posted on Jul, 2 2012 @ 05:12 PM
I've been self employed as a title examiner and paralegal for almost 23 years now. I've worked on payroll for others only a few times in my life,
mostly in my teenage and college years. I come from a long family tradition of self-employment "cottage industries." The legal research is my
primary business, but I also have a few other little businesses on the side- a little metalworking, sewing (sails and oceanographic sampling nets),
art, proofreading and ghost writing, to name a few. The metalwork business I do mostly with my husband, who is also a self-employed carpenter (I've
helped in that as well). I'm thinking of taking up beekeeping.
Most people I know are self-employed or work for very small businesses.
There are a lot of myths about self-employment. Many of the seminars and how-to books around push business ideas that are already past their peak and
oversaturated in the market. They also tend to focus on things that require a lot of start-up capital and written business plans. Beware of these
ideas: they're often no more than marketing tactics for franchises or pre-packaged business kits.
I don't know a single successful self-employed person who ever wrote a business plan, but I know a lot of people who wrote business plans and failed.
And now for the good advice:
1) Find a niche and fill it. Look around and listen to people in your area. What's a needed service or item that could be provided better from a
small business than a large corporation? Who would be the customer? Can you provide what they need or want at a price that would work for them? Find
something that either nobody else is doing, or an angle that others in the business are overlooking.
2) Better to underprice than overprice, particularly when you first begin. Even once you get established, don't ever gouge the customer. Don't turn
away work, however small. Treat your customers well and be willing to go the extra mile.
3) Genuinely like what you do. You won't be getting vacation time, you will work holidays, and there will be no company pension so don't expect to
retire in style unless you end up being extremely successful. You won't be getting sick days off either. If you don't do the work, it doesn't get
done. There is a happy side to this, though. You are the boss. When the work is done, or at least under control, you can do what you want.
4) Don't go into business with the aim of becoming a huge business or selling the company out for a huge profit. Those opportunities might come
about, but aiming for that will only distract you from what's really important along the way. Successful entrepreneurs do not usually fantasize about
giving up their business.
5) Most bookkeeping chores aren't anywhere near as critical as some would have you believe. Keep a reasonable enough record of what you really need
to, but don't piddle around making pie charts on your computer. It's far better to toss the paperwork into shoeboxes and get going with the real
6) Stay away from computer software designed to help you manage your business. Nobody knows what system will work best for you or your business. You
won't even know that yourself until you really get established.
7) It's best to learn by doing. If you need to learn skills before you can start your business, take a job with a small business where you can learn
them in practice rather than going back to school.
8) Don't go into more debt than absolutely necessary.
9) Don't be too quick to hire or take on partners. If someone else could be of help, work with them on a sub-contract basis.
10) Diversify to the extent you can, and be a jack-of-all-trades. Develop several small businesses if you can and run them concurrently. If one
business fails or hits a slow time, you'll have the others.
A few ideas, there. I hope it helps.