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Self-Employment Survival Tips: Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Found customers share what they wish they knew when making the leap into self-employment.
Business 101May 11, 2023

Starting a new adventure can be exhilarating and nerve-wracking at the same time. Whether you're pursuing a long-held dream of self-employment or simply seeking a change of pace during the Great Resignation, the decision to go at it alone is a big one. There are so many unknowns ahead that it can feel intimidating to take the first step.

To help shed light on the road ahead, we surveyed a group of successful self-employed professionals and asked them to share their top pieces of advice for those setting up a self-employed business for the first time

Their insights, ranging from the practical to the philosophical, offer a map for navigating the world of self-employment and building a thriving career on your own terms. Whether you're a newbie or a seasoned pro, these expert tips can help you navigate the ups and downs of self-employment and achieve success. Here’s what they said:

Take Action: Jump in and Do It

You could spend months or even years perfecting your business plan, market research, or funding strategy. Sure, those things are important, over-planning can also be a way of procrastinating from actually getting started. The truth is, the best way to start a business is to take some concrete action. You probably won’t feel 100% ready, but that shouldn’t stop you.

Don't let fear hold you back or overthink every little detail. Embrace the messiness of taking action, knowing that it's better than doing nothing at all. Find your first client. Do your first freelance job. The truth is that you're never going to have all the answers or all the resources you think you need. But taking that first step, even if it's a small one, can set you on the path towards turning your dream into a reality. 

Messy action is better than no action in the beginning.

But First, Do Your Homework

It may sound like contradictory advice, but the truth is, it’s important to both take action and do your homework. In the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship, diving in headfirst without any plan can be a recipe for disaster. That's why it's important to do some research before starting a business.

You don’t have to have all the answers before digging in, but take some time to understand your industry, your competition, and your target market. Talk to others in the field. Hear what their experiences are like. What can you bring to the table? Create a plan that outlines where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. 

Hard Work and Dedication are Key

Launching a business requires more than a great idea and some elbow grease. It demands a unique blend of drive, creativity, and perseverance. Aspiring entrepreneurs must be prepared to work tirelessly to turn their visions into reality. It won’t always be easy, and it won’t happen overnight. 

Think about a runner prepping for a race. The preparation involves months of rigorous training, countless hours of physical and mental preparation, and a willingness to push past one's limits. The finish line is the ultimate goal, but getting there requires a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication. After all, very few people can just wake up and run a marathon. When you’re self-employed, you have to adopt a similar mindset. Success is not guaranteed, but the right attitude and a willingness to put in the work make all the difference. 

Manage Your Finances

To be successful in self-employment, it's important to understand how to manage your finances. After all, money is the lifeblood of any business. Step one: Keep your business expenses separate from your personal ones. A business bank account is a smart way to do this.

From there, one of the most critical aspects of managing your finances is ensuring you have enough cash flow to keep your business afloat. Without a clear understanding of their finances, businesses can quickly find themselves in debt and struggling to survive.

You also need to have a solid understanding of your business's financial health to help recession-proof your business. This involves regularly reviewing your financial statements and tracking your overall financial metrics. With clearer insights, you can make informed decisions about when to invest in your business, when to cut costs, and when to pivot your strategy.

Take the time to cover all of your costs, and keep your business expenses separate from your personal expenses. Open up a business bank account in the beginning; it's well worth it.

Pursue Your Passion and Purpose

Passion is what sets successful entrepreneurs apart from those who simply go through the motions. It's the driving force behind every decision, every late night, every failure, and every triumph. When you're passionate about your business, you're willing to put in the time and effort necessary to make it succeed. You're also more likely to stay motivated during the challenging times, which are inevitable in any business. So, don't be afraid to pursue your passion and purpose. You might be surprised at how fulfilling and successful it can be.

Persevere and Don’t Give Up

“Starting a business is easy,” said no one, ever. Anytime you try something new, setbacks are inevitable. However, successful entrepreneurs understand that failure is a natural part of the journey and that persistence is necessary to achieve their goals. When things get tough, it's important to remember why you started and keep your vision in mind.

Reframing “failure” as necessary and valuable learning is one way to stay focused and positive. Successful people tend to do this often. This perspective can help you develop a strong, growth-focused mindset and stay motivated through difficult times. Remember that success is a journey, not a destination, and the bumps are part of the journey.

Reframing “failures” as valuable learning opportunities is one of the secrets to long-term success.

Set Clear Goals

Becoming your own boss is a dream for many aspiring entrepreneurs. The allure of a flexible schedule and work autonomy sounds great. However, the reality is that being your own boss also means taking responsibility for your business's success—and setbacks. It requires discipline, organization, and drive, which can be a challenge for many.

Successful entrepreneurs know the importance of cultivating good habits and setting achievable goals. Good business goals will help hold you accountable for your progress and keep your vision top of mind. Not only are they tangibly helpful, but knowing that you’re hitting your goals gives you a psychological boost as well.

Focus on Your Customers

No business can exist without customers. Providing the best possible service or product is not just a good business practice; it's essential to building trust and loyalty with your customers. The old adage of “underpromise and overdeliver” is a great example of setting customer expectations—and then exceeding them.

One way to be customer-focused is to really understand their needs, challenges, and concerns. Ask lots of questions, and specifically ask for feedback about your work. People feel valued when they feel that they are listened to and understood. Don’t get defensive if you hear constructive criticism: It can be hard to hear, but it can often help you improve immeasurably. 

Ask for Help

Successful entrepreneurs know that they don’t know everything, nor can they do everything on their own. They seek advice, support, and guidance from mentors, peers, and professional resources. Building relationships and networking are crucial components of starting and growing a business, and seeking help is not a sign of weakness but a smart decision.

Similarly, knowing when to delegate or offload responsibilities is crucial. Some people need to hire admin help, a bookkeeper, or even just a cleaning crew for the office. In your business, there are things that no one but you can do, like building client relationships. Calculate when your time is better spent on those unique tasks than the million other items on your to-do list, and get help accordingly.

It’s worth getting expert advice for the business fundamentals that you’re less familiar with.

Embrace the Risks and Rewards

Starting a business is a big risk, and it can be daunting to take that first leap of faith. But when you think about your life, do you want to look back and regret not following your dreams? It might be helpful to know that many successful entrepreneurs have been in your shoes, feeling the fear and uncertainty of taking a big risk. 

You may be feeling stuck in your current job, unfulfilled and unsatisfied. You have a passion that you want to pursue, but you're not sure how to turn it into a business. Taking the chance on yourself and your passion could lead to a life of financial freedom and fulfillment. So, embrace the risks, and know that with hard work, dedication, and perseverance, you can achieve your dreams and enjoy the rewards of being your own boss.

As it turns out, the road to self-employment success is rarely a straight line. It's full of twists, turns, and unexpected challenges. But ask anyone who has been on the journey: the rewards of working for yourself make it all worthwhile.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only.

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