It is such a glamorous idea, working for yourself – waking up late, working in your PJs, jetting off wherever you want without taking leave and just rolling in the cash in the process. Right? Right. Except that is not what it is. There is a misconception of how this whole ‘Be your own Boss’ thing works and it’s almost like people think that because you’re not chained to a desk and trying to stay out of office politics that affect your career, you’ve got it easy.
I made the great escape from corporate and started out on my own and have been at it for nearly 3 years already. I’ve often been asked by friends how to do it and if they should give it a go and I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now, so that you all know.
South Africa is rife with entrepreneurship and my brother once told me that if you’ve got something to sell/provide and you’re confident that there are enough people that will pay you for it, then you can start your own business. This is true, but there are very unique obstacles to working for yourself that you have to be prepared to accept and be strong enough to deal with, else you should just stay in that little corporate bubble and count your blessings because if you fall, you fall pretty hard and take an emotional beating along the way.
I love my current setup and the way that I work, I love my clients and how I handle them, but it is not an easy game and here’s the cold hard truth as to why.
You need money to start
Even if you’re not starting a business that requires a capital outlay, you will need money to live while you get things up and running and find people who want to give you their money. Gather this up beforehand so that you don’t have to stress about covering your expenses while you’re starting to find your feet. Have the finances covered and then you can focus on what you need to do to start making some regular money.
Clients don’t just fall into your lap
Unless you are incredibly well connected (with no restraint of trade) and are the only provider of air to humans, this is going to be a really difficult step. Just because you’re good at something or have something to offer doesn’t mean that this will attract clients through wind pollination. You will have to get out there, go to stupid networking events, cold-call, phone in favours, research and schmooz. And you’re going to have to do it over and over again until you are in a position where you’re getting enough money in to be comfortable. You will be shot down and messed around and just take it in your stride.
Once you’ve done it, you’re well on your way. It’s far more rewarding to have done this on your own than to have relied on corporate structures to give you what you need.
Working in pyjamas is overrated
There will come a time when you wake up one day and head on over to your desk and realise that if you wear another pair of yoga pants in your life you’re going to die lonely and suffocated by all your cats.
There’s nothing better than snuggling up under a blankie with your laptop in the middle of winter though, no self-respecting humans should be out in that weather.
It can be isolating
When you’re no longer in an office full of people all day every day, you’re suddenly faced with your own self, all the time. I am well aware that I am awesome, but nobody else is going to tell me that. You also won’t be invited to Johnny from Accounts’ braai and find yourself trying to find an excuse not to go. Bouncing ideas can be tricky and there’s no such thing as a year-end function with free champagne.
Self-discipline is a real thing
You’ve got to be the kind of person that is self-motivated, self-disciplined and have skin as thick as a rhino, naturally. You’ve got nobody to pat you on the back when you’ve done a good job and also nobody to kak you out if you’ve done a bad one. It’s all you, babe. You’ve got to focus and not play with the neighbour’s cat instead or go ride horses on the beach because it seems more fun (I really have done these things, it’s no joke).
You don’t get a holiday
You can GO on holiday, for sure, but your work goes with you. You’ll quickly learn how to multi-task so that your work fits in with whatever you’re doing and doesn’t make too much of a fuss on your holiday, but you’ll never really be away from it unless you have someone you trust to cover for you while you’re gone (this is rare to find and when you do, hold on damn tight).
You need emergency funds, all the time
Pack away some savings and keep it replenished. There will be times when your clients pay you late, or pay you at the last minute with a cheque that only clears in a week, just for fun. You’ll need emergency funds to cover your important expenses while you wait for them to get their shit together.
You are everything
You are everything to your business. You need to understand marketing and sales, tax (vomit) and finances, business development, IT, admin, project management, client relationship management, data analysis and whatever else is thrown your way. Also remember to be a normal human being too and have a social life and some fun.
Opportunities are endless
All that being said, if you can jump over all those hurdles on a daily basis and enjoy the challenges of each new day, you will find a freedom that you won’t get anywhere else. (I can neither confirm nor deny having worked while lying on the beach). Opportunities really are endless and you can shape things however you see fit. That’s worth any amount of hard work, I tell you.