5 First Steps to Becoming a Solopreneur

SolopreneurWell here we are. That time of year when, for many, the bright glow of optimism and resolutions is dimmed by the reality of the day-to-day grind. But isn’t your desire to escape that day-to-day grind at least part of what fueled those resolutions in the first place?

Don’t be a slave to the calendar. If you resolved that this will be the year that you finally escape from the 9-to-5 monotony, and start working on your own dreams rather than busting your ass for someone else, you still have more than 11 months to make that a reality. That’s plenty of time to get some traction.

Break it down into actionable steps

Looking at the whole picture of what you want to accomplish can be intimidating. That’s why it’s important to break it down into steps.

Keep it practical, and simple. Start with defining what you are as a solopreneur. For example, I’m a project management solopreneur. I offer a buffet of services and products under that umbrella, but that’s the heart of what I am. It doesn’t matter whether I’m working with a client as a project management coach, or assisting a client with some of the more technical aspects of scheduling and managing their projects, my business revolves around project management. The reason for this is simple – knowledge, skill, and experience in that subject matter. I have plenty of all three, and I like the work that I do, so it was an easy leap for me to develop my business along this path. What about you? What are you good at? What do you love? What do have experience with?

Sometimes the answers to those questions don’t align the way you wish that they would. Maybe you have the passion and the aptitude, but lack the experience. Maybe you have the experience and the skill, but lack the passion. This is where you need to dig a little deeper. If you’re going to make the transition from employee to solopreneur, you’ll want to follow your passion. But maybe you need to start selling what you know, while you’re gaining more experience in what you love. A journey isn’t accomplished in a single step.

Begin before you’re ready

This is the one that holds most people back. The never-ending wait for that perfect moment. And it is absolutely never-ending. Some people are waiting “for the right time”. But does such a moment actually exist? If you’re waiting until you have 6 or 8 or 12 months of living expenses saved before you spectacularly quit your job and start your own business, then invariably the day after that moment crystalizes, some unforeseen event will occur which changes your situation or your budget. Life is riddled with surprises. You can’t plan for all of them. Waiting doesn’t guarantee success. It just runs the clock.

Why wait at all? Why not start your solopreneur path now, while you still have a day job and a steady income? Yes, it is absolutely more difficult to try and squeeze extra time out of your already busy days. But if it’s important to you, and if it can be a life-changing experience (yes!), then isn’t it worth sacrificing a few hours of television every week to work on your dream?

Once you’ve made the decision to turn your dream into reality, you’ll also need to avoid getting bogged down in the weeds that will undoubtedly surround you. You can’t write a perfect business plan, create the perfect website, have the perfect Facebook page, and perfectly hit all of your sales targets, all at the same time. You need to do the best you can, adapt as you go, and keep moving forward. Understand your business goals, create a simple landing page, let your social networks know about your exciting new business, and then focus everything you have on making sales and delivering value.

Make your first sale

The best time to make your first sale as a solopreneur is when you already have an income from another job. It means working evenings, working weekends, and agressively managing your time. But this is your dream, and your life-changing plan that you’re working on, so that won’t be a problem.

It’s one thing to lie to your friends, but don’t lie to yourself. Not every failure is due to “not having enough time”. If you can’t make a sale now, what makes you think you can make a sale after you quit your day job? And remember, all sales count. It doesn’t matter whether your first customer is a friend, a colleague, or even your current employer (though I’ve only seen this happen in very few situations).

A paying customer is a paying customer. It’s a critical first step to validating your business idea. And making a sale, securing income, for a business that you own and that you started and that you’re delivering all by yourself? It’s an indescribable feeling.

Keep up the momentum

Have you ever heard that expression, that it’s easier to find a job when you have a job? Sales aren’t dissimilar. That’s one of the reasons that making your first sale is so critical. Sales lead to other sales. As long as you capitalize on the moment, and nurture them correctly.

Customer feedback, word of mouth, marketing your existing sales to gain more sales all help your business develop and grow. Take on as much work as you can handle. “As much as you can handle” means as much as you can confidently deliver successfully, even if it means overloading your schedule for a period of time.

Monitor, measure and move

There’s no point to putting in the work unless you have the courage to reap the reward. This means that once you’ve made a few sales and have some momentum, that’s the point in time when you have to make the hard decisions. Is now the time to leave your job and devote all of your time to your business? Can you continue to do double duty, and perform well at both your day job and your solopreneur side business, for a little bit longer?

