What It Takes To Be Self-Employed

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Starting a self-employed, home-based business can be very stressful – there’s a lot to do and pressures are running high, while you watch the budget trickle away. Unfortunately a lot of folks rush into their dream of running a business and find out in one big awful moment that there is a lot more to it than skipping off to your dream. Initially, the goal should be getting known, building that name recognition, developing a super strong platform and getting a reputation. How one goes about this varies with the genre, personality, budget and location.

Marketing plans have to evolve with changing situations and owners will find themselves experimenting with all kinds of new opportunities, testing them to see if they will work out. Business plans need to be flexible and have contingencies in place for everything from injuries and illness to death or building failures (floods, etc.).

My first business ran successfully for 6 years. I started it on virtually no budget at all, but I was able to target high-end clients simply by strapping on some music and a backpack of supplies and walking their neighbourhoods placing a fancy flyer, rolled up like a graduation document and tied with a nice ribbon, in every doorway. Within a few months I was turning away clients and constantly turned down clients every year from then on even though I hired some help. I did this without advertising once.

Initially, the idea of being self-employed was very scary but I received a lot of encouragement from family and from local small business support outlets. My oldest brother had some business experience and he advised me from time to time. Having this previous experience helped me a great deal in starting a new career as a writer.

Dave and I had both taken a professional writer’s course prior to entering the career in 1999 and so we had a good idea about the process of querying, following up and building name recognition. I had some computer experience, taken a course in hospitality management and my husband had taken a couple courses in tax preparation and using Excel. All of these educational adventures played a vital role in the business we run today.

20 years later, we are still going strong. Over time the business evolved so that Dave’s drum teaching and repair services, our books, blog, radio show, all our activities and products became absorbed under one umbrella name. This made running the office a heck of a lot easier.

Nearly every year one of us is involved in a new course, learning new skills for managing our business. Almost weekly we find ourselves scanning the resources like YouTube to learn how to do a specific task the best way possible. Between keeping up with the office, having supplies on hand, cleaning duties and promotional work, we put in quite a number of unpaid labour hours every week… just to keep our business running smoothly.

So as you can see from this brief overview of our experiences, being self-employed doesn’t mean you have a lot of time, it means you have LESS time. It doesn’t lighten your workload, it ADDS to it. Luckily for Dave and I, we have each other to lighten the heavy weight and stress and to share the glorious celebrations with too. Finding a mentor eases the bumpy road ahead and helps one laugh at their situation, grow as a person and find the confidence they didn’t know they had. I highly recommend finding several mentors who can make your journey more do-able.

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