Powerful Lessons for the Self-Employed

David Andrew Wiebe

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Gartner says over 80% of company leaders plan to permit remote work after the pandemic.

With remote work becoming the norm, many are also turning to side hustles and the possibility of starting their own businesses to supplement their income.

It has been my observation and experience that money is still changing hands, and some freelancers and entrepreneurs have even increased their incomes during self-isolation.

Self-employment isn’t for everyone. But it does represent a significant opportunity, not just because of the income available, but also because of the joy that can come from building something you care about.

Here are some of the greatest takeaways I have earned from working entirely from home for over four years.

Your Upside Potential is Limitless

Your upside potential, especially in terms of earnings, is only limited by your imagination.

Your first response to this statement might be that regardless of profession – graphic designer, search engine optimizer, copywriter, or otherwise – there are established industry norms and standards that should not be violated.

But that is employee mindset. What a self-employed quickly discovers is that not only can they charge more than industry standard, but there are also a multitude of revenue earning opportunities they can integrate into their business.

These opportunities vary in difficulty, and the amount of time and effort required for each also varies. But many of them only require an initial “push” to get up and running.

If you’re lost, explore possibilities like:

· Making an eBook

· Making a course

· Starting a membership

· Affiliate marketing

· Advertising

· Revenue share deals

· Strategic partnerships

I have generated revenue from most if not all the above.

Your knee-jerk reaction might be that these opportunities are all but saturated, but that is simply not the case. Customers will spring for an eBook or course if they believe they will be better off for the knowledge gained.

And regardless of method, there are always underserved niches, or at the very least existing systems you can plug yourself into.

Everything takes time and energy. But when you create something that generates passive or recurring revenue, you can free up more of your time or reinvest in your business.

Knowledge Costs Money, Ignorance Costs Time

As someone who has experience in a variety of fields, be it graphic design or music production, I can honestly say that gaining knowledge in your area of expertise will require a great deal of time.

There is much to know that you may not even want to learn – invoicing, social media, setting up a website, and more.

But your progress will surely be hindered by what you do not know.

I recently spent $40 on a 36-page eBook on Twitter growth. Was it worth it? Every penny!

In many ways, I was on the right track with my Twitter strategy. That said, I was aware that there were gaps in my knowledge.

I found the missing pieces I was looking for in the previously mentioned eBook. Having said that, it helps that I trusted the source I was buying from to equip me with the tactics I needed.

The point is that I could have spent months or years trying to figure out what I found inside the eBook. And that’s time I would have never gotten back.

When investing in yourself, don’t just consider how much money it’s going to cost. Also look at how much time you’ll save.

Showing Up is Half the Battle

Oftentimes, I land new contracts not on the merits of my skill or experience, but on the merits of showing up.

This does not mean I am not skilled or experienced. But it is not rare that I get hired to do work that I would consider ancillary to my primary products and services.

Whether you choose to pick up this type of work is up to you.

There are times to say “yes,” such as when you need the financial outlay to continue growing your business. Likewise, there are times to say “no,” such as when your project queue is full.

By the way, you should be the one to decide when your project queue is full. Not your clients. If you let your clients decide, some may take up an inordinate amount of time and worst-case scenario use you as their personal assistant.

You are not in control of your time if your clients are (more on this later).

But how do you keep showing up for your audience and make sure you’re top of mind with them?

There are different ways of approaching this, but personally, I publish daily.

My blog posts aren’t always read or viewed. That doesn’t make much of a difference when it continues to generate leads.

Showing up is easy to do, easy not to do. But one thing I can say for sure – it doesn’t happen by accident.

Use Failure as a Building Block

Failure is painful. And it is not entirely avoidable.

Actioning the tips outlined in this article will help, but at times you will make the mistake of biting off more than you can chew. All ambitious people do.

Do not concern yourself with the failure as much as what you will do to make things right.

If a client is not the right fit for you, find another freelancer or business that can help them.