Once again, you need to be completely honest with yourself. The reality is that it’s highly unlikely (though not impossible) that you’ll earn enough business income on the side, in those evening and weekend hours, to actually match or surpass your regular paycheck. In a perfect world, yes, this is what would happen. You would continue to work on your side business until its earnings were the equivalent of 120%-150% of your paycheck. Then you would quit your day job, reclaim all that extra time, and not miss a beat in the income department. But now we’re back to waiting for perfection, and other things that never happen.

So, no, you likely won’t replace your day job income by working on your solopreneur business evenings and weekends. And no, it’s not reasonable to think that you can work 12-14 hours a day, every day, for a lengthy period of time without completing burning out. And that’s a hard way for a dream to die.

The question is whether you have sufficient success with your side business that the time is now right to go all in. Evaluate your performance with a critical eye, but don’t succumb to pessimism and cynicism. It’s important to be honest and objective. Reviewing performance and trying to project future sales is a risk-based game that every solopreneur, freelancer, and self-employed person needs to play.

Look at your performance in terms of percentages. What is your percentage growth over the period you’re reviewing? What percentage of your time did you spend on making those sales and delivering those results? What capacity constraints do you have now? How will this change if you quit your day job? How many months and how much money will you burn before your business income will confidently cover all of your expences? These are numbers that can help you make informed decisions and mitigate your risk. They’re also numbers you’ll never have until you make that first sale.

One last question to consider. What will you be doing on January 1st, 2017?

Will you be making the same resolutions as this year, hoping once again to start working on your dream?

Or will you be toasting your own success and reflecting in wonder on what an amazing and life-changing year it’s been?

“How did it get so late so soon?” ~ Dr. Seuss

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Making The Switch From Employee to Solopreneur, Part 4

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Making The Switch From Employee to Solopreneur, Part 1

By far, the most frequent questions asked of me, professionally, have to do with making the switch from employee to solopreneur. Or from employee to contractor, or freelancer, or entrepreneur, or self-employed, and so on. Whatever your perspective. It transcends demographics, industries, skills, and experience levels. People at every age and stage of their life, in a variety of careers, are inquiring about leaving the world of employment to strike out on their own.

In fact, I know so many people who are thinking of making the switch from employee to solopreneur, or independent contractor, or freelancer, that I often think the world of employment is on the brink of being decimated by mass resignations of the workforce any day now.

Of course, that’s not even close to reality. For a couple of reasons.

Employees – No Longer First Choice?

First, corporations aren’t desperately seeking to hold onto their employees these days. In fact, the trend is just the opposite. Organizations are looking for contractors and freelancers more often as a means to get the job done. (Intuit 2020 Report: 20 Trends That Will Shape The Next Decade) The world economy continues to shift more toward a “gig” economy, where resources are hired to deliver tasks and projects, rather than hired to fulfill the role of “employee of company x”. In many situations, this is a less expensive option for organizations, even though contractor rates on the surface seem high in comparison to employee salaries. But beneath the surface, it’s the associated expenses related to staffing employees that drive companies to engage “per project” resources more frequently. Employee benefits, paid time off, sick leave, overtime pay, on-boarding investment, professional development and training costs, off-boarding investment, and more add significant bloat to the salary line item. With contractors and freelancers, what you see is what you get. Work is estimated, budgeted, contracted, delivered, and paid for. The end.

The Courage to Change

Second, of the many people who are thinking of making the switch from employee to solopreneur, most will fail to pull the trigger. It’s not so much that they’ll fail at their attempt, it’s that they won’t even try. A small tragedy, really, for those who have the desire and likely the capability, but simply lack the courage to realize their dreams. On the other hand, for those of us who pulled the trigger years ago and make our day-to-day living as solopreneurs or contractors, we needn’t ever really worry about a flooded market. There will always be just enough fear to hold back just enough people.

At the same time, a few will certainly dare to take the leap, and so I’ve decided that the next few posts are for them. Or for you, if you count yourself among them. There are all kinds of “how to” and “tips and tricks” posts out there on the interwebs which can give some great tactical examples of steps to take to make this transition. For my part, I’d like to focus on sharing some thoughts and experiences about what it’s really like to live without a pay-check. Because all of those people who are to afraid to pull the trigger? Well, they have a point. It’s terrifying.

