I’ve been self-employed for twenty years. I’ve loved being my own boss. But it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. There have been some real challenges and some hard slogging. Over time I’ve learned some things about working alone and I’d like to share them with you. Maybe you’ve got some additional tips. If so, please share them by leaving a comment below.
- Create a home office. It’s important to keep your overhead down so don’t spend money on an outside office. Make sure your home office is a place where you can work without being disturbed. Close the door. The sound of barking dogs and crying children isn’t very professional when you’re on the phone with clients. It’s also important to make a clear mental separation between the place where you live and the place where you work in your home.
- Get a comfortable ergonomic chair. One of my best investments was a quality ergonomic chair. You’ll be spending many hours in your chair. You want to be comfortable and properly supported so that you don’t end your day with aching muscles.
- Set work hours. The quickest route to failure is to wander through your work day without any sense of a beginning or end to it. You don’t need to punch in at 9 AM but you do need to be disciplined about when you start. Make certain to have a fixed time of the day when you stop work. Don’t keep pushing on until midnight.
- Look sharp. Get out of your PJs and bathrobe. It might be tempting to shuffle around in your rabbit slippers but it doesn’t instill a sense of professionalism. You don’t need to put on a suit but you do need to change into something that makes you feel sharp.
- Enlist the services of a bookkeeper. You need to set up a bookkeeping system to get a handle on your income and expenses. Hire a person who is familiar with the needs of the self-employed.
- Get insurance. Speak to an insurance broker to assess whether your home insurance adequately covers your home-based business.
- Be persistent. I like to remark that I’m not brilliant but I’m persistent! When I look back, I realize that I’ve accomplished a good deal because I seldom gave up unless it was clearly a futile exercise. To succeed on your own you have to keep pushing ahead through the inevitable setbacks and road blocks.
- Join a business networking group. Isolation can be a detrimental factor when working alone. Find out what local business networking groups are in your area and join one or two of them.
- Have passion for your work. One of the challenges of working on your own is that you don’t necessarily have “cheerleaders” to keep you motivated. If you don’t absolutely love what you’re doing, it will become increasingly difficult to get through the hard times.
- Don’t be consumed by work. It’s easy to go non-stop when you’re working alone. Make sure to take 10 or 15 minute breaks every hour. Schedule time for family and friends. Go for a brisk walk.
- Prepare a list. You need to have a plan for your day. It can be something simple like writing down the three things you must complete today. I like to use the GTD approach to maintaining productivity. It helps to break big tasks into manageable pieces.
- Keep learning. This is critical because you need to keep on top of changing technologies and trends. Find time to take training programs and workshops, read books, subscribe to newsletters, and attend lectures.
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