View Full Version : Who Here is Self-Employed?

3-10-11, 6:26pm
And doing what?

How did you get into it? Did you plan for it or just fall into it?

Would you do it again?

What is your most favorite part?

What is your least favorite part?

What advice do you have for people contemplating self-employment?

Answer all or just some :thankyou::thankyou::thankyou:

3-10-11, 7:03pm
Quit my job as VP of Research for a market research firm in May 2008, now conduct research as a sub-conractor. I had learned the ropes at the same market research company for 10 years--the desire to cut loose from corporate life got stronger and stronger the last year I was there--I asked a few sub-contractors that I hired what they thought, what they liked/didn't like about it, etc. I began to seriously consider pursuing just the parts of my job that I really loved to do, and drop the stuff I didn't like. I picked up Jennifer White's book Work Less Make More.

I finally quit a couple of days after I started crying at my desk, and the day my boss made me fire one of my direct reports (it wasn't the act of firing I was upset about, that was part of my job--it was because I worked fine with this particular employee, but because she was a little mousy and never kissed his a** my boss didn't like her--although she didn't even report to him).

I love being on my own and would definitely do it again.

Favorite part: I owe no one anything except for the excellent work they pay me for. No stupid meetings, no having to "look busy"

Least favorite: I never know what my revenue stream is beyond 6-8 weeks, because that's the lifecycle of one research project. So it's a little scary, but so far OK.

Do your homework
Be out of debt
Be focused and have a vision
Don't quit until you have a client waiting in the wings--or if you don't make sure you have 3-6 months of living expenses
Do what you love, but make sure what you love is marketable. I highly recommend the Jennifer White book.
Be enthusiastic
Don't go into debt for start-up

3-10-11, 7:51pm
i am now self-employed! my friend and i started wear the shift (link in my sig) just a few months ago. we are in beta now, about to go live, and we're hopeful of a good response, because it's been overwhelmingly positive so far. we are lucky in that the kind of business we're in allowed us to use kickstarter.com to find a group of beta testers and raise funds for conducting that test.

i can't recommend the beta test idea enough. this is also known as "jump in and figure out how to swim by swimming." :) we have learned sooo much about who our customer is, what she wants, and how to best provide it. kickstarter let us kind of have training wheels and gave us a group of initial customers who were excited enough about our project to help us work through the start up kinks and improve it. we've connected with some spectacularly helpful people, like a user experience researcher from a world-famous web store who is mentoring us on our site's ease of use, and a writer from portland who sent us tons of really useful pictures of the way her dress fit.

because we were able to test the idea and make it support itself from the beginning, we have incurred absolutely no debt. we did have some start up costs that we paid for out of our savings, but they were pretty minimal.

we're going live on march 21st and i'm excited to see what happens next! i do have to say that it's a bit of a roller coaster. i cried after reading some of our critical feedback from customers. but that feedback is actually the most valuable thing to me if i want to improve, and i do!

3-10-11, 10:41pm
Fidgie, I think you know a lot of my story already, but:

And doing what?
I'm a web consultant and designer working with nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, and micro-businesses. And some other stuff too.

How did you get into it? Did you plan for it or just fall into it?
It was part of my job duties at my last official corporate gig, they trained me for it. But then I realized that I was doing it for all the wrong people, all the wrong reasons, and under someone else's thumb. I also got really sick from stress-related stuff, huge clue that I was desperately unhappy at my job. I saved up 6 months living expenses, got my first client, then gave notice.

Would you do it again?
I'll never NOT do it. I don't think I could ever go back to a company job.

What is your most favorite part?
I get to set my own hours, set my own fees, schedule vacations when I want them, and grow the business as much or as little as I want. I'm in control of my destiny, for the most part (dire market conditions notwithstanding, and I have yet to suffer much from the financial downturn because I just keep adapting)

What is your least favorite part?
Keeping an eye on cashflow, for all the reasons Catherine mentions. But it can be managed pretty well if you're good with money and even mildly creative.