 

 

How To Manage Yourself

As an employee, you report to someone. Doesn’t matter what your title is, or where you are in the corporate hierarchy, everyone reports to someone. Even the CEO. Up through the food chain, each link is accountable for their actions and must account for them to the links above.

Accountability

When you work for yourself, who are you accountable to? Your customers? Not really. At least, not in the same way. Self-employed people are accountable to themselves.

If you’re self-employed like me, you develop your own business strategies, and then are solely responsible to execute them. You alone determine your business goals, sales targets, marketing plans, and deadlines for achieving results.

So how do you hold yourself accountable? How do you motivate yourself to get those results?

Motivation

The biggest motivator, of course, is failure. Or, failure avoidance. It’s an even bigger motivator than the concept of “success”. Success can be such a broad concept, so intangible in tactical application, that it begins to lose meaning. It becomes the elusive pot of gold at the end of a rainbow you’re always chasing.

But avoiding failure? That’s real. That’s tangible. Not being able to pay your bills every month is a failure. Generating income avoids that failure. Being able to pay your bills every month is very motivating! It’s also very urgent. It’s top of mind. Most people aren’t able to ignore finanical obligations and not think about them for months on end. You’re less likely to procrastinate when you know that doing so will have very tangible, and potentially catastrophic, results.

Support

The fact that not generating an income results in a failure to pay your bills may be motivating, but it doesn’t automatically empower you with the ability to create money from thin air. It does put a lot of pressure on you, and potentially create a never-ending stressful lifestyle. If you allow it to.

This is where you need to provide yourself with the support you need to get the job done. Again, another responsibility for you, the solopreneur, because you’re doing this on your own. If you’re wondering why at the moment, take a few minutes to remind yourself why it’s better to be self-employed.

Continue reading for some quick tips on how to provide yourself with the necessary support to stay motivated, accountable, and delivering results.

Top 5 Tips To Managing Yourself

1. Once a month, set aside 3 hours to review your business plan (yes, you should have one!). Confirm or modify your plan as needed.

2. Every three weeks, review your CRM and note which key contacts you haven’t connected with recently. Identify 4-5 contacts and reach out to them to re-connect. Businesses are fuelled by relationships. And if you’re only reaching out to people when you need to make a sale, you’ll find that people will soon stop taking your calls. Reach out to your contacts to keep in touch and see what they need. Helping others also helps yourself, in the long run. And yes, you should be using a CRM system. There are many free or cheap options available for small business.

3. Every two weeks, set aside 1 hour to update and reconcile your budget vs your actuals, both your personal budget and your business. Yes, you should have your budget written down and be tracking what you make and what you spend. Never go more than 2 weeks without reconciling.

4. Every week, set aside 2 hours to review how many of your objectives and obligations you successfully met; how many did you fail to meet; and what are the outcomes from failing to meet those objectives. Did it matter? What did it cost you?

5. Every day, take 15 minutes to setup the top 3 goals that you need to accomplish. Use whatever task or ‘to do’ system or app that works best for you. Make your 3 goals bite-sized; they may be small individual accomplishments, or they may be steps to achieving a larger objective. For example, if your goal is to write a book in 90 days, then a daily goal may be “write for one hour”, or “write 1000 words”.

Conclusion

Be focused on what you’re trying to achieve, both long-term and short-term. Be ultra-aware of your financial position, always. Stay connected to past customers and potential customers. Focus on delivering results every day, both for your customers and for your own business goals. Don’t just plan, analyze. Review actual outcomes, continually, to measure and monitor your likelihood of meeting future goals.

Manage yourself proactively. You aren’t just central to the success of your business, you ARE its success.

 

Top 5 Reasons Why It’s Better To Be Self-Employed

Working for yourself isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would do it. It requires effort, committment, flexibility, and tenacity. But the pay-offs just can’t be denied. Why go through all of the effort? I compiled this list as a constant reminder for myself, and perhaps some insight for those on the fence about taking the next step.

Why Being Self-Employed is Better Than Being an Employee

1. More Money

Your earnings are limited only by how hard you work. Yes, this means that you may work harder when you are self-employed, but you’ll make significantly more money than a salaried employee. And potentially have significantly less free time. On the other hand, you may also choose to work less and enjoy a better work-life balance. You set your price, and you set your work hours.  Your choice.

