This is the most comprehensive guide to being self-employed you can find online.
So if you want:
To be your own boss.
Make more money.
And have more freedom.
Then you'll love the actionable steps in this guide to being successfully self-employed in 2019.
Let's get started!
1. Define Why You Want Be Self-Employed
Everyone knows that self-employment comes with a lot of perks:
- Be your own boss
- Flexible schedule
- Ability to work from home
- Control over who you want to work with and who you don't
- Uncapped earning potential
Not to mention, you get to do the things you enjoy doing and work with those you want to work with. What could be better than that?
While the perks of self-employment are undoubtedly alluring, the truth is that working for yourself has a TON of downsides:
- No benefits package (worth about 30% of your salary)
- You have to run every part of the business (at least at first)
- If you aren't motivated 24/7, you don't make any money
- If you don't succeed at your work, you don't make any money
- If you don't figure out how to land clients, you don't make any money
- If you aren't better than 50% of your peers, you don't make much money
It's definitely not for the faint of heart.
So before we learn how to be self-employed, we need to define your "why". Why do you want to be self-employed?
You need to answer this question for two reasons.
First, the answer might reveal that you don't actually want to be self-employed... you just want a better job.
For example, you might realize you just really, really hate your boss. You don't actually want all the challenges that come with entrepreneurship. You just want a better boss.
That's an important discovery, because finding a better boss is WAY easier than starting a business.
Or as another example, you might realize you just want to earn more money, and you need to switch to a company or career with more upwards mobility. Again... way easier than starting a business.
But let's say you are absolutely certain you want to be self-employed. It's still worth defining your "why" for a different reason.
Your "why" is what is going to sustain you through the challenging road ahead. When you don't feel motivated, when you hit a big road bump, when the funds are running dry, your "why" is what will give you the push to keep fighting and make it work.
That all sounds a bit dramatic, and to be honest, if you follow a proven plan for building a business, like what we teach here at Consulting.com, it's going to be a much smoother ride that all that, but it's still important that you define your goals and motivations before pushing forward into self-employment.
And speaking of plans...
2. Create Your Business Plan Of Attack
Before you can start finding clients and building your network, you'll need to create a realistic, tangible business plan that will help guide you.
Don't get bogged down by the traditional "business plan" formatting and requirements. What we really mean here is that you need to understand what your goals are and your strategy for achieving them.
A. Define your service or product
Begin by establishing what type of product or service you'll offer. If you already have an idea but aren't sure how to expand on it, this is where research comes in handy. If you aren't entirely sure what type of services you want to offer, a little soul searching may help.
Think about what you're passionate about and expand on that. Do you love to write? Do you have an eye for design? Are you someone who enjoys helping companies work through business problems? Are you good at sales or marketing?
B. Define your niche
Once you know what you are wanting to offer, you need to decide who you are offering it to. Start small. The more focused your niche, they better success you will have through the first few years of your business.
It's counterintuitive, but imagine you are a local gym owner interested in marketing services.
Who would you rather hire?
- "I help businesses improve their marketing."
- "I help gyms improve their marketing."
Since one person focuses only on your type of business, you will have a lot more trust in their expertise to improve your specific type of business.
C. Develop your value proposition
Once you know what you are wanting to offer and who you are offering it to, you need to identify where the value is and be able to communicate it effectively.
This is called your value proposition.
Saying "I offer marketing services" isn't very compelling.
Saying "I improve your marketing" is a little better but still lacking.
Saying "I bring in new clients through marketing" is better but still not quite there.
Saying "I bring in new clients by improving your Google My Business rankings" is more along the lines of what we're looking for.
"Improvement" and "marketing" are vague terms. "New clients" and "improve GMB rankings" are a lot more specific.
D. Create your plan of attack
Now that we have the targets in place and a general idea of how we are going to provide value, it's time to plan the actual numbers of building a business.
Again, don't be intimidate by this. It's supposed to be practical, not a skill unto itself.
Here's an example "business plan":
I help local gyms increase their clients month-to-month by increasing their Google My Business (GMB) rankings.
I'm going to work with 10 local gyms every month at a rate of $500 per client per month, bringing in a total of $5,000 revenue per month.
I will need to spend 4 hours per week on each client, which will be focused on improving their GMB rankings. My deliverables will be bringing in new clients through their website via GMB.