What advice do you have for people contemplating self-employment?
Have no debt - zero.
Have a cushion in the bank - 6 months is good if you can swing it; 3 is minimum, for sure.
Do at least a one-page business plan for your self-employment venture so you're forced to think through what you'll do, why you'll do it, what you should charge, who your audience is, etc.
Give some advance thought to how to reach the people you're working for or selling to....if they're on Facebook, you be there too. If they hang out at the local sewing shop, post your card on their bulletin board and make friends with them. If they're at the local networking meetings, be there. Have a plan.
Have a sense of humor.
Take out of the library and read Free Agent Nation, How to Make a Living Without a Job, and Flying Solo.
Love what you do, and as Catherine mentions, make sure there are at least a few people willing to buy what you love.

3-11-11, 4:29am

I have not signed up for any of his courses, but Ramit Sethi's (www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com) stuff is really great in terms of giving solid, easy to follow advice about how to set up a side business and grow it into something bigger if you want it to be more than that. Some people don't like his style, but I think he offers a lot of worthwhile advice for free and his for-fee stuff is also reasonably priced. You might also find Chris Gillibeau's stuff to be inspiring/helpful -- google "art of nonconformity" to find him.

I am happy in my current position but my DH's job is a bit precarious for reasons beyond his control and if it ever falls apart I am going to encourage him to sign up for Ramit's course and develop his own business. The thing I like about Ramit is he is very practical and step by step. The key is really finding a service or product that people need and will pay for. I think if you take his approach you can avoid a lot of the pitfalls a lot of new business-owners or entrepreneurs fall into.


3-11-11, 7:31am
And doing what?
I do occasional freelance translation work outside of my regular part-time job.

How did you get into it? Did you plan for it or just fall into it?
Originally, I wanted to become a full-time freelance translator after university, but I realised that I got incredibly bored sitting alone in front of my computer all day. Keeping it on as sort of a hobby seemed like the best option.

Would you do it again?
Part-time and sporadically, yes.

What is your most favorite part?
Deciding my own hours.

What is your least favorite part?
Deciding my own hours... I'm a terrible procrastinator!

What advice do you have for people contemplating self-employment?
Make sure you're dedicated enough to be able to fully see it through. I've known people who have kept working for an employer but gradually cut down their hours as their self-employed venture developed.

3-11-11, 8:00am
I really appreciate your responses. More later, but I am so grateful to all of you (and future replies!!) for taking the time to share your expertise.

Big hugs, SLN friends!!!!

3-11-11, 10:42am
And doing what?
Freelance/self-employed translator since 2001.

How did you get into it? Did you plan for it or just fall into it?
Grad school plus full-time job in the field prepared me for it.

Would you do it again?

What is your most favorite part?
As others have said, setting my own hours and not having to be somewhere I don't want to if I'm done with my work. Being able to work the way I want to to get the quality I like to deliver, rather than having to follow someone else's system. Being paid more to work more, rather than having a static salary.

What is your least favorite part?
Again, the cash flow issue, although that really wasn't a problem for me before the recession. The busy times when I barely have time to do laundry - it does tend to go in waves and sometimes be a desert or flood situation. Marketing, although I like networking.

What advice do you have for people contemplating self-employment?
As far as resources, I recommend "Secrets of Self-Employment" and other books by Sarah and Paul Edwards. Also, network!!

3-11-11, 4:22pm
Wow, this is cool stuff. Fidgie, thanks for posting this thread! I don't have a solid idea of what I want to do just yet and I've always been scared of self-employment, but these responses have sort of got me excited. :) I'm about out of time and won't be near a computer this weekend. So I hope y'all have a good one.

3-11-11, 5:55pm
And doing what?
I'm a lawyer.

How did you get into it? Did you plan for it or just fall into it?
Business fell off for my former employer. Spent a few months looking for another job then decided that it was now or never and took the plunge.

