From The Career Files: Do You Have What It Takes To Be Self-Employed?

- From The Career Files: Do You Have What It Takes To Be Self-Employed?

Our society is one of imagined security. Where we live beyond our means, finance everything–from homes to cars–with loans from banks, and count on our bi-weekly paycheck to make a dent in all of the bills that we have. We imagine that the paycheck we’re receiving makes us secure, that all will be well when bonus season finally arrives, and that employer-subsidized health insurance is the answer to all of our doubts about whether this particular job is really the right one for us.

What if you threw it all away today and started your own business? What if you became self-employed (or you “hang a shingle,” so to speak)?

Being self-employed isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires courage, firstly, to step out of the box that our society has pre-packaged for us as the seemingly only appropriate way to live. To say proudly, even if there’s internal doubt, “I work for myself now.” But, aside from courage, what else does it take?

  1. A vision. To start a business of any kind–whether it’s your own law practice, a yoga business, or an ice cream shop–you need to have a vision for what you’d like it to be. If you’re providing services, what services would you like to provide? Who is your ideal client/customer? Will you have a dedicated office, or will you work remotely?

In your field, what makes you stand out as special? In an ideal world, what kind of hours would you like to have? And how much money are you taking in? The more specific you are as you ask yourself these (ideal) questions, the more you can start to take inventory of what you’d really like to gain out of having your own business.

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  2. A business plan. A vision is something that allows you to dream, and to dream big, whereas a business plan is something concrete. A business plan has goals, deadlines, minute steps you’ll need to take, income projections, etc. Make sure it’s a “SMART” business plan–all goals and items are specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and time-based. Think of the business plan as something that you could (if you needed to) hand over to a finance officer at a bank and procure a loan because you have your sh** together (or, at least, it looks that way on paper).

  3. A drive to take you as far as you can go. Courage is courage, but you also need drive to accomplish the tasks on the business plan and to execute steps to create your vision. Drive is like ambition’s more aggressive, less risk-averse cousin; in other words, drive is ambition, without worrying about whether you’ll look like a complete fool. When I first started my coaching business, I had all kinds of ideas and plans as to how I would get clients, but what actually helped me to land clients and what got me moving in my business was my drive.

For example, that drive caused me to reach out to David Lat at Above the Law who put me in touch with Spencer Mazyck from Bloomberg’s Stealth Lawyer series and the interview that resulted from those conversations gave me a lot of free publicity and a boatload of lawyer clients, just a few months after I was starting out. And, I should also add (with gratitude), that the same drive got me a gig as a contributing writer at Above the Law, which has sent many clients my way over the years. However, you can’t fake drive–it’s either there, or it’s not. So dig deep, look at your vision and your business plan, and ask yourself: do I have the drive to take me as far as I can go with this?

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   4. An ability to recognize your ego, and let it take the backseat. We’re all blessed (and cursed) with having an ego, something that is said to have developed as a defense mechanism to keep us alive. Outside the fight-or-flight, near-death scenario, your ego can cause you to act in many ways, from the typical “egotistical” behavior that we generally associate with ego, to a person hiding in the background, completely immobilized due to a paralyzing fear of being rejected. Just take a moment and listen to all of the thoughts running through your mind right now.

Some thoughts will be neutral (eg. The sky looks very blue today); others will be flattering (e.g., You’re the best lawyer in the whole wide world! Everyone would be lucky to work with you! #awesome); and others will be horrifyingly self-deprecating (e.g., You’re completely worthless. No one will ever come to your hack of a law firm.) If you decide to start your own business, you’ll need to take a step back from these ego-based thoughts on a regular basis. Watch the thoughts, but recognize that you don’t have to believe them–just as you wouldn’t run after a moving train, don’t run after the thoughts, especially the ones that tell you that you’re not good enough.

   5. An ability to set boundaries and take care of yourself. One of the reasons why it was so miserable for me to work in law firms was because clients and partners had 24-7 access to me, no matter what was going on in my personal life. And, shockingly, after working in that model for 5 years, when I first started my own business, I made myself available 24-7 to coaching clients and yoga students for support between sessions, for off-schedule appointments, and whatever else they might need. Burnout(this time, of my own making) quickly ensued. I’ve since learned that setting boundaries, both with clients and with yourself, is important.

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As a self-employed individual, it’s tempting to work all of the time, whenever clients need you, or whenever you have a free moment to yourself, because otherwise, how will you pay your bills? But setting boundaries, taking time off, and taking care of yourself is a necessity. Take care of your body (and your mind), breathe, relax, and start again tomorrow. The bills will be paid, clients will still find you and hire you, and that self-respect and self-care will pay off more than a few extra dollars in your pocket.

Megan Grandinetti is a wellness & life coach, yoga teacher, and recovering attorney. Learn more about Megan, and receive a free 10-minute guided meditation, by visiting www.megangrandinettiyoga.com and signing up for her email list.

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Author: Edward Lott

Edward Lott, Ph.D., M.B.A. is president and managing partner of Allentown-based ForLawFirmsOnly Marketing, Inc., a local search and digital marketing agency that offers clients lead generation, local seo and Google Maps Domination. Ed has been a digital entrepreneur since 1994, having discovered very early the opportunities the Internet offered. After having spent over two decades helping attorneys grow their practice, Ed joined the staff of ForLawFirmsOnly Marketing as President and Managing Partner, where he is expanding the agency’s cutting-edge services to the legal market. A true marketing futurist, Ed's vast experience working directly with attorneys has given him a unique perspective on law firm marketing not found in many other digital marketing agencies. Ed has reshaped the offerings of ForLawFirmsOnly to focus on growing law firms through a holistic approach to digital marketing evident in the reformulated lead generation processes now in place. Want to learn more about ForLawFirmsOnly Marketing, their lead generation programs, or just talk to Ed about his visions for helping law firms grow? Call him at 855-943-8736.

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