How to Work For Yourself: A Guide for Entrepreneurs

Key Takeaways


Do you spend your workday daydreaming about your passion project or hobby? Do you throw your hands up in the air when management makes a bad decision? Do you scroll through job listings on your lunch break, looking for a more exciting job or a higher salary?

If so, then you’re probably wondering how to work for yourself.

More accurately speaking, you’re wondering whether or not it’s viable to work for yourself. Do you have the grit? Can you earn enough money? Will it suit your lifestyle?

For those of you with an entrepreneurial spirit, this guide will help you figure out if self-employment is the right pathway to happiness.


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how to work for yourself

Why Should You Work for Yourself?

If you’re thinking about working for yourself, the first question you need to ask is: why?

As a business owner, you’re going to take on a lot more work and stress. If you’re not doing it for the right reasons, then self-employment will quickly lose its luster; you’ll find yourself in “the self-employment trap:” overwhelmed, unmotivated, and in a poor financial situation.

There are four good reasons to work for yourself:

  1. Doing What You’re Passionate About

  2. Better Work-Life Balance

  3. Being Your Own Boss

  4. Earning Higher Income

Are these listed in order of importance? Absolutely!

1. Doing What You’re Passionate About

The best reason to work for yourself is so you can pursue work in a field that you’re truly passionate about.

As an entrepreneur, you’ll probably start a business that sells a product or service that you have great enthusiasm for. Work is more fun when you get to indulge in a hobby or industry that brings you joy. As the old adage goes, “If you do something you love, then you won’t work a day in your life.”

Do you really want to work for a company that sells a product you don’t care about? Most people would say no. Life is too short to slave away at a company that doesn’t stimulate you.

If you’re an artistic-minded person, working for yourself might be the only way to build a career. There’s no corporate ladder for musicians, painters, or authors. Every artist acts as his or her own business, marketing their talents to grow their reputation.

2. Better Work-Life Balance

You don’t need to be self-employed to work in a field that you enjoy. For example, if you want to work in marketing, it might make more sense to join a marketing agency or a corporation’s in-house marketing department.

Your decision to be self-employed might be based on other factors, like work-life balance. Poor work-life balance is a common reason why people choose to work for themselves.

When you work for yourself, you’ll get to set your own work schedule. You can choose how long you work each day, when you start work, and which days you work.

If you’re a night owl, you might have difficulty working in a 9 to 5 routine. But if you worked for yourself, you could choose to start your workday at 11 AM, when you’re more alert.

Self-employment allows you to build a schedule that suits your lifestyle. You can take time off whenever you want, without having to ask anyone. You can work from home. You can take a longer lunch break to go exercise or buy groceries. The flexibility is priceless.

3. Being Your Own Boss

For entrepreneurs, there are few things as enticing as being your own boss. You don’t have to report to anyone, and you can choose which assignments or clients you take on. You also get to shape the company culture (Margarita Fridays, anyone?).

Your suggestions on the company survey will no longer go unheeded! If there’s something you want to change about your company, you can change it immediately.

From your daily work practices to your long-term development plan, everything about your company is subject to your discretion.

4. Earning Higher Income

When you’re working for someone else, you have little control over how much you’re paid. You’re reliant on your boss to grant you a promotion. But all-too-many employees have had the dismal experience of being passed up on a promotion or pay raise that they had worked hard for.

Your earnings might also be handicapped by the industry rate. For example, if your position has an average salary of $75,000 per year, then your ceiling won’t be much higher than that.

Your ceiling is much higher when you’re working for yourself. You’re not a salaried employee—you’re a business owner, and you can pocket as much of your company’s net profits as you like. The more successful your business, the more money you make.

how to work for yourself

What to Consider Before Working for Yourself

As you can see, self-employment comes with great perks. But there are also some significant challenges. If working for yourself was easy, then everyone would be doing it.

Before you quit your day job, consider the following things about self-employment.

Motivation

You need to be highly motivated to work for yourself. You’ll have to overcome many obstacles, and without the proper drive, you’ll be more likely to quit when things get hard.