Would you do it again?
Yes but the hard starving part is long behind me. Not sure if I would give the same answer many years ago when I was sitting in my office killing time by doing crosswords and worrying about the mortgage.

What is your most favorite part?
Not having a boss.

What is your least favorite part?
Being a boss. I've often told people that the only thing I can think of that I liked less than being a boss was having a boss.

What advice do you have for people contemplating self-employment?

Read The E-Myth Revisited. It's a very simple read that will ingrain in you some crucial core concepts (e.g. systemic thinking, your business should serve your life, not the other way around etc)

Make use of the resources provided by SCORE and the SBA

Be brutal and ever diligent about keeping expenses down.

If you must rely on others for some facets of your business do not ever abdicate control of financials and marketing.

Learn (and it can be painful for many) to properly market in low or no cost ways such as networking, article writing, blogging, public speaking etc. Consider everything that you spend money on in your business as an expense except for two things...those that bring in business and those that allow you to monitor the health of your business. Think of those two as investments.

3-11-11, 6:18pm
I am a statistical consultant. I was a statistician by trade, but don't like working for a corporation. I started to plan for it very minor-ly. Then fell into it faster than planned, when one job adversely affected my health. I took a part time contract job that I found on craigslist. Then I started working on the business, and getting other clients.

It's REALLY fun working on the business. Going to seminars, creating a web page, thinking of different ways to market. It was all a Giant Experiment for me. I actually tried multiple income streams - not just consulting, but tutoring, and various things. Experimented with what clients or marketing worked and what didn't.

I had money saved up going in. About 6 months living expenses. I had to use some of that - I was making about 75% of what I needed to live, so dipped into savings.

I learned a lot. I wasn't making enough though, and went back to regular employment for a while.

When I started self employment again a year and a half ago, I had everything already set up. Now I'm making about 25% more than I need to survive.

So I actually encourage people to take calculated risks. Like someone else said, have some money saved up. But you learn SOOOOO much from just doing. And it creates a momentum.

There's a book by Sarah and Paul Edwards: "Why aren't you your own boss?" It's good for the motivational aspect.


3-11-11, 6:22pm
OMG, Weston!! SCORE looks like an awesome resource! I was contemplating paying for small business counseling but looks like now I may not have to.

I find it interesting that there are two translators who replied. I thought of doing translation and interpreting at one time, but I let my language skills slip and now it would require a bit of study to get back up to speed. Could be done, though!

So many resources, so much inspiration . . . keep it coming (pleeze? ;) )

Never Again
4-7-11, 8:49pm
How did you get into it? Did you plan for it or just fall into it?

I became self employed due to illness...I got SICK of working for other people.

Seriously...to say that I "fell" into it would be about right. I was part owner (in theory) of a small engineering firm. The owner lied like a rug and sold the company out from under me (to the tune of a $350K loss on my part). I walked away with NOTHING and started from scratch...one day employed... the next day self employed...no plan no nothing. Within a few days I had $30K of work signed up. Then I had to do it all of course..

Would you do it again?

Not under those circumstances, but yes.

What is your most favorite part?

Autonomy...no BS meetings etc. to deal with.

What is your least favorite part?

Maybe the fact that formal training opportunities are limited.

What advice do you have for people contemplating self-employment?

I'm the wrong person to ask based on the way I did it.

Float On
4-7-11, 9:44pm
Self-employeed as artists but we've had to add paying jobs due to 80% drop in wholesale (lost 40 galleries due to closures and bankruptcy and the ones left are not ordering huge orders 5-6 times a year like they use to but instead are ordering 1 small 'get by' order a year), retail also tanked as well as expenses going up. We're tired, it is very strange to go from turning away work and being super selective to what we are now.

Weston - had to do a double take, that is my oldest son's name. He was named for the old family estate on the eastern shore "Weston Place".

4-8-11, 8:07pm
Doing what?
An artist/potter.