In order to land these clients, I'm going to reach out to every locally owned gym in town until one of them agrees to work with me. If I need to, I'll do the first client on a pay-for-results basis, and then once I get them results, I'll have them refer me to gym owners they know in other towns. I'll also do my own cold outreach citing the results from the first client.
That's it. This is way more useful than a 10-page business plan full of fluff and made-up bs. Being self-employed is all about being simplicity and practicality!
3. Plan Out Your Finances
Before you start working with clients, it's best to get your finances in line. That way, you can save yourself from the headache that often comes with managing money.
There are endless ways you can take charge of your financial situation, whether you hire an accountant who has experience with self-employed people, or you take a DIY approach and learn the ins and out yourself.
One thing is for sure: No matter how you choose to manage your money, make sure you have a good handle on it. As a self-employed person, it's up to you to keep, understand, and monitor your business' finances, even if you have an accountant in your corner.
If you do choose the DIY option, consider investing in accounting software that will take the guesswork out of most (if not all) tasks associated with your finances. Most popular accounting software makes managing your finances easier than ever with features like automated invoices, profits and loss reporting, and up-to-date expense tracking.
Below are a few things you may want to consider as you're setting up your finances:
- Register your business as an LLC, sole proprietor, independent contractor, etc.
- Open a business bank account for profits and taxes
- Create a budget to help plan for expenses and profit goals
- Understand your healthcare options if you live in the US
Money is a common stressor among many self-employed people, so it's best to tackle the beast head-on from the get-go. Having a pulse on your finances will not only help you see how much you've made each month, but it can influence your rates (including when you should raise them) and ensure you have enough saved for tax season.
If money talk makes your head spin, it's worth talking to or hiring an accountant or financial planner that specializes in self-employment.
4. Build Your Initial Leads Channel
It goes without saying that client work is a top priority as a self-employed person; if you don't do the work, you won't have any clients to give you more work. However, it's easy to spend your days working only on client-related tasks and let important tasks for your business fall by the wayside.
After a long day of checking off to-dos and acing client calls, carving out time to work on your business may be the last thing you want to do. But to get your dream clients, you have to invest time in not only finding those clients but marketing your business.
If you want to succeed at being self-employed long term, you need to build a channel that brings in recurring leads.
Your lead-finding approach should be rooted in building genuine relationships, demonstrating your industry expertise, and making it clear to leads why they need to work with you.
Below are a few tactics you can implement on a regular basis as part of your ongoing lead-generation strategy:
- Writing blog posts on your website
- Contributing as a guest writer for an industry publication
- Create an email sequence for leads
- Use paid advertising to bring in clients
- Refine your social media ads
- Tweak your new business pitch (and tweak it again)
- Network with peers and potential clients on social media groups, in Slack channels, etc.
If you have some capital to invest in your business, paid advertising is a fantastic channel to quickly being getting leads. It also scales well, allowing you to grow fairly large once you find the winning ad strategy.
This is the method we teach here at Consulting.com and it has allowed over 3,000 of our students to quit their jobs thanks to their thriving businesses. Click below to see us break down this method for free:
5. Setup Tools & Systems To Save Time
As a self-employed person, there is no one to tell you what systems, processes, apps, or tools you need to learn or use. It's all up to you to decide how you're going to work and what you're going to work with.
While this may be exciting to some, it can be overwhelming for others. The plethora of tools available doesn't make choosing any easier either. But, it's essential to have something in place to help you get your best work done while staying organized and productive.
Try implementing a few of these processes and see how much time you can save.
A. Client onboarding
Develop a new client-onboarding process complete with everything you need to kickoff a project. That way every time you bring on a new client, you know precisely what you need to do and when you need to do it. Nothing will slip through the cracks, and you can be as efficient as possible.
B. Client management
Effective client management boils down to you both being on the same page in terms of communication, expectations, deadlines, and other aspects of a project. Different clients are sure to require different management styles.
Understanding how best to work with each other can take some time, but to help speed up that process, introducing a system that streamlines everything from how you submit work for review to invoices and contracts can make a world of difference. Making things easier for both you and your client will lay the foundation for a happy, long-term relationship.
C. Lead vetting
As a self-employed person, spending time weeding through potential leads can be time-consuming. Instead of spending time on contacts that may not be a good fit, creating a way to filter out potential clients that don't align with your offerings, whether it's your price range or your services, can save you tons of time and energy.
Maybe this means creating an email sequence that sends a PDF of your rates to every potential client that fills out your contact form, or requiring all new leads to fill out a project form so you can determine if they'll be a right fit.
