Maybe these things are universal, or perhaps they are just me. But I thought, maybe it would be fun to talk about the things you should know about working for yourself. I’m a veteran now, basically. I’ve been back full-time working for myself for a year. And in some way or another, I’ve been doing my own thing since I was 21 years old.
Though, at 21, I SUCKED at it, just quietly.
But now, let’s have some fun. I’m here to shed some light on what it looks like to work for yourself. Hopefully, you should know about working for yourself that will make the transition or life as you know it easier. Working for myself includes working at home. And even though I have a designated and slightly separate from my house office, it comes with its own distractions. Lord help me, if I were working inside my house or in the lounge where I sued to work, it would be free for all. This brings me to ‘thing’ number one;
You should know that you’ll get really into doing the dishes.
If you work from home, like me, all of a sudden, every dish to be washed and every pile of laundry to be folded will suddenly become irresistible. Your home will become the procrastination station, and this includes those tasks or chores you haven’t done in five years but are now suddenly essential! By the way, did you see my new outdoor area and recycling sorting bins? (see, exactly). While it can be easy to resist these things and call them out for what they are, I find now that it’s easier to do them. Want to do the dishes and put on a load of washing? Go ahead. In the end, it might cost you 10 minutes or so, but resisting will cost you longer. But make sure you call a spade a spade; what you’re doing here is procrastinating. Maybe ask yourself why THAT is. You know, while you’re loading those dishes…
You should know that motivation is a flighty bitch.
Let me tell you, you can’t wait on motivation to show up when you work for yourself. Know that motivation won’t show up when needed but instead will visit at THE most inopportune times. Think middle of the night, in the coffee line or just as that Netflix series you’ve been waiting all week to sit down and watch gets good. To some degree, you have to go with it. But on the other hand, you have to set boundaries around your work time and have ways to bottle that motivation for you to use later. The most important thing is not to be too hard on yourself. It’s hard to work on command when you’re the only one giving orders. It’ll take time; give yourself space.
You should know that you’ll never really feel like you’ve got it all together.
My business is pretty impressive when you look at it on paper. We work with some big companies and have great success with the regular clients we work with (life update blogged here). I still love the work, and the small team of people I have around me (not literally, digitally) are so fun and easy to work with. But even then, I have a hard time feeling like I’ve got it all together. Maybe that’s one of those goals that you never officially realise (or should stop chasing), but it’s true. Good as it gets, and as impressively smoothly it operates from the outside looking in, expect to feel (at times) that you have no idea what you’re doing or how it even works. But just get dressed and show up; no one has it all together, so you’re in good company.
You should know that not everyone will pay on time.
I hate to be Debbie Downer on this one, but you should allow for the people who pay late when you’re estimating your income. Make some allowance for those who won’t pay you at all. I’ve had this happen before – when I could least afford it too. It happens, and we do what we can to prepare for it. Sound practices are a start; don’t be afraid to ask people to pay when they said they would, get deposits for larger projects or have service agreements drawn up and signed (a leg to stand on if you have to sue them). But also, save a little more than you need to as a buffer. Be prepared for less income than expected to account for longer payment terms or to have to shake the tree. While people will pay you on time in a perfect world, it just doesn’t work that way. Be prepared; no one wants to come up short and cannot pay those who do work or supply to you.
You should get good advice and know enough to take it!
When I started my first business, the best thing I did was go to an accountant that specialised in small businesses. The stupidest thing I ever did was ignore his advice (on and off) for over a decade. I mean, young and dumb doesn’t cover that. I thought he didn’t understand MY business or what MY goals were, but really, I was a brat. Business is business and when you find someone who has proven themselves with experiences to be worthy of listening to, do yourself a favour a try to do it. I should have been saving 20%-30% of my income for taxes etc. But did I? Of course not. Did I keep my business and personal expenses separate? Pfffft, who has time for that. Not doing these small things (in the past, I learned THAT lesson) led to a whole heap of problems that could have been avoided if I just listened to the expert I was paying to advise me. Find good people and ask for their advice, and then, take it! Trusting your gut will only take you so far, and usually to places you’ve already been before.
You should know that you are not alone, even when it feels like you are.
Oh man, some days when I look at my computer screen, steaming coffee in hand and emails piled up, I feel like I haven’t spoken to anyone in days. And sometimes, that literally happens. But you should know that you aren’t alone. Others are doing what you do, and the internet is an amazing place to meet them. I feel like some one-on-one interaction (I call it using up my word count!) take a fitness class, do a workshop or head to a cafe to work and say hi to strangers. Ask a friend for coffee or lunch, call a family member or do whatever it takes to feel connected again. Do the things in my how to lift your mood post, whatever it takes. Working for yourself, especially at home, can be like living in a bubble. So, get out more.
You should know that the perfect schedule doesn’t exist.
Trust me; I’ve tried to find it. Haha. I’ve got a pretty good daily routine at the moment, but if I’ve learnt one thing in the past year, it’s that best-laid plans ALWAYS go to shit. Haha. This means that I never leave things until the last minute (because Murphy’s Law says that when things will go wrong), and I always leave space in my schedule for other things to pop up. I love working for myself. After all, it means I can be available to my family when they need me and take naps in the afternoon because it makes me feel good. Don’t get too focused on having ‘the perfect day that you forget why you do this in the first place. Maybe your perfect schedule is a five-point to-do list that you get done when you feel like it? Sound okay? Good news, you get to decide.
And most of all, you should know that your best is good enough.
If you’ve made a mistake or tried and failed, I want you to know that your best WAS good enough. I come across this concern so often working with businesses and on my own business. You can’t always get it right, and worrying about getting it wrong has stopped many people from doing anything at all. Done is better than perfect. And in my books, saying you’re sorry, you made a mistake, or you’ll do better next time is more effective than never having tried. The right people will support you in developing and growing yourself and will never ask for more than your best effort. This doesn’t mean you should be slacking off and doing things half-assed – I would never give you permission to do that. But as the old saying goes, when you know better, you can do better, and I work to that all the time. Always improving and getting better, but learning (after all this time!) that part of that is not knowing or sometimes falling short. If you tried, and especially if you gave it your best, that’s enough. (FOR NOW, haha).
And that’s my list!
Allow me to finish by saying, you, my friend, are fantastic. If you’ve made this leap or are planning it, you’re already a rock star in my books. I know the freedom and joy that doing your own thing can bring. I’m so proud of you for giving it a shot. But, the flipside of that is that we adventurous types can be hard to please. We tend to beat ourselves up or expect way more than someone else would ever expect from us. Try not to do that, okay? Yes, there are plenty of serious things you should know or do, like taxes or metrics or reporting, but in the end, the most important thing is how you’re doing. Check-in with yourself, and I guarantee the rest will fall into place.
Images by Renee Shae Photography for her Big & Boss brand – Renee is a Brisbane based photographer specialising in branding photography and headshots.
Hi! I’m Melissa Walker Horn. Around here, they call me Suger. I’m the Chief Blogger and doer of all the things here at Suger Coat It. Blogging since 1901; I love a casual ootd, taking photos, and writing about things that irk or inspire me. I love wine and cheese, long days at the beach and spending time with my family. I make stuff for the internet over at Chalkboard Digital. You know, living the sweet life.