Making The Switch From Employee to Solopreneur, Part 3

I don’t consider myself a particularly rebellious person. I cross the street when the light says “walk”. I stop at red lights even though it’s the middle of the night and the streets are empty. I don’t park in ’no parking’ areas (unless it’s cheaper to pay the parking ticket than it is to pay for suitable parking). I don’t spend all of my energy raging against ‘the system’.

But I am infinitely curious. And I as much as I’ve tried, I can’t stop myself from continually asking the question “why”. I realized very early on in my career that this is not a character trait that bosses or corporate executives welcome.

“All employess shall follow the dress code”. Why? Can’t they be trusted to dress appropriately for their circumstances without needing to follow a ‘code’? Do employees need to be indistnguishable in order to be effective?

“Employees are not permitted to work from home”. Why? Because if they’re working from home, how do you know they’re working? How do you know they’re not? How do you know if they’re working while they’re at the office? Are they monitored every minute of every day? Presumably they need to produce results. If those results are produced, does it matter from where?

Why do organizations create so many rules geared towards dictating the behaviour of employees? Is it because there are always a few people who make poor decisions, and organizations don’t have the courage to deal with those people directly so they make blanket rules to save themselves from having awkward conversations? Could it really be sometime as simple as cowardice?

For some of us, myself included, transitioning to self-employment is like finally finding your way home. It just “fits” better than the master-servant world, with it’s rigidity, rules and expectations. Where trust is an anthem that never manifests.

Nevertheless, freeing yourself from that world isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. Through your employment years, you’ve become indoctrinated with the rules and regulations of the corporate world. One of your first goals as a solopreneur is to shed those chains, and break free. The longer you’ve been an employee, the more you’ll need to unlearn.

Unlearn: 8 Hour Days

When you work for yourself, you don’t have an eight hour work day. Some days will be 12 hours. Some days will be 3 hours. Trying to sculpt this into a more predictable pattern is a losing battle. You’ll need to be flexible. For some, this flexibility will be jarring. But there are two sides to every coin. You need to be flexible, in order to meet the demands of your clients and customers. But you also get to be flexible, and enjoy the benefits of a more integrated work-life schedule. You’re no longer obligated to work from 9am to 5pm. You may find yourself working from 8am until 1pm, then spending your afternoon at the beach or the golf course or gardening or working on the next best seller, and then working again from 6pm to 10pm.  And the next day, your schedule may be completely different. Be disciplined, but enjoy the flexibility.

You are not an employee.

Unlearn: Waiting for Direction

Your days are no longer dictated by direction from those above you in the food chain. There is no one above you. You may have clients and customers that you interact with, but it is not their job to manage you, nor is it your job to “report to” them. Be proactive. Take the initiative, and ensure that you’re continually driving things forward. Don’t sit and wait for a client to get back to you. Follow-up, clarify, communicate. You’ll make mistakes. Own them, learn from them, and move on. Always forward.

You are not an employee.

Unlearn: Validating Your Decisions

You and you alone are responsible for your business, and the decisions you make. You’ll neeed to make decisions constantly, every day. Be thoughtful, but don’t let yourself get dragged down by ‘analysis paralysis’. Overthinking, stalling, second guessing yourself, and deferring decisions will cost you more time, money, and opportunity than a bad decision. You will not always have all of the information you want before executing. Decide, take action, and then manage the outcomes of that decision, whatever they may be.

You are not an employee.

Unlearn: Working Hard

First of all, let’s get this out of the way: yes, of course, working for yourself is hard work. But don’t use “hard work” as the solution to every problem.

If a customer demands more than you have agreed to, or is looking for you to meet a deadline that you know isn’t reasonable, don’t delude yourself into thinking that you can “work hard” and get it done. Nor that you should just work hard and get it done. In most cases, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Even worse, you may succeed, resulting in raised expectations, more demands, and an unsustainable cycle that leads you straight to burn out. As a solopreneur, no one is going to intercede on your behalf, or protect your interests. Ever. You need to protect your own interests, and sometimes this means saying no, setting boundaries, and managing difficult conversations. Sometimes it can even mean ‘firing’ your client.

You are not an employee.

Unlearn: Putting Yourself Last

Employess are used to waiting their turn. Some patiently, some resentfully. They’re trained to have lowered expectations. Not enough money this year for professional development? Wait until next year. Not enough money this year for bonuses (for everyone)? Wait until next year. Overdue for a promotion but no career path available? Wait until it’s your turn.

As a solopreneur, you’re only competing with yourself. Make sure you develop your skills, manage your career, and explore new challenges. It’s all too easy to become completely consumed by the demands of customers and clients. It’s important to carve out at least a little bit of time to invest in yourself. It will make you a better professional, which will be reflected in the engagement and enthusiasm that you bring to your daily work.

Just like an employee.

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s