You have to get along to go along. A familiar expression, often quoted, the meaning of which is clear. Best not to cause waves. Smooth water, smooth sailing, right?
After you’ve made the switch from being an employee to self-employment, this concept will dominate your thoughts more frequently than you could ever imagine.
What Are the Rules When You’re Self-Employed?
Knowing when to compromise, and when not to, is a delicate balance when you’re trying to establish yourself and your new business. The goal is to build a loyal customer base, and grow relationships. The last thing you want to do as a self-employed individual is burn every bridge you walk over.
And make no mistake. The pressure to make money – to generate your own income – is enormous now that you’ve left the world of pay-checks behind. If you can’t find a way to make money, you can’t pay your bills. The math never changes.
So yes, there will be customers and projects that demand more than you’d prefer to give. And yet you do. There will be customers and projects that you regret ever taking on. And yet you have.
But there are boundaries.
There must be boundaries, for without them, what remains? You’re a solopreneur. A business of one, but still a business. Self-employment does not equal servitude. You’re not a servant-for-hire. You have boundaries.
And the customer is not always right. In fact, sometimes the customer is so wrong, so very, very wrong, that you may have a professional obligation to protect them from themselves. If you’re a service provider, like I am, then customers purchase not just your services, but your expertise.
They’re engaging you because you offer a skill set that they don’t have, experience that they haven’t acquired, training that they need to leverage. It’s your duty to provide them with the best of those abilities. That’s your value proposition.
Invariably, you may find yourself in a situation where your customer insists on taking a course of action that you know will result in a poor outcome for them. What do you do? Shut your mouth, do what they want, take the money and run? Or use your expertise to guide them in another direction? What if they insist? What if the choice is do as I say, or don’t get paid?
Never forget who and what you are. You embarked on this journey for a reason. Did you give up being an employee who answered to a manager just to be a servant who answers to yet another master?
People will mistakenly assume that now that you’re in business for yourself, you’ll take on any job because you ‘need the money’. Even if you don’t need the money, they’ll assume you do. And if you do need the money, the worst thing you can do is reinforce the belief that you’ll do anything for it.
While your building up a customer list and growing your professional network, you’re also establishing your reputation. Saying yes to work you should say no to, or allowing a customer to suffer poor outcomes that you could have prevented, do nothing but provide short-term solutions when what you want is a long-term strategy.
Don’t allow yourself to be nothing more than a commodity.