Wednesday, July 18, 2012

6 Important things you should know before becoming self-employed

Think of this email as an after thought to my previous email of "25 things you didn't know about my business." I was washing the floors today, and was thinking of additional (or new) things to tell my readers about starting your own business.

1. You won't be rich!

You're probably wondering about this one. This is something everyone who wants to work for themselves should remember. Yes, you'll make money, but you'll never be like Facebook's founder  Mark Zuckerberg. I'm not saying this to discourage you, I'm saying this to put you in the face of reality. If you once were making $60K, when you becoming self-employed, there is a very good chance you might not be making more than $15K for the first or 2nd years. This is the reality. Unless you happen to start a construction job, then perhaps that situation doesn't pertain to you. But if you're reading this blog, you're a crafty and/or artistic person like myself, and you want to work on your craft for a living.

The things I've learned since I've written my business plan, and taken various business courses is this. It takes at least 2 years minimum before you establish a good client base. You might not be making any money in those two years. 

Take me for example. I said in my previous post that I've quadrupled my income recently. But that was only for 2 months. Now I'm back to July and the uncertainty that I will make the same as last month. There are ups and downs, and for most, seasonal times when business soars and drops to non-existence. Don't let the downs get you down. I try to tell myself this every time I'm in a financial slump. There are many reasons why business is slow. Maybe it's right after Christmas, or the month during income taxes are due, or it's right smack in the middle of everyone's summer vacation! I know these times of the year are hard for me, and I have to learn to use those downs to work really hard for when it will be busy again (and it will!).

To finish this point, if you would like to make lots of money, you will have to put in long days, long nights, and possibly weekends. Work hard, don't give up, and the cash should follow ... in a few years.

2. If you think "I don't think I'd have the discipline to force myself to work all day" then maybe being self-employed isn't the right path.

Maybe that's true. If you're already thinking it, maybe working for yourself isn't the right path. If you need someone to push you, to scold you if you're late or you didn't do your work on time, then maybe you should stick with your current job. Having the discipline to be your own boss is really hard. It took me months before I started to really hunker down to work. The first few months of my unemployment I enjoyed it. It was like a vacation. But after 3-4 months, you know you have to do something!

I was also really lonely working alone all the time, but I've come to enjoy it. My time going out to clients or the store are appreciated more, and I take these times to chat. I've never been one to like working with the same people 5 days a week. They drive me nuts! :) I've also scheduled some off time, where I go out and hang out with my friends. Those times are fun.

3. You will have to become a really great sales person!

Yup! One cannot have a successful online business. You must get out there and attend social events like craft fairs, art expos etc. to get noticed, recognition, and exposure of your products (or services).
Here's a quote from a blog called  Escaping the 9 to 5:
This is the absolute hardest thing about being an entrepreneur, for me at least. Learning how to sell, how to market and how to become an amazing ‘pitchman’ is a feat that I doubt 95% of business owners ever really master. But if you do you will never want for anything for the rest of your life. If you can sell, I mean really sell, you can do anything and go anywhere.
I've been to several craft fairs with people who are new to selling their product. They don't smile, they don't talk to the customer, or engage them in what they're looking at, and worst of all they are sitting! This is why I stated in my previous blog post that I stand. Standing shows you're serious about your product, and that you're ready to answer any questions the customer might have. I like to smile and say hi to them, ask them how they're doing, and if they're shopping for a gift. 3 out of 5 times it's a yes! This gives me an opening to ask more questions about who they're shopping for, etc. But if you're just sitting at your table, and you don't talk to the customer, do you really think they're going to buy from you? Probably not. In some cases they will, but personally I wouldn't.

If you're not so good a sales person, taking a course on selling is worth it. Learning this will help you in your future endeavours as a self-employed person.

4. Starting a business takes a lot of time and energy, and that leaves less time for a social life.

I can't begin to tell you how true this is. Like I previously stated, there have been weeks were I would work for 2 weeks straight, up to 80 hours a week. I never had time to go out often. But it's been going on for so long like this, that I now have to force myself at least 1 full day of doing nothing but fun stuff, so that I don't go insane and end up curled on the couch, totally burned out (has happened often).

5. Don't let anything stop you, ever.

Here's another quote I picked up from the blog Escaping the 9 to 5 which explains this point better than I could:
"Your life as an entrepreneur is much like the movie Speed. The premise of the movie was if the bus slowed down they’d explode and it pretty much correlates exactly with the life of a start up founder. Stop moving and you will blow up. Get comfortable and you will fail. Stop caring and it’s over.
Regardless if 10 terrible things happen to you within a week’s time, you can’t let it get to you. You have to suppress the human instinct to give up and instead use hardship as fuel for your fire. Every time someone tells me I can’t do something, or I fall on my face, I get back up (usually after a bit of pity partying) and resolve, with more vigor than before, to not only do what I set out to do, but to do it even better.
So when one door closes, look for a window, or a doggy door or  a battery ram you can use to break the door down. Pivot constantly (never think your idea can’t be improved on) and quit a project if you don’t think it’s right, but never, ever stop moving towards your goal of becoming a successful entrepreneur & launching a business that will change the world."
This quote is true. LOTS of negative things have happened to me since I started, but I try my best to never let them get in the way of my successes. I file that and I move on.

6.  Just do it!

If you're the kind of person who says "I'm going to start my business when I have XX amount of money.." or "... I'll start my own business when I don't have this job.." you may never. What do I say to this? JUST DO IT! If you really want to work for yourself, you have to start somewhere. If you're too scared to quit your job, then start the business on the side and see where it takes you. If you become so busy that you can't do both, you know it's time to quit that job and jump into your business with both feet! Don't be scared of the lack of pay checks, or being alone, or not knowing what you're doing. We've all been there. There are tons of free resources out there, and maybe none that are free, but there are resources out there to help you.  If you know someone who's self-employed, ask them! I'm sure they'd be more than happy to direct you to those resources.

Well I hope this was helpful! You can also Google 5 things you should know before starting a business and you'll see all the things you should expect. Don't let it scare you! :)

One last thing... for all you serious people wanting to do this full time, I highly recommend you write up a business plan. There are plenty of resources out there that are free that will help and guid you through the process.

Good luck!!!


  1. Another great post, Melanie! I'm heading over to "Escaping the 9 to 5" now to check it out. Thanks.

    1. Thanks Jen. I hope you find it inspiring, helpful, etc! :D