You also typically realize more money from a similar amount of income. It varies by location, so you need to investigate the laws that apply in your area, but there can often be beneficial tax and expense implications from operating as a business.

Fewer Out of Pocket Expenses

In addition to the bigger profitable picture, small savings can also add up. This can vary a bit depending on your work, but many solorpreneurs and freelancers have fewer expenses than employees, especially if they work from home or another location of their choosing. Not having a lengthy commute means less gas and no need to pay expensive monthly parking (or less spent on public transit). Fewer meals out means more money in your pocket.

2. More Control

You are your own boss. You approve your vacation. You approve your sick days. You approve your expenses. You approve your work schedule. You choose your work location. You decide how and when you do your work.

More Flexibility

In addition to determining your own day-to-day schedule, or not following a specific schedule if that works for you and your work, you also have the ability to take on a variety of work. You aren’t pigeon-holed into one niche that you can’t get out of. You can stretch your wings, develop new skills, send yourself on training, take on new work using your new skill set. All without begging for approvals or competing with co-workers year over year to see who gets what slice of the professional development pie. Only to realize that it doesn’t even matters in the end because after the training ends, employee so often never get chance to use their new skill set because they’re just so good at X, their employer will never let them try to do Y.

3. No Bullshit

Well that’s blunt. But it’s accurate, right? Any workplace, even the best, has a certain amount of bullshit to contend with. Co-workers mired in gossip and drama. Colleagues smiling at you while they step on your head in their quest to climb that corporate ladder as high and as fast as possible. Toxic people whose consistently negative disposition can immediately suck the oxgyen out of any room they enter. Managers and executives who push their problems down the food chain with the oh-so-helpful mentorship of “just get it done”.

And everyone competing for the same small slice of the promotion-and-bonus pie.

4. Best Work Environment

When you’re your own boss and you run your office, your work environment is dictated only by you (and your budget, of course). Mac or PC? iPhone or Android? Tablet or laptop? You can use the technology you like, set up the way you like it. The downside obviously is that while the decisions are yours, so is the execution. You need to be your own IT support and take the appropriate precautions to secure and maintain your systems. But again, the payoff is worth it.

How about a new office chair? Or maybe you’d like to try a standing desk for a while? Go for it. If you have the budget, you simply buy what you need. And expense it to your own company, of course. Aside from the tech toys, how about having the freedom to work away from those horrible cubicle farms? Priceless.

5. Ability To Be Yourself

Perhaps more so than any other reason, this is what I love about being self-employed. It’s only since I’ve been self-employed (over 12 years now!) that I truly feel that I’ve had the ability to do my best work. Not the best that I’m allowed to do; but the best that I’m able to do.

No Discouragement

Performance reviews are like the modern day equivalent of a whip. Ok, maybe that goes a little far. But let’s face it, the aim of most performance reviews is to keep employees in their place. The organization already knows how much money is allocated for bonuses and promotions. The performance review process is simply a rationalization, on paper, of how they’ve decided to divvy up the goods. It’s top down, not bottom up. If there are 5 bonuses available for 100 people, then 5 people get rewarded. It doesn’t matter that perhaps 75 of those 100 people truly went above and beyond in their daily jobs. It doesn’t matter how dedicated or how hard 70 of those people worked, they’re staying exactly where they are. Status quo.

Is anything more discouraging than knowing that none of your efforts matter? That no matter what your commitment, dedication, late nights, weekends, none of it has value because it’s all pre-determined anyway?

When you’re self-employed, every reward is yours. Every ounce of effort that you put into your work is returned back to you in the form of customers, sales, opportunities. No effort is ever wasted.

No Conformity

Are you an introvert that constantly gets pressured to attend office social events and engage in silly employee ‘reindeer games’? Does your refusal to participate somehow make its way into a discussion with your boss around performance review time?

Are you an extrovert who is constantly silenced and stifled from sharing your views in group meetings? Does your propensity to speak up somehow make its way into a discussion with your boss around performance review time?

Does your organization talk a lot about maintaining its “culture”, or hiring people who are a good “fit” with its culture?

It all amounts to the same thing, and none of it involves being accepting of different personalities and perspectives.  A consistent, uniform “type” of staff?  Easy to manage, easy to control.

