I’m starting to see some trends in people’s reactions when I tell them that I’m self-employed. Mostly it amounts to:
“That’s so risky! I could never do that!”
And that’s funny to me . . . because they’re already doing the same thing. We’re all self-employed, whether we like it or not–and the sooner we accept that mindset, the better.
Making a living consists of three steps:
- Producing something valuable.
- Figuring out who needs it.
- Selling it to them.
I create value through writing (most of my copy helps people with their own step #3). I find people who need it through research, advertising, this website, and various client/contractor matching websites. Then I sell it to them through those sites or via paypal. It’s pretty simple.
And it’s the same thing that you’re doing if you have a job. You produce something valuable for your employer, and then your employer buys it from you. The stability of being employed means that you can pretty much ignore steps 2 and 3, but at some point you had to find an employer who valued your skills, and you had to sell those skills to them via a job application. Your business is selling their business something valuable.
So what’s the difference? What’s the trade-off?
I have less stability, sure. I wake up in the morning with no idea how much money I’ll make today. And I have to spend more time on steps #2 and #3–I’ve spent entire mornings trolling through contract postings, or tinkering with the wording of my own advertising material. I spend productive working hours getting rejected and dealing with unpaid rewrites. That’s time that I could’ve spent writing content.
But I’m also getting something more valuable than money. I’m getting an education in what it takes to succeed at those second two steps — finding customers and selling to them! The more I do it, the more I realize how little I knew about it before I started!
Not having that education scares me more than having an income that fluctuates from day to day.
Why? Because there will be a day eventually where that steady job (or money from parents, or whatever) ends and you’ll have to figure something else out. If you don’t know how to find people who value what you do, and how to sell what you have to them–well, it’s a hell of a time to learn. Your personal business, built on a single client and one long-term contract, is suddenly dead in the water.
But if you’ve been in business for yourself and know who needs what you offer . . . well, then the day that steady job ends is just another day. You’ve already got other leads (or if you don’t, then you know how to find them). You know how to survive, you know how to hustle, and your personal business is resilient and flexible.
Best of all, even if that steady job doesn’t end, you’ve still got the option to leave (or ask for more money). Let’s face it–most of the steady jobs suck, and leaving is a lot easier when you have a place to land.
Working for yourself isn’t risky. Betting your financial future on a single job is risky. How risky is your business?
P.s. Want a challenge? Here’s a challenge: Get rejected from something new this week. Ask that barista out, submit an editorial, see if the storekeeper will pay you to build a website . . . it doesn’t matter what, as long as it’s something you haven’t tried before.
And don’t forget to post about it in the comments! The more open we are about rejection, the less afraid of it we are — and dealing with rejection is a big part of taking care of your own business!