Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Being Your Own Boss – It’s Not as Easy as it Looks

There are many different definitions of the American Dream, but being your own boss is one of the top versions. Imagine setting your own hours, being accountable only to yourself, building a business you might one day hand down to your children. Unfortunately, for all the benefits that being a business owner may offer, there are a lot of disadvantages as well. Some folks are just better off working for someone else – or not working at all – than going out on their own.

As a freelance writer/editor, I’ve been on my own for over 10 years. I’ve also hired several business owners and freelancers, in the process of selling/renting/buying homes, overseeing construction projects, and working with others to make my own writing better. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to deal with a person who is clearly over her head. And just because that person excels at a particular talent does not mean he should go out on his own selling it. If you’re thinking about putting out a shingle and advertising your wares, here are some things to think about as you consider going solo:

Owning your own business does not mean you won’t have a boss. Every single client is your boss. If you have trouble being accountable to one person, multiply that feeling by the number of clients you need to support yourself.

There is nothing more important than your time management skills. Time management is the ability to accurately guesstimate how long a particular project will take you, and plan accordingly. Similarly, time management means having the ability to foresee stumbling blocks and taking those into account. If you believe it takes you five hours to read and evaluate a manuscript, but it’s really closer to ten, you and your clients will be unhappy.

Speaking of stumbling blocks, are you the type of person who easily steps over them or do you find yourself getting flustered? There’s no IT department when you’re on your own. If your internet goes out because your neighbor’s landscaper cut the cable, do you whine about missing emails, or do you pack up your laptop and head to Panera?

What are your organization skills like? Do you routinely update your to-do list and scratch off about 80 percent of your items per week? Or is your to-do list written on the back of napkins or used envelopes? Do you have a to-do list? Being your own boss requires you to juggle many activities that seem only tangentially related to the work you perform (quarterly taxes, anyone). If you have trouble keeping track of and accomplishing everything you need to do, freelance work may not be right for you.

Are you comfortable being available 24/7? Many freelancers want to work for themselves in order to have a flexible schedule. Most clients will respect your wish not to work on weekends or during your children’s afternoon soccer games. But if you’re constantly missing deadlines for personal reasons and ignoring emails and phone calls for days, your business will dry up quickly and you’ll have angry ex-clients badmouthing you.

Organization and time management are key to running a successful business. But if you don’t have these skills, you might consider hiring a “traffic manager” to answer your queries and keep you on track.

Being your own boss is the American Dream. But it can turn into a nightmare if you treat your job more like a hobby. Having angry clients is one thing. Having an angry landlord is something entirely different.

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