No Costumes

This is a very minor convenience, but an enjoyable one none the less. Whether it’s a uniform or a dress code, employees often have to spend money on clothes that they wouldn’t otherwise wear, because their organization mandates that’s how they should look. It seems like such a bizarre concept when you write it down, but it’s an accepted fact of the business world.

One of the many small pleasures of working for yourself is simply that you get to choose what to wear every day. Almost like…a grown-up.

Burn Bridges

Never burn bridges is a frequently quoted mantra.  Keep connections open, maintain relationships, get along with everyone.

Don’t have standards. Don’t have integrity. Don’t have an opinion. Don’t have boundaries.

Don’t burn bridges.

Don’t stand up for yourself, for others, for anyone, for anything.  Don’t draw lines in the sand.  Don’t know your boundaries.

You can choose a lifetime of compromising yourself for every opportunity.

Or you can choose a lifetime of authenticity among the wins and the losses.

The choice is always, and only, up to you.

 

5 Secrets to Juggling a Job While Building a Business

Juggling a Job and a Business

You don’t have to quit your job to build a business.  It’s a common misconception, especially among those looking for excuses, that they have to dive into the deep end when in reality they just need to walk slowly and steadily forward, inch by inch.  You can keep your job, and start your business.  Low risk, high reward, and a hell of a lot of work.  But when is anything worthwhile ever easy?

Having two jobs at once, especially when each seemingly requires all of your focus, is a lot like walking through quicksand.  Ignore the melodrama, and it’s possible to slog your way through.  Relax, plan ahead, don’t panic, take your time, and make steady and measured progress.

So here they are, tried and true, 5 secrets to juggling a job while building a business:

1. Quantify your time

Be clinical about it. Don’t just assume you can do it all.  If you work a 40 hour-a-week job but for a boss that typically demands 55 hours of effort from you every week, then count those hours. Optimism has a time and place, but not when it comes to time management.

Yes, you’ll build a business more slowly if you only have 5-10h a week to offer, instead of 20 or 30 or 40 hours, but the important thing is that you’ll still be doing it.  And that alone puts you ahead of the millions of wannabees and could-have-beens who spend hours dreaming but never doing.  Even just five to ten hours a week is action.  Moving forward, inch by inch.

And I don’t care how busy you are, everyone can carve out at least five hours a week for something that has the potential to change their lives.  Get up 30 minutes earlier in the morning.  Cut out 30 minutes of television a night.

2. Be real with yourself

If you constantly have a to do list for Saturday that never gets done, leaving you scrambling on Sunday to complete your list of chores, then don’t assume that you’ll be motivated enough to pile on building a business to the weekend task list.

On the other hand, if you consistently find a quiet hour or two every Sunday morning, then take advantage of it.  Inch by inch.

3. Don’t force yourself, motivate yourself

There will be days and weeks and months where it all seems too much and impossible and so why even bother.  Instead of quitting, and instead of trying to grimace and bear it and forge ahead, remind yourself why you’re doing this in the first place.

Have coffee with a mentor, or friend, or colleague. Someone whose positive and inspiring and believes in you.  Read a favourite inspirational blog post.  Get back in the head space of where you were when you started your journey.

Don’t throw in the towel because of one bad day or week.  Just pick yourself up, and go again.  Forward. Inch by inch.

4.  Manage your own expectations

You can’t do it all.  Something will have to give, and you’ll need to decide what that is.  But when you do, just go ahead and drop that ball. Let it slide.  Deliberately fail. And don’t feel guilty about it.  Just choose wisely.

Think about the least important things that consume your time, and let them go. Call in reinforcements. Maybe you can’t keep on top of cleaning the house or mowing the lawn or fixing the car while you’re working long hours at a day job and putting in hours on building a business while simultaneously having a personal life.

But so what?  Call a cleaning service, hire someone to mow your lawn, and pay someone to fix your car or ditch it and lease a new one.  And yes these things all cost money, which brings us to the last point.

5. Cash is king

Stay on top of your budget. Live within your means.  Cut out some of the luxuries that you love, but don’t need.  If building a business is important to you, these are easy decisions to make.

If not, then you’re not ready to start and you don’t deserve the reward that you’re dreaming about because you’re not willing to do the work. Harsh but true.

Going after what you want, and actively trying to free yourself from your current situation, will require sacrifices of both time and money.  The good news?  It’s worth it.