Ideally, you’ll be motivated by positive emotions—like passion for the work you’re doing. If you’re motivated by negative emotions, like greed or spite (maybe you’re trying to get back at a former employer that wronged you), then you’ll find out sooner or later that your business is built upon pillars of salt. You’ll lose interest at some point and give up.

Remember that most new businesses fail and that successful businesses are often the result of blood, sweat, and tears.

Financial Uncertainty

The hardest thing about working for yourself is dealing with financial uncertainty. Salaried work is appealing because you know exactly how much you’ll earn in a given month or year. It makes financial planning a lot easier.

When you’re working for yourself, your income may fluctuate dramatically. Financial planning will be difficult—especially in the beginning—and there’s always the possibility that you won’t make enough money to cover your living expenses.

Even when you’re running a successful business, there’s a possibility you may be affected by an economic downturn, like a recession. You’ll have to be financially disciplined during your highs and extremely frugal during your lows.

And if you’re the primary breadwinner for your family, then you’ll have far greater financial risk when you go into business for yourself.

Wearing Multiple Hats

Every entrepreneur dreams of hiring a hardworking staff to whom you can delegate assignments. But when you first begin working for yourself, you’ll have to wear multiple hats: in other words, you’ll have to perform several different jobs.

For example, you initially might not have money to hire a web designer, so you may have to learn how to build a website. You might not have money to hire a marketing director, so you’ll have to learn marketing practices and take charge of your advertising.

Wearing multiple hats means you’ll have more work to do and more stress to manage.

how to work for yourself

Are You Ready to Be Self-Employed?

How do you know, for certain, that you have what it takes to work for yourself?

Here’s what you need to be a successful, self-employed entrepreneur:

  1. Commitment & Focus

  2. Having the Right Product

  3. Ready to Be a Boss

  4. Prepared to Solve Problems

  5. Enthusiasm for Education

1. Commitment & Focus

Many entrepreneurs are surprised at how difficult it can be to be focused and productive when self-employed. When you have a salaried job, you might be forced into a 9 to 5 routine. Whether you woke up on the right side of the bed or the wrong side, there’s considerable pressure to be at your desk for most of the week and to finish projects by their delivery date.

Without a mandated routine, it’s easy to get sidetracked and not put in the work required to succeed. Countless entrepreneurs choose self-employment to abandon routine, but the truth is that successful entrepreneurs develop their own routine to stay productive.

There are several popular tactics you can employ to stay productive:

  • Use task management software

  • Spend the first part of the day working at a coffee shop

  • Take a longer lunch break so you’ll be refreshed for the second part of your workday

  • Dress in work clothes, even if you’re working from home

But most of your motivation will come from your own passion for your work. That’s why you must be doing work that is meaningful to you.

Commitment may also mean that you change your lifestyle so you’re able to deal with the financial uncertainty of entrepreneurship. You might consider:

  • Cutting back on your spending

  • Moving to a cheaper home

  • Picking up a part-time job for extra cash

Your income might not be high enough to support a lavish lifestyle in the early days of your business. But a minimal lifestyle will give you more money to pursue your passion project.

2. Having the Right Product

It’s not enough to be highly motivated: you also need to have a great product.

If you’re going to be selling a product, you need to make sure there’s a viable market for your product and that your operating costs won’t be so high as to cannibalize your profits. Try and create a product that’s more unique or cost-effective than similar products.

If you’re going to be providing a personal service—like photography or yoga training—you should treat your service in the same way as any other product. Make sure there’s a viable market in which to sell your talents.

Freelance entrepreneurs sometimes make the mistake of marketing themselves too broadly. You don’t want to be considered a “jack of all trades, but a master of none.” It’s more lucrative to find a niche industry or market. If you’re a photographer, for example, you might market yourself specifically as a wedding photographer. Focusing on a niche is the easiest way to build a brand for yourself.

how to work for yourself

3. Ready to Be a Boss

When you work for yourself, you’re going to become your own boss. That means you have to do “boss” things. Some of your duties may include:

  • Hiring employees

  • Resolving disputes with clients or employees

  • Following leads and securing clients

  • Managing business finances and taxes

  • Handling complaints from customers

  • Finding investors

If you don’t have any managerial experience, you might find some of these tasks more daunting. But experience isn’t as important as confidence. Confident entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed in the tasks listed above or make better decisions when performing them.

