Getting a job has been so culturally conditioned in our psyches that it’s almost inconceivable to think about being self-employed. Think I’m wrong? Exaggerating?
Consider your friends and family. How many are self-employed? Now, think about your high school or college classmates. How many chose to work for themselves?
If you are like most of us, you will come up with only a handful of individuals. Why? Because self-employment was not typically presented as an option for a working life in the last 50 years. Now, it’s satisfying to see that colleges and universities are starting schools of entrepreneurial studies and at least giving students some insight into another viable, occupational alternative.
To prepare you for the transition from employment to self-employment, there are a few key changes you will have to make in your thinking and outlook.
For many in the working market, or about to enter the market, opportunity is defined as security. The aim of many of these people is job security, or at least the promise of a stable work environment and a regular paycheck. This really isn’t opportunity; it’s a situation. In a more vintage version of a job description, it was said that one was looking for a situation, with the implication that you want to settle into your job/situation: one that will sustain you for years to come. Then, there is self-employment. When you are self-employed, you are driven by the opportunity, not the situation (think America, Land of Opportunity). Your “situation” is the enterprise that you create to capitalize on opportunity. Security is not the sole objective of creating an enterprise, but can be the by-product of pursuing that opportunity.
In order to recognize and capitalize on opportunity, you need to first retrain your brain. Stop thinking like an employee and focus like an enterpriser. When you see an opportunity, figure-out how to marry this chance with your talents, resources and products. Our conditioning – especially for those born and raised in the years since 1945 – has programmed us to avoid free thinking when it comes to careers, occupations or employment. For many of us, our collective experience in preparing for working life— from parents, elders, educators, counselors— has been to focus on obtaining a situation within a large organization. Corporations, governments, health-care institutions and similar organizations have been the suggested end points for young people seeking employment for as far back as I can remember.
View Yourself and Your World in a New Way
As mentioned above, a large part of the transition to self-employment involves changing those neural pathways that were cut over decades. First, you must learn to think like an entrepreneur, or perhaps a better word might be enterpriser. By this term, I refer to someone who views work as a series of opportunities. An enterpriser can still have a career— that is, working in one profession for a lifetime. The difference is that this career will be punctuated by a series of opportunities.
Launching a new enterprise and hiring yourself for the first time is a daunting task. However, if you go into this task well-prepared, the angst and anxiety of the unknown can be minimized. Here are a few things that you can do to help you reduce the stress of converting from traditional employment to self-employment.
Know Your Business.
Be sure to do your market research and get a clear picture of what you can expect. For example:
- If you’re launching a product/service in an established market, then the task of introducing your brand may be easier and quicker to start earning.
- If you’re entering a mature market that has a crowded marketplace, expect that it may take time to break through and begin earning.
- If you’re introducing a new product/service, or even a new approach to a traditional product/service, you will have to educate prospective customers/clients before you can sell to them. This takes time.
Get Frames of Reference.
Talk to business owners and managers who operate enterprises similar to yours. Find out how long it took them to succeed. Ask about problems/issues that they encountered. If you have realistic examples to draw upon, you will have realistic expectations for your enterprise.