“One of the rewards of success is freedom, the ability to do whatever you like” ~ Sting

 

When Should I Quit My Job?

The Perfect Time to Quit Your Job

If you’ve ever thought about starting a business or working for yourself, you know just how important it is to wait for the right time.  Wait until you’ve stashed lots of cash as a safety net, until all the bills are paid, until there are no pending financial obligations, and risk is as low as it could possibly be.  That time is called ‘never’.

Saving for a Rainy Day

If only we could line everything up in a neat and tidy row, and then freeze time.  But the world doesn’t work that way.  The world is patently unfair.  Just when you finally make that last car payment, you hear a strange noise coming from the engine; when you have some money saved for a rainy day, something catastrophic happens to your house.  It’s always when you think you’ve finally gotten ahead of the curve that something, some unforeseen event, pops out of nowhere and smacks you back down to reality.

Is there a perfect time to quit your day job? Of course. It’s completely theoretical and has nothing to do with real life, but yes the perfect time to quit your job is when you’ve saved up a year’s worth of income, are 100% sure that you won’t need to spend extra money on emergencies next year, and you are all but certain that your business idea and goals will be achievable in the next twelve months.  When will all of those stars align?  Never.

If It Was Easy

You’ve probably heard that expression, if it was easy, everyone would do it.  It’s very applicable to starting your own business.  But it doesn’t follow that just because something “isn’t easy”, it can’t be done.  Of course it can be done.  I’ve done it!  As have many other successful entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, freelancers, and work-from-home gurus across the globe.  Each with their own unique path and story and, I’d be willing to bet, none that waited for the perfect time.  Waiting for the stars to align is comfortable, safe, and non-productive.  At some point, you need to be willing to make the commitment, and leap.  Look first, certainly, but then leap.  You can build dreams in your imagination, but it takes action to make them a reality.

3 Steps to Take Right Now

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that you head into your boss’s office tomorrow morning and quit your job with viral-video-inducing flourish!  There are some steps you can take to do basic due diligence before you take that leap ahead.  The goal here is to stop waiting for the perfect moment, and instead recognize the right moment for you.  Take reasonable action now to set yourself up for successful.

1. Test Your Idea

Whether you have a brilliant idea for the next hot social network or you’ve worked a way to make money from your passion for gardening, the best way to see if people will buy what your selling is to test it.  Ask your friends how much they would pay to buy your service or product.  Ask the market whether they’re interested.  Although you may be interested in buying what you’re selling, the real question is whether anyone else is!

2. Invest Your Free Time

If you want to start your own business, you need to make sure it’s something you care about.  You’ll be pouring inordinate amounts of time and energy into making it work, so don’t sign-up for something that you dread to even think about in the morning.  The simplest way to test your own passion and commitment to your idea is to start working on it in your free time.  Now, as I said above, working on your idea is very different from thinking about your idea.  Thinking, dreaming, imagining…that’s the ultimate fun part!  But working on it requires commitment. After you’ve put in an eight hour day at work, and several more hours attending to your personal obligations, are you still willing to squeeze in that extra hour or two, or even just 30 minutes a day to work on your business?  Building your dream means giving up something, and it’s a choice you make daily. Watch an hour of television, or work on your website?  Meet friends for coffee, or finish your business plan?

3. Work the Side Hustle

This is one of the best steps you can take to making that leap from employee to business owner!  While you’re still toiling away at your day job, start working on the side for yourself.  Evenings, weekends, any moments you can spare, can be spent delivering value to customers and earning money.  It may not necessarily break the bank, but there’s intrinsic value in the side hustle.  You still have your day job to pay the bills, while developing a promotable portfolio and a rich network of happy customers genuinely interested in what you have to offer.  One caution though – be sure to check the terms of your employment, to make sure you’re not restricted from working on the side. Some companies will specify that you can’t offer the same goods or services while in their employment, depending on the industry.

What’s Your Path

Those who know me or have read my blog know that I didn’t exactly leap from my comfortable employment nest, so much as I was pushed.  I was already in it before I began.  But following that initial nudge, I had to make the choice to stay, and the steps above helped me make that commitment.  Of course it also helped that by then I already had a taste of the freedom and empowerment that comes with being “out on your own”.  Everyone’s journey toward realizing their dreams is a little bit different.  What will your path be?