So you’ve got some questions on how to be self-employed…
Well...I’ve got some answers!
This post is for you if you want to know…
- Are you cut out for self-employment?
- Is self-employment really better than a day job?
- Should you quit your day job? If so, when’s the right time?
- How to get started from scratch (even with ZERO qualifications)
- The most important things to do (and what to avoid) if you want any chance of success
Sound like you? Fabulous.
Self-employment can be awesome, but it ain’t easy (it’s actually pretty freaking hard). To succeed, you need to be prepared.
And that’s exactly what I’m going to help you do today.
I’ve broken my tips on how to be self-employed into three phases:
I recommend NOT skipping steps. Skipping steps—especially when getting off the ground—is a recipe for disaster.
Got a notepad? Let’s get started.
Phase 1: Getting Off the Ground:
When it comes to creating your own business, Phase 1 is by far the most important. It’s the foundation that sets you up for success. Skip it—as many people do—and you’re asking for trouble down the road. It’s ok to be gung-ho excited about your new project. It’s not ok to dive in without a plan.
#1.) Figure out if self-employment is even a good idea for you:
First things first—is self-employment even right for you? Because it’s definitely not right for everyone. In fact, it’s probably not right for most people.
If you’ve been researching the “entrepreneur lifestyle”, you’ve probably noticed how everyone always bashes “normal jobs” (i.e. working as an employee). They make it sound like being an entrepreneur is somehow superior to having a normal job, saying things like…
You’re just slaving away to make someone else rich.
You have to beg for permission to take time off.
Your income is capped.
Blah blah blah.
Yes, these are all true. But don’t buy into the hype.
Jobs give you money, learning, benefits, stable income, paid time off, etc.—luxuries you won’t have when self-employed.
So, is entrepreneur life right for you?
If you have a good job that you love, don’t mess with it. However, if you have a sucky job (or no job) and you possess the right traits, you’re a good candidate to move on to the next step.
#2.) Choose a path, test the waters:
So you think you’re a good candidate to be self-employed, now it’s time to figure out what you’re going to do.
Here are some popular routes:
Since I am a freelance copywriter (and since this is the Copywriting Course blog), we’ll use freelancing as our example business model going forward (most steps apply to any self-employed business).
But how do you know which is right for you?
Easy. Test them out.
Find one that looks promising and give it a whirl. Don’t expect to choose a winner on your first try. Do some dabbling. Notice what you like (and what you don’t), and dabble some more.
Think dabbling is a waste of time? Think again.
Testing different ideas might take extra time upfront, but it could (and likely will) save you loads of time, energy, and money in the long run. We usually can’t see the crappy side of a business until we try it out for ourselves.
It’s like buying a used car solely based on looks. It might look cool from the outside, but without checking under the hood and testing it out, you could be driving off the lot with a ticking time bomb.
#3.) Before jumping ship, have another ship to jump to:
Guy puts one foot on other ship, then fully jumps over.
When you get introduced to a new business opportunity, it’s easy to get carried away in excitement.
This happened to me with my first online business venture. I stumbled on a podcast about how easy it is to start a successful Amazon FBA business, and it sucked me in. They hyped me up (conveniently leaving out all the negatives), and after binge-listening 20 podcast episodes, I was convinced.
“It’s the PERFECT business,” I bragged to everyone. “If I follow these instructions to a T, there’s nothing to worry about. It’s a bulletproof plan. I can’t fail.”
Boy, was I wrong. Not only did I fail, I crashed and burned.
So, if you have a ship (i.e. a job), don’t get swept away and jump too early.
Instead, start with a side project. If you realize it sucks, move on to something new. If you can’t make your idea work as a side business (or realize you’re not cut out for the ups-and-downs of entrepreneur life), then it’s probably not a good idea to go full time.
However, if you see some success and love the work (or at least the lifestyle it allows), bump things up a notch.
Once your side income replaces your job income, then jump ship and quit your job.
Tips for getting started
Phase 2: Surviving:
If you’ve made it to Phase 2, it means you’ve determined you are a good candidate for self-employment, you’ve tested the waters, and you’ve landed on something you like.
Now that you’re off the ground with a solid foundation, here are some tips for staying afloat.
Develop tough skin:
To survive as an entrepreneur—especially an entrepreneur with no qualifications—you need to develop tough skin. That means learning to:
This is easier said than done. Here are some tips that’ll help:
Detach the outcome from your personal worth.
If someone rejects you (and they will), it doesn’t mean you suck as a person and will never be successful. It simply means it wasn’t a good fit.
If an idea fails (and they will), that doesn’t mean you are a failure. It simply means your idea didn’t work.
Get used to hearing “No”, knowing it’s one step closer to a “Yes”.
You’re going to get “No’s” all the time. Most people won’t be a good fit for your services. And the earlier you accept that, the better off you’ll be.
If you take rejection personally, self-employment will be miserable.
When I first started freelance writing, I had zero experience. I wrote some samples (which, looking back, are shockingly bad) and blasted out 5 cold emails per day to potential clients.
It took 40 emails before I got a Yes. If I would’ve gotten butt-hurt and given up after 39 No’s, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
If you have a good offer, there ARE people out there happy to pay you for it. The key is shrugging off the No’s until you find them.
Just. Do. It.
When you’re in the sink-or-swim stage, sometimes you know exactly what you need to do to level up your business, but you keep putting it off.
It can take many forms, but for freelancers, it’s usually reaching out to bigger clients, getting on the phone, and closing deals. There’s no doubt in my mind that if I focused the next 2 weeks doing that, I’d probably double my income.