How did you get into it? Did you plan for it or just fall into it
After the kids grew up I went back to college to get my MFA in painting. The profs hated my painting and it was clear that I'd never get anywhere with that, but to get to the painting studio I had to walk through the pottery studio, and that looked like fun, so I gave it a try. At my first time throwing clay on the wheel the prof said, "You've obviously done this before." No, maybe in another lifetime! Before long I was ready to chuck the degree, leave the college scene, set up my own studio and leap into the pottery business. I made my living selling my pots at art fairs for 30+ years. I retired from clay a couple of years ago and went back to painting and doing wood and lino block prints, so I'm still doing the art fairs but with different media.

Would you do it again?
Definitely! I've loved every minute, even though the first few years were tough.

What is your most favorite part?
Creating something new. Selling it to someone who loves it is pretty good, too! Oh yes, being your own boss is also high on the list.

What is your least favorite part?
The paperwork! Sales tax and income tax returns...booo!

What advice do you have for people contemplating self-employment?
Have a cash cushion that will keep you safe for the first year or more, and don't get yourself too deep into debt. Be realistic about your expectations, it will probably be harder than you think to make a living.

A horrible example: a dear friend of mine thought that she, her DH and DS would do well by investing in a snack food franchise. They bought the franchise sales pitch totally and thought they were signed up to sell at a major sports venue on the strength of a conversation with the manager, so they sank their life savings plus a second mortgage on their house into it. The sports venue got a new manager who wasn't interested in them, the food didn't sell very well in the few places they could get into, and within a year they had closed out, sold their equipment and will be paying off the debt for years to come.
Be careful!

4-29-11, 12:17pm
I got the "Making a Living Without a Job" book from the library. It some ways it really rubs me the wrong way, in that the way she thinks is in terms of turning everything into profit. And that is just NOT the way I think!

I have no moral qualms whatsoever in getting paid for labor whether it's as an employee, a contractor, or self-employed (although even then I *sometimes* volunteer - and even volunteering is in some ways a subversive act isn't it? oh well, let's subvert! :)). But the whole tone she takes seems to take it well beyond that in that EVERYTHING should be merchandised. Oh gosh I don't even want to turn all of my life into capitalism, not even if it would free me from a job, I'd rather keep that confined within it's proper sphere and give generously and freely outside of it. I'll read the book for what insights I can mine (which won't be turning all of life into profit) but I do think it has a few good ideas nonetheless.

4-29-11, 2:18pm
There's a book by Sarah and Paul Edwards: "Why aren't you your own boss?" It's good for the motivational aspect.


Coming back to recommend their books again! The single most important take-away I got from them was to decide whether you are a natural entrepreneur who likes the business management aspects & could pick any type of business & succeed OR are you a practitioner, who does something well & wants to make a business out of it. I am definitely the second & it's really key to figure that out so that you can work out how to deal with your weaknesses (marketing is a stumbling block for many people of the second type!)

5-2-11, 12:24am
I got the "Making a Living Without a Job" book from the library. It some ways it really rubs me the wrong way, in that the way she thinks is in terms of turning everything into profit. And that is just NOT the way I think!

I have never thought of that book -- or any of its ilk -- as forcing anyone to turn everything they love into profit, only offering motivation & strategies to do so if they wish. Barbara Winter's not holding a gun to anyone's head. But if you can make a little money sharing what you love with others in some way (by selling it, teaching it, whatever), it's certainly more fun than festering in a job you hate, complaining every day about being trapped, unfulfilled, bored, etc.

For example, building biointensive organic gardens for people for a modest fee "finances my habit" :) pays for my OWN seeds, tools, water, etc., so I can do more of what I love, plus infect others with my passion for health and great fresh food in the process. I don't see anything wrong with that, and that's what those books are about. She's not saying that it's without merit if you don't charge.

5-2-11, 6:02pm
And doing what?

I run/own a holistic health collective and teach yoga.

How did you get into it? Did you plan for it or just fall into it?