If you cannot deliver projects on time, find a way to make it up to your client. Buy them dinner. Send them flowers. Offer a discount.

There is always something to be learned from failure. And one of the best things you can do when your integrity is broken is to put a new workable structure in place.

For example, you could give yourself more leeway for the delivery of projects in the future.

If you fail and do nothing, then you will repeat the same mistakes, and the pain could compound.

Dig a Mile Deep and an Inch Wide

Do not try to master everything at once.

To illustrate, let’s turn to the example of marketing, specifically social media channels.

What many people try to do is be everywhere. Create a presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and more.

You would be much better off developing your expertise on one channel. I can almost guarantee that you will not maximize any one channel without first mastering one.

Entrepreneur on Fire’s John Lee Dumas often says, don’t go a mile wide and an inch deep. Go a mile deep and an inch wide.

There are nuances to everything, be it creating content, sending emails, or following up with clients.

Learning conventions and best practices will make you effective. Once you’ve learned the rules, differentiating yourself in smart and calculated ways can make you stand out and help you maximize opportunities.

Don’t spread yourself thin, especially early on. Keep drilling until you strike gold.

Take Control of Your Time

Former CD Baby founder Derek Sivers says if you’re busy, you’re not in control of your time.

Importantly, you will need to learn to say “no” to the occasional birthday party, wedding, or social outing if you’re ambitious and respect your time.

As an aside, you do not respect other people’s time if you do not respect your own. It all begins with self.

But getting back to the point, if you’re busy, then you aren’t in control. You have contingencies not accounted for, or systems not created.

In terms of contingencies not accounted for, you may be underestimating the amount of time and energy a project requires or overestimating the amount of time or energy you have available for work.

If you have too much work and not enough money, then you cannot hire or delegate. Which typically means your prices need to come up.

In terms of systems not created, beginning with the literal or metaphorical “blank page” is going to cost you. Author Dan Kennedy says:

All wealth is based upon systems.

You should have templates, references, or swipe files you can draw from when beginning a new project.

Prioritization is a skill worthy of mastering, over and above productivity, which is better defined as “getting things done.” Getting the right things done is paramount to all else. As SuperFastBusiness founder James Schramko says, that’s effectiveness.

Don’t waste the prime hours of your day on admin tasks like invoicing. Do the work that generates revenue and makes a difference for you and your clients. Do invoicing after.

Surround Yourself with Sharp People

Sharp people are everywhere – on Twitter, in Facebook groups, on forums, inside membership communities, and more.

Associate with them. Watch them. Learn from them. Model them where it makes sense (but don’t copy them).

It doesn’t matter much whether they become mentors, friends, or acquaintances. You can even watch from afar.

What matters most is you surround yourself with people who are just as ambitious as you are if not more.

Birds of a feather tend to flock together. It should not surprise you when you aren’t motivated or don’t have longevity when you regularly associate with people who do not demonstrate a similar drive.

This should extend into hiring as well. Though hiring full-time employees may not be in the cards early on, you should leverage the help of freelancers and contractors using platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer.

I recently brought on a podcast editor and I could not be more thrilled about that decision. It shaves several hours off my week and helps me focus on the basics and the joy of content creation.

Final Thoughts

Some of the greatest gains in self-employment will arrive in the form of lessons and personal growth. What you learn as result of starting your side hustle or business will prove valuable, regardless of where you end up taking it.

Use the learnings, strategies, and tactics above to make your efforts efficient, profitable, and most importantly, enjoyable.

Sources

· HR Dive – Gartner: Over 80% of company leaders plan to permit remote work after pandemic, https://www.hrdive.com/news/gartner-over-80-of-company-leaders-plan-to-permit-remote-work-after-pande/581744/

· John Lee Dumas, https://www.eofire.com/

· Derek Sivers, https://sive.rs/

· James Schramko, https://www.superfastbusiness.com/

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