Whatever it is, having a streamlined lead vetting process will not only save you time, but it'll help you figure out which leads are worth pursuing.
D. Social media, scheduling, and more
Automation can help you save time, but to make it work best, it often requires a bit of work on the front-end. The list of reliable tools is endless. Whatever you need, there is likely an app for that.
Over time you'll know what tools and systems work best for you and help you do your best work. As your business grows, your processes and systems likely will, too.
6. Set Good Boundaries (And Stick To Them)
A common issue that plagues the self-employed community is one you've likely heard of. The pressure to be working at all hours can take hold, and before you know it, you're hearing words like "workaholic" and "busy" constantly from friends and family.
In fact, a study from FreelancerMap found that of the participants, 40% work more than 40 hours per week. What's more, a quarter of the participants work more than 50 hours per week.
The autonomy that comes with self-employment is challenging to manage for some more than others. For those struggling with this new-found freedom, burnout is usually the result if no changes are made.
Plus, if you work from home, it can be especially difficult to separate work from your personal life. Therefore it's important to establish boundaries from the getgo to save yourself from burnout or from getting taken advantage of.
A. Define your working hours
A great way to set boundaries from the start is by setting office hours for both your clients and yourself. The beauty of self-employment is that you can work whenever you are most productive, so capitalize on that.
If you work best in the morning, save that time for your most pressing to-dos and leave the rest of the day for things like client calls and administrative tasks. If you're more of a night owl, you can allocate time during the day to communicating with clients and save your evenings for project work.
Whatever your preference, be sure to communicate your office hours to your clients, so they understand when you're available. Pro Tip: include your office hours in some of your early communications, like during your onboarding process, so it's clear from the start when clients can expect to hear from you. Some self-employed people even go as far as including it in their contracts.
B. Create a designated workspace
In addition to setting communication boundaries, working from home can often lead to unproductive days spent in pajamas interrupted by kids and partners.
To help remedy this, create designated office space and treat it like you would a regular office. Not only will you have a space to block out distractions, but this may help you leave work "at work."
C. Communicate your availability to family and friends
Another boundary to set is with free and discounted work for family and friends. It seems like as soon as you announce that you're starting your own business, the requests for work from friends and family come flooding in. Here's the reality: you are a business owner, and you need to make a living. We're not suggesting that you shouldn't help friends and family, but you have to make sure it's not going to cost you your livelihood.
Lastly, use discretion when giving discounts or doing work for free, and make it clear that paying clients have to come first. Although this can be an awkward conversation to have, it's crucial to ensure you don't lose any business.
7. Define Your Long-Term Goals
As you immerse yourself in the world of self-employment, it's easy to play the comparison game. You may feel pressure to do *all the things* at once and if your business hasn't reached a certain point or milestone, you are a wild failure.
Give yourself time to figure out what lifestyle works best for you and what success means to you. Your picture of success may look drastically different from someone else's—and that's okay. Figure out what success looks like and create a plan to make that vision a reality.
Self-employed culture often comes with the notion that "if you're not scaling, you're failing" or if you aren't signing on several investors, your goals aren't big enough.
If your goal is to scale your business to a multi-office corporation, make it happen.
If your goal is to remain a one-person operation that works with a handful of clients at a time, keep it that way.
No matter your business goals, one thing all successfully self-employed people have in common is resiliency and discipline. Being able to adapt to change quickly and figure out new ways to serve your clients is what will keep you in business.
The bottom line: Define what success is in your mind and work towards fulfilling that.
8. How To Be Self-Employed: Never Stop Learning
The final step on our list might just be the most important.
When you are self-employed the buck stops with you. If you do it, it gets done. If you don't do it, it doesn't get done.
This is why ongoing learning and mastery are so important. If you aren't committed to ongoing learning, you won't make it far as an entrepreneur, freelancer, or independent consultant.
And the further you grow your business, the more even minor revelations can have profound effects on your business.
For example, one of our students was able to double his monthly revenue from a simple suggestion in our Consulting Accelerator that recommended switching from a la carte services to service packages. He was already making great money before, but he invested in learning and it paid off massively!
Another one of our students was already making $130k per month and she chose to continue learning, purchased our course, and is now doing $830k per month!
Anything is possible when you continue learning. As a self-employed person, there is no cap on your income!
So whether you purchase a course, find a mentor, or just dive into free resources on your own, never stop learning.
For now, if you'd like to check out our premium course, completely free, simply click below!