I was 19, and realized I wanted to teach yoga and run a holistic health center. My parents informed me that I didn't want to do that, that I wanted to stay in school and go to law school. So I did that, but also apprenticed with my teachers for several years.

Once I graduated from law school, I realized how much I hated that kind of work (or any kind of corporate work), so I just went straight into teaching yoga full time. Law school debt, btw, is massive and annoying.

After working for 8 years full time, I realized that we needed to figure out how I could start my own place. DH wanted to live in Wellington; and it was a better opportunity for my work too. In order to move here, we purchased a business (a massage/alternative health clinic), and basically cashed everything out (retirement, sold house, etc) to do it. It's going great. We have 1/3 of our total assets still cash, and the business is self sustaining now, and should be heading into decent profit margins in the next quarter.

The business will be 1 year old in November. :D

Would you do it again?

Yes. I would do it sooner.

I should not have listened to my parents and gone to law school. I should have followed my own plan. At 19, I wanted to quit university, spend the summer at Kripalu to get yoga and bodywork (massage) training, and then gone to a community college to finish my degree in business (emphasis in marketing and accounting). My parents insisted otherwise, and considered my dream to be a "waste of time" and "something you'll quickly get over."

So, that is really my only regret -- that I didn't do what I wanted once I knew what I wanted.

What is your most favorite part?

I really like everything about it.

I like being able to define how things go. I worked for a lot of different studios/people over time, and there were great things about how they worked and terrible things too. Things that really felt unfair and/or mean. I strive to avoid those things and really seek fairness in everything.

I love the business side of things -- the accounting, the planning, the marketing strategy and execution. I love watching the business grow.

I love the people with whom we work -- they are really fun, enjoyable folks. :) And, I get to pick them, so that's even better.

What is your least favorite part?

I only have two frustrations right now: 1. prospective practitioners wasting my time; and 2. current practitioners not paying correctly (paying, just not correctly).

In the first instance, the person comes in, asks questions, gathers information, and then I say "contact me when you want to move forward." That's it. But a few of them go like this: "I want to meet on monday to go over this information and sign a sublease!" And so I prepare everything, set aside the meeting time, etc, and the meeting goes like this: "Well, I need to grill you about all of the things that I fear and make sure that *you* are ok and blah blah blah" when it's really mostly projection. And then we get to the end and I say "Just contact me when you are ready to go." And then they set another meeting about signing on, and I set the meeting, and we go through the process again.

I had to tell a man last night "Look, I like you, but I cannot keep having these meetings about your fears. You need to work out your fears on your own, figure out what you want to do. You know what we offer, what it costs, and what the benefits are. YOu just need to decide if you want to come on or not. If not, no problem. If so, then contact me when you know." I've been in 3 meetings with this man, all of them a waste of my time. The first two were fine, but after that, it's a bit much.

For the second instance, we have rent coming in each week on Fridays, then an invoice for any monthly expenses that come in. SO, they are supposed to pay the invoice, and they are supposed to pay each week. But some of them pay a random amount mid-week, and we have to square it against past weeks, and then carry it forward. It's too much accounting.

They say something like "but this way. . ." and I point out that there is one of me and 12 of them, and I have two of them doing this -- which means more accounting work for me. And people have taken advantage of me in that regard in the past, so that is not cool.

I've been insisting that they pay properly -- rent each week, and then the invoice once invoiced. It's simple that way. My accounting squares it up for me (i use xero.com).

What advice do you have for people contemplating self-employment?

You definitely need a business plan and some basic understandings of how to run a business. In addition, you need to understand the market and how to reach that market (marketing).

You need to have experience in your area of business. As I said, I worked for years in yoga studios -- and I managed a few of them too -- which helped me really understand the business side of things including the pitfalls. It's a good idea to not just get training, but experience before going into a new business.

If it is a business you already know, then it's easier to plan and transition across.

But you need to understand the business that you're going into to be successful. And, it helps if you are *really* passionate about it.