10 Commandments of the Self Employed

I recently read a ‘take this job and shove it’ sort of resignation letter from a Gen Y-er to his employer, and I could not Ariel Marketing Group's 10 Commandments of the Self Employedhelp but shake my head in that annoyingly “yes, I’m older and wiser” sort of way. He was off to create his own business,
and full of piss and vigor. I admire that, of course, but I also know that the lives of the self employed are far less glorious than they often appear.

If you sit there as one of the many in our ranks, you know how much you sacrifice for the ability to call the shots. Along with everything else you must make decisions about, you shoulder a tremendous, often unbelievable amount of worry over everything from payroll to paying bills. It is very easy to get lost wallowing in the worry and forget why we set out on this journey in the first place.

To help all of us combat the self pity and stress, I’ve created these:

10 Commandments of the Self Employed

1.  Never forget what it feels like to punch a time clock.
Perhaps you never punched an actual clock, but you must remember what it felt like to work the hours someone else deemed necessary. Setting your own schedule is a perk you cannot overlook.

2. Appreciate the steering wheel.
You would not have left your safe job if you didn’t think you could do better.  You can’t forget that driving your own ship means you get to focus on the projects you know are the right ones.

3. Don’t complain about the long hours. Ever.
Remember, lots of people who are working to make some corporation lots and lots of money work long hours too. You get the reward for yours.

4. Mentors are still essential.
Just because you’ve given yourself a fancy title and have the business cards to prove it doesn’t mean you don’t need advice from other smart folks.

5. Accept the roller coaster as a way of life.
Chances are that if you stepped off the cliff, you have already achieved success in business, and therefore you became used to financial security. That doesn’t exist for the self employed – at least not for years. Get used to it. Yes, you can.

6. Collaboration makes you better.
Paranoia and a self defensive stance can creep up upon any business owner who is out there scraping along trying to make it. Don’t give in to the instinct to see anyone in your field as the enemy. Often they have strengths that compliment your weaknesses and vise verse. Partnerships can allow you to do more work, and make more money.

7. The Accounting can’t wait.
Most entrepreneur types are big picture people by nature; many of us detest the books. You don’t need to BE the CPA, but you absolutely must hire a bookkeeper and keep your house in order.

8. Reports are fun.
If you aren’t taking care of #6, you won’t be able to stick to read your reports and enjoy the information to be had there.  In order to create a strategy for your business’ future, you must understand where your business is. This is one of the fun parts of owning a business; it’s the ‘working on your business’ part that everyone goes on and on about.

9. Fueling your inspiration is a good thing.
Staying focused is crucial, but too much focus can leave you numb and unable to be creative. Seek out sources of inspiration wherever you may find them – they don’t have to come from business.

10. It’s all worth it.
There will be days you have a hard time believing this, but in your heart you know it’s true. Had you stayed back at that safe job the big ‘what ifs’ would nag you into insanity. Whatever becomes of your business, you are learning at rapid fire speed, and you are getting better everyday. Perhaps it won’t be your destiny to stay at the helm of the ship you’re driving now, but wherever you end up you will be far wiser for having driven it.

  • Whenever a friend tells me he or she is going out on their own, I always say it’s the hardest – and most rewarding – thing you’ll ever do. There are lots of things people don’t tell you when you start out (if clients don’t pay their bills…and they don’t…how will you make payroll?), but it’s all worth it in the end.

    • AmyMccTobin

      Yes is IS… I think we just forget sometimes when it’s tough paying bills.  I also think that a lot of people going in think it’s a heck of a lot more glamorous than it is as well.

  • Amen, what else do I have to say. It is not the easy road and should not be thought as one.  

  • Nodding my head in agreement the whole way through this post…and the comments! You said it, Amy!

  • Great article. After three years working a single client contract I’ve come to realise that I never really ran my own business in the first place. Now I’m at that make or break point where I’m not 100pc sure whether to fight and stand on my own two feet, or flee and go back to working in cubicle nation.

    Being self employed doesn’t just take enormous dedication, resourcefulness and passion – it takes balls of steel. And knowing to a fraction of a millimetre what your strengths are, and where they are most needed in the world. Heck, it’s a tough job being in charge of your own and others’!

    • AmyMccTobin

      Amen Dave – balls of steel is right.  I think that there are some people who are so strong in one area that they shouldn’t be self employed.  Some people build a great team first. Others have the resources to lose while learning.  And sometimes hard work needs a little luck for it to take off.   I just think that many of us need to be reminded of why we did it in the first place.