With a down economy and a job market that is becoming increasingly specialized, more and more people are striking out and going into business for themselves.
However, the transition from working at a traditional job to working on your own can be a difficult one. While there is a great deal that’s appealing about working on your own, there’s also a lot to worry about. including financial insecurity and lack of time off.
So how do you make the transition between a 9-to-5 and a home business? Even the best sole proprietors have some growing pains but here are five tips to help you make the transition a bit more smooth.
1: Become Your Own Boss
Working for yourself doesn’t mean that you don’t have a boss, it means that you have dozens of bosses, namely your clients. To make that work, you have to become your own supervisor. That means setting hours that you’ll work, giving yourself assignments, and monitoring how well you meet your goals.
This can be tough at first, but use a service like RescueTime to track how you use your work time and find ways to make improvements.
2. Focus on What You Can Do Now
It’s easy to daydream and plan big when you strike out on your own. However, when you first start, you’re going to have almost no money and fewer resources. You need to ask yourself a simple question: “What can I do to make money today?”
If you focus on making money here and now, you can spend spare time growing your business and focusing on your dreams.
As such, when you’re in your working hours, it’s best to spend the bulk of your time focusing on the short term while setting aside some time for big future projects.
3. Have a Designated Space for Work
It might be tempting to take your laptop into your living room and work in front of your TV, but it will be very hard to focus. Having a designated home office for work, either a separate room or at least separate space, helps keep your work and home life separate.
This also helps with taxes later as you can show what part of your home is a designated work space.
As an alternate solution, you can try renting a small office nearby or, if you feel you would prefer a community atmosphere, consider co-working.
No matter what system you choose, having a separation between work space and living space will help you focus and separate your work and personal lives.
4. Keep Track of the Money
Use tools like Shoeboxed to track and store your receipts and Freshbooks to send and track your invoices. This will not only help you with taxes, but will also help you keep track of how much you’re making and where your money is going.
Most importantly of all, it will help you ensure that you are getting paid for the work that you’re doing and what kinds of jobs are making you the most money, letting you refine your business as you move forward.
5. Remember to Take a Break
One of the biggest problems many long-time self-employed have is that they burn themselves out by feeling as if they have to be “always on” without time away from the job.
It’s important to set working hours and stick to them. You need time for yourself, your family and your social life. In short, working for yourself doesn’t mean working 24/7.
You’ll likely find that you work harder and more efficiently if you force yourself to quit work at a certain hour. Otherwise, you may be putting in insanely long days but not accomplishing much at all.
In the end, no matter how you approach it, there’s going to be a pretty severe culture shock when you strike out on your own. It can be lonely, frightening and freeing all at the same time.
Your best bet is to avoid letting any of that affect you and simply focus on the job that needs to be done. If you focus on the work and not the environment, you’ll likely find it much easier to adapt and find success.
Photo by Vince Welter.