Many people are leaving their jobs, voluntarily or involuntarily, and are beginning the journey to becoming independent business operators. At first its not an easy road. Here are four ways to make the trip easier. So you've decided to go out on your own. You've chucked your job (or it chucked you!) and you're going to be a consultant, independent operator, solo professional, freelancer.
A lone wolf. Doesn't matter if it was your idea, or you were forced into it, you're not alone. In the U.S. more than 20 per cent of the work force is composed of independent operators. In Canada there are close to three million of you, almost 10 percent of the total population. In both countries, surveys show that thousands more will be joining you each year. It's this decade's economic model. But going independent isn't as simple as slapping up a website, picking through the great gigs that roll in, and spending most days lunching with friends at your favorite really cool restaurant where the main points of the decor are the gorgeous waiters/waitresses.
I've been at it for eight years and now teach other entrepreneurial professionals how to do it in seminars, privately, and here at Retrain The Brain. And one thing I've learned is that there is one big truth about going independent. It takes work. But as you shake off the corporate thinking (The Boss: "Do this and do it this way." You: "Yes Sir!") and learn more about it, the work gets easier.
Now, I couldn’t imagine another way. The soloist’s journey can be rough at first, because you don’t really understand the language of this kind of work. You may have some subject matter knowledge, but you really don’t know how to deliver it for a price that makes it worthwhile. Some people never discover the secret, and end up taking the first job that comes along so they can feel more comfortable. I hope they do it because they like being in harness. But I suspect they really feel more like failures. They never approached that journey in the right way.
So, to help you kick-start the soloing journey, I’m going to offer a few high-level suggestions. Take them to heart and you will be on your way to navigating the fun-filled life of the free-lancer. Commit. If you’re an independent professional, you’re an entrepreneur, not just someone between jobs. Frankly, you won’t be very good at independent business if you don’t commit to it. Commitment means planning, trying and learning, and, sometimes, falling on your face and getting up again. This means understanding well the functional areas strategy, marketing and sales, operations (production), IT, human resources and, especially, finance.
Get a specialty. It’s a competitive world out there. So, it will seem like every week a new shop will open up that promises to deliver the same services as you do. This means, of course, that you better stand out from the crowd somehow. To do this you need to specialize. This will go against every fibre of your being (Throw away potential customers? Are you crazy?) But if you can focus on a couple of areas you’re passionate about, you’ll have a much better chance of succeeding. You’ll become the go-to consultant in this area. So, become expert in a couple of fields and work them. At first, you may have to step out of that area occasionally to put food on the table, but always be mindful of the overall goal: to be the expert in your particular field.
Picture it. Form a detailed vision of the ideal service you’ll provide to an ideal client. The more you see it, the more likely it will come true. The vision will focus your marketing and keep you going when you’re schlepping through some low-level job to earn your credits. If you’re diligent about even these four seemingly simple (although they’re not, really) steps, you’ll be miles ahead of other soloists who flounder around trying to figure out what they’re doing wrong (Yep, that was me for a long time). You will have reinvented to a career as an independent.
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