That doesn’t mean that introverted or shy entrepreneurs can’t make good bosses. Remember, confidence isn’t so much about being social as it is about being mindful and positive.

4. Prepared to Solve Problems

When you work for yourself, problems will inevitably arise, and you’ll have to solve them. You might fail to get a permit you need. A marketing campaign might fail to generate revenue. You could lose a client or struggle with high operating costs.

Perseverance goes a long way into working out problems, but preparedness is also key. Savvy entrepreneurs devise contingency plans, so they’re ready for when things go wrong. They chart out multiple courses of action, so if one strategy fails, they can implement another.

If you’re willing to think carefully about business strategy and plan your moves like you’re playing chess (in which you always plan a few steps ahead, in multiple directions), then you’re more likely to succeed when you’re working for yourself.

It’s not as hard as it might sound. Just consider the following questions:

  • What happens if you lose a client? How will you sustain your income?

  • What happens if your product doesn’t catch on? Do you have a second product?

  • How can you diversify your income, so you’re not overly reliant on a single product/service?

5. Enthusiasm for Education

If you’re going to succeed at self-employment, you’ve got to have an enthusiasm for education. You need to enjoy learning new things, and when necessary, teaching yourself new skills.

There are so many different facets of a business, from web design, to accounting, to digital marketing. More likely than not, you won’t be proficient in every single one, and you might not have the money to hire people who are. That means you’ll have to learn many new skills to get your business off the ground.
If you don’t enjoy learning, you’re probably not going to acquire the knowledge you need to build a successful business.

how to work for yourself

What Are Some Good Self-Employed Jobs?

What are the best self-employed jobs for beginning entrepreneurs?

Freelancing is by far the best way to start working for yourself. You’re a freelancer if you have a skillset that you sell to a business. You’re not actually an employee for the company—you’re doing a limited amount of work for limited pay, and the work you do is assignment-based. Most freelancers work for several different clients, or they constantly pick up freelance gigs.

What’s great about freelancing is that you can do it for practically any profession. If you’re skilled at something (for example, graphic design or video editing), you can sell your skills to individual clients who need them. Freelancing is the quickest way to turn your passion into a career.

Freelancing has grown in popularity due to the COVID-19 pandemic because many industries have realized that remote workers are efficient and cost-effective (most freelancers work remotely). You can find freelance gigs on websites like Indeed, Upwork, and ClearVoice.

Need more ideas? Here are some great self-employed jobs that fall outside the realm of freelancing.

  • Craft Goods: Craft goods have become increasingly popular over the last several years. You can start a business selling craft beer, jewelry, and artisan pieces.

  • Real Estate: There are many different ways to make money in real estate. You can work as a real estate or property manager or pursue real estate investment.

  • Interior Design: Interior designers are still in demand, and it might be a promising career for you if you’ve got an eye for style.

  • Translation: You can earn good money as a translator if you’re proficient in multiple languages.

  • Event Planner: If you love planning things, you’ll enjoy working as an event planner. This is an easy industry to “niche.” Many event planners specialize in certain types of events, like weddings, reunions, parties, etc. If you’re an avid traveler, you might also enjoy working as a travel agent.

  • Catering: Love cooking? Catering is a profitable self-employed job. The operating costs for catering are far lower than starting your own restaurant, so it’s a great starter business for aspiring restaurateurs.

  • Tutor: If you love teaching—but you don’t want to work in an academic setting—then you might enjoy working as a tutor.

  • Technology: Technology will always befuddle people, and that’s why technology gigs are still as lucrative as ever. Most tech gigs involve maintenance work for offices (like tending to company computers or phone systems).

  • Personal Trainer: If you have a passion for fitness and enjoy motivating others, you could make a good living as a personal trainer. Personal trainers sign a contract with a gym, or promote their services independently—or both.

Summary

Before you learn how to work for yourself, make sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons: to do work you’re passionate about, to develop a better work-life balance, to be your own boss, or to earn a higher income. To succeed in self-employment, you need to be highly motivated, to have a good product or service, to be ready for a leadership role, to be ready to solve problems and to have an enthusiasm for education. Freelancing is a great way to start working for yourself.


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