the encouragement and support I needed to remember why I’d started on this journey in the first place. I am forever grateful to each and every one of them for their help!
Side note: I didn’t always have the money to hire someone, so I took advantage of the free 30-minute calls offered by these fellow entrepreneurs — often in exchange for a testimonial they could use. So know that, no matter what, the help that you need is always available. However, if you can afford it, I also highly believe in the value of investing in a coach. You gain so much clarity and confidence in being open and vulnerable with someone else, and letting them hold you accountable!
9 | STRUCTURE, SCHEDULES, & TIME MANAGEMENT AREN’T REALLY THE “EVILS” WE WANT TO BELIEVE THEY ARE
I’ve always been fiercely independent, and hated limits and being “confined” in any way. In fact, like many who branch out on their own as Entrepreneurs, they whole reason I wanted to be self-employed was so that I could have the freedom to do things my own way, on my own schedule, and without the restrictions one typically finds in a traditional work environment.
Yet, after several years of “winging it” — doing whatever I felt like doing, each day, without any real rhyme or reason — and not seeing the kind of success I’d hoped for, I came to realize that it really is important for entrepreneurs to create (and then follow) some kind of schedule.
Without structure, it is really easy to lose whole days “lost in the scroll” on social media, or to spend your time working on things that seem important but aren’t really moving your business forward, or creating income (again, speaking from experience, here!).
One of my favorite time management / scheduling hacks is Michael Hyatt’s “ideal week” (you can read more about that, here). He groups similar tasks together, and then assigns them to days of the week. So, for example: Mondays might be for marketing & promotion, Wednesdays for research & development, and Fridays for content creation (writing, recording videos, etc).
Personally, I love how flexible this method is — allowing me to still choose what I’ll do on any given day, and how much time I will devote to each thing, so long as it falls under that day’s category. It allows me to still work according to my moods, and to not feel confined.
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LEAVE A COMMENT and let me know which of these stands out as most surprising to you! Or, if you’re already self-employed, I’d love to hear what you, yourself, discovered in your journey that the “business” books hadn’t prepared you for.