Thinking about going into business for yourself? If you have a talent, skill or product idea you think people would pay for, you might be tempted to strike out on your own and see if you can turn it into a business. After all, what's better than working for yourself, having no boss and scheduling your own hours?
However, successfully working for yourself requires more than just having a skill or product that people will buy. That's an essential component, of course, but you need the following five skills as well:
1. The ability to manage your time and motivate yourself to work. With no boss watching over you, you'll be able to spend the day watching TV and scrolling through Facebook if you'd like. For many people, it's a challenge to overcome that temptation and buckle down to get work done. If you're one of those people, you might find yourself going days or weeks without much to show for it in the way of work. Sound like you? If so, you might actually need a boss to stay productive, and it might be close to impossible to work for yourself.
2. The ability to assert yourself about money. From comfortably citing prices to potential clients, to holding firm when asked to lower your rates to checking in on an unpaid invoice, one thing you can count on when working for yourself is that you'll need to talk about money. You might find yourself having to follow up multiple times to chase down payment or needing to deal with a client who denies authorizing your fees. If that makes you seize up with anxiety, prepare yourself now, because that's often part of working on your own. The more comfortable you get with money conversations, the less stressful your life as an entrepreneur will be.
3. The ability to market yourself. No matter how talented you are or how great your service or product is, clients are unlikely to find you on their own -- at least at first. That means you'll have to market yourself and your work or hire someone to do it for you. How comfortable are you talking about yourself? Are you prepared to make a pitch for why you'd be the best person to do a prospective client's work? Will you take it personally if you're turned down?
If you're lucky, you might reach a point when you've built up enough word of mouth over time that you no longer need significant marketing. However, for many freelancers, marketing remains a big part of their work.
4. The ability to turn down clients. You might think you'd never want to turn down work, but imagine being approached by a client who wants you to do a project you know you would hate or be terrible at or which would conflict with other commitments you've made. One common mistake among freelancers is to take on absolutely every project they're offered, even if they're not going to enjoy or excel at it. This, in turn, ends up impacting their ability to get the type of work they enjoy and excel at in the future. After all, if you turn in shoddy work, you'll harm your reputation. And if you take on work you're good at but hate doing, you'll likely get offered similar projects in the future. You'll be known for the type of work you can't stand.
As long as you can afford to, you're far better off being choosy about who you'll work with and what you'll do for them -- even if it's scary to say no to a paying project.
5. The ability to fire clients. Ideally, all your clients will be lovely people who are a pleasure to work with. In reality, you might find yourself with a client or two who are more difficult than the worth of their work. For instance, you might have a client who calls at all hours and won't stop even after you address it, or one who sends endless revisions to your work but is unable to explain precisely what you need to change or one who has unrealistic expectations of what you will do. On the other hand, you might have a wonderful client whose work doesn't make sense for you anymore, because they can't pay your increased rates, their work conflicts with a higher-priority client or your interests and expertise have shifted.
In any of these cases, you might decide that you and the client need to part ways, and you'll need to be able to deliver that message. It's tougher than you might think to say, in essence, "I've decided I don't want to work with you." Are you up to those conversations?
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search and management issues. She's the author of "How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager," co-author of "Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results" and the former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management.
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