Should I just work for myself? It’s a question so many people ponder at some point. ‘I’m working my butt off for this company, when I could just be earning it myself?’ ‘If it was my business, I’d do it differently’. If you are frustrated by your current employer, getting burnt out or ready for a change and challenge, it’s common to wonder, should you go it alone?
If you have subject matter expertise and have a level of experience that adds value to organisations, and they would pay fees for that knowledge, then your own consulting business could be a real option. A consulting or advisory business where you are the sole practitioner has low establishment costs, and as soon as you have a client or project you’re officially in business.
There are so many potential positives for working for yourself. Autonomy, ownership and fulfilment, unlimited potential, building a personal brand, choosing who you work with and how, and of course flexibility. Except flexibility has become more accessible for everyone now.
There are also some potential risks. Financial risk, limited growth, uncertainty of cashflow, wearer of many hats, unpaid leave, impact on career trajectory and limited capacity.
Before you take the leap, decide if going it alone is right for you, and when is the right time.
1. What problem are you fixing
Is your expertise something that organisations or individuals will pay for? What is the markets expectation for pricing and service, as you will need to decide where your services align. Can you charge enough to sustain business costs and your lifestyle?
2. How will you acquire clients
What clients do you want to work with, how will you reach them? Do you have an existing network that are decision makers? If you just know people in companies do they have the influence on buying decisions.
3. Where are your strengths
To work for yourself you need to not only be practitioner but also business development, marketer, accounts, operations and chief motivation officer. Make sure where you want to put your efforts will create revenue and clients and just run the operations. Do what you’re good at and outsource the rest.
4. Do you have support
More important than making sure you have an accountant, web designer, lawyer and insurance broker on hand, is emotional support and mentors. Making sure you have your own board of directors in place to advise you on ideas, strategy, pricing and problems is vital. Just as important is the moral support from family and friends that encourages you to keep going when things get challenging.
5. Are your expectations realistic
The best advice I ever got was, whatever you think you’ll do, it will take twice as long and you’ll earn half as much. Start up phase, dependant on your industry and growth, can last up to 5 years. Know whether you have the cash reserves or realistic growth plans to sustain you. It’s okay to start small, part time or as a side gig until you can grow.
6. How good are your writing skills
Part of the day to day communication, building a small business will see you writing proposals, EDM’s, website copy, articles, product brochures, presentations and social media content. It is definitely a skill you can learn and get better and more efficient. But if not, it can eat up your time and business development time.
7. Who else is involved
It’s easy to get swept up in an idea, especially when you have a colleague or contact that is keen to get involved. Have the direct conversations early to understand each other’s motivations, strengths, contribution and their vision. Are you working towards the same outcome? Are you bringing different skills? Can you communicate effectively? Can everyone involved bring tangible value? Working this out later can cost a great deal of time and money.
Self employment is not a one way street, you can dip back into employment, or even build a personal brand that leads to opportunities that jump the corporate ladder. It is never a straight line from beginning to success, be open to the ups and downs and success born from lessons learnt along the way.