But instead, what do I do?
I trick myself into thinking I need to take just one more course, read one more book, write one more sample….THEN I’ll finally be ready…
Growth is uncomfortable.
But if you don’t learn to power through that discomfort and “just do it”, you will sink.
Train Your Discomfort Muscles:
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
If you’re taking notes, write this one down.
Unless you want self-employment to be hell, DO NOT rely on one or two clients for the bulk of your income.
When you’re just starting, your first client will make up 100% of your self-employed income. Try to lower this as quickly as possible by landing other clients. That way, if one client drops you, you don’t lose everything.
I don’t like to have one client providing more than 30% of the income I need to live. Not only does this protect my income, but it also gives me the leverage needed to turn down clients, projects, and offers that aren’t a good fit.
If something doesn’t work out, I’m not crushed. I know I have other options, and I don’t feel desperate to do things I don’t want to do.
So, whatever you do, never stop marketing yourself. Your job isn’t over once you land your first client. Diversify your income among multiple clients so that all your eggs aren’t in one basket.
Better yet, build a waitlist. That’s when you’ll really start to thrive.
Bonus: Move somewhere cheap
This is about as close as it gets to a “cheat code” for life.
It’s not a viable option for everyone, but if you can make it work, your life will be easier. Let me explain…
I live in Colombia, but I work online and earn in US Dollars. In Colombia, the cost of living way less than it is in the US.
When I first got here, I lived frugally and my living expenses were around $700 per month. This gave me some HUGE advantages when starting my freelance business. By earning in USD and spending in pesos, I essentially doubled my salary.
Starting a business is a lot less stressful when your money goes twice as far.
Basically, your quality of life improves.
For example, in New York, a tiny ass studio apartment (like this ridiculous 68-square-footer with no bathroom) costs upwards of $950/month.
Compare that to Colombia, where for a fraction of that, you can live somewhere like this and focus on growing your business:
And you don’t need to buy a one-way ticket across the globe to give you a leg up in growing your business. What about moving to a cheaper city in the US? This would instantly slash your living expenses, helping you survive until you’ve established your business.
Phase 3: Thriving
If you made it to Phase 3, you successfully got your business off the ground and are managing to stay afloat. But as an entrepreneur, you don’t want to merely survive—you want to THRIVE.
Charge what you’re worth
One of the biggest mistakes freelancers make is failing to recognize the difference between a “freelancer rate” and an “employee rate”.
They think…”Wow! A client just offered me $25/hour to write articles for them. That’s more than I made at my office job! Amazing, right??”
Is this new client going to pay for sick days? Vacation days? Self-employment taxes? Computer, internet, and home office expenses? Marketing costs? Rent?
No way, Jose.
As an employee, all these things are factored into your salary. As a freelancer, YOU are responsible for paying for it, and your rates should reflect that.
There are many factors at play here, but here’s a good rule of thumb:
Employee Rate X 2 = Freelancer Rate
Invest in yourself:
Becoming self-employed with no qualifications is totally possible. I did it. Neville did it. In fact, most business owners do it. But if you want success, you need to invest in yourself.
Stop viewing your freelancing services as a side hobby. You are a business owner. And successful businesses invest in themselves.
If you want to thrive, continually seek out ways to improve your skills and marketing.
Pay for courses. Travel to conferences. Invest in advertising. Buy better equipment. Hire an assistant.
I get it. Money might be tight when you’re just starting. There’s nothing wrong with finding free ways to do things (been there, done that).
But at some point, you need to stop bootstrapping and start thinking about growth.
Never settle, always look for what’s next:
It’s easy to fall into your comfort zone after landing a few long-term clients that pay the bills.
I’m guilty of this one.
Your work gets easier. You slip into a nice routine. You relax.
But you don’t grow.
Comfort zones are where growth goes to die. If you’re not methodically working towards bigger and better opportunities, you’re settling. Your business will grow stale.
Chances are, your client won’t need your services forever (if they do, they’re not going to keep increasing your rates). When that happens, you’ll be right back to square one.
Here’s how to prevent this from happening:
▶ Determine your “end game”. What are your ultimate self-employment goals?
▶ Create a stepladder showing a path to get there. Each new project you work on should take you to the next rung on your ladder.
▶ As soon as you land a new client, think, “What’s the next step? How can I leverage this new position to make that step?”
Learn to master your time:
One advantage of being your own boss is the flexibility to manage your schedule. You’d think this extra flexibility would lead to a healthier work-life balance, but that’s almost NEVER the case.
See, when you’re a normal employee, you put in your hours, clock out, and you’re done. But when you’re self-employed, the to-do list never ends. There’s always just one more thing you could do.
This can take a toll on your personal life.
For some, “turning it off” is a serious struggle. Even if you’re able to physically pull yourself away from work, your mind keeps on racing. It happens to me all the time. Laying in bed, visiting family, date night with my wife—the “business brain” is hard to tame.
The best way to not let this happen is to learn to be ultra-productive during work hours.
▶ Clarifying your big-picture goals.
▶ Focusing on high ROI tasks that will help reach those goals the fastest.
▶ Outsourcing menial time-sucking tasks.
▶ Increasing your work speed (if your a freelancer, learning how to write faster).
▶ Recognizing that being busy isn’t the same as being productive.
▶ Batching your work and focusing on ONE thing at a time (there’s no such thing as multitasking).
Now you know exactly what it takes to become self-employed with no qualifications. By following these tips, you’ll avoid the most common pitfalls and set yourself up for success.
Hope this helps you become a ballin’ entrepreneur!