11 Tips for Getting Started & Succeeding in Self Employment

You are not necessarily born to be an employee. Nor are you necessarily born to be an entrepreneur. You ARE, however, DEFINITELY born to express your gifts and talents, to make a contribution and to do that in a way that sets your heart on fire! You have the potential to succeed no matter which path you choose. Though often people have a natural inclination one way or another…

For some people they thrive working in a job for someone else's company. They followed their intuition to do so, or opportunity knocked on their door and they answered! That's awesome.

For other people, however, there is a desire to step out into the world as their own boss, as the master of their own creations and pathway. The motivating factors behind a desire to be self-employed tend to be reasonably similar.

It might be that you desire freedom. That freedom comes in various forms. The freedom to choose, develop and share your own business service or product, the freedom to deliver that to market in a way that aligns to your personal values, passions and creative ideas, the freedom to work the hours and days you choose, the freedom to have unlimited earning potential (if you smartly structure your business for leverage and scalability!)

It might be that you know what you were put on this planet to do and you're super passionate about getting your product, service, vision or word out there into the world, so self-employment and business is just a vehicle for fulfilling what is really a deeper calling for you.

It might be that you love to create things, build things, fix things, start things, sell things, promote things, network, interact, and so self-employment allows you a way in which to express all the parts of yourself that you have to give.

No matter what your motivation for being self-employed, or wanting to be self-employed, one of the traits of successful, thriving, balanced self-employed entrepreneurs is that they remain open to HOW they evolve personally and how they evolve their business. They are adaptable, flexible and like sponges for knowledge, wisdom and skills that will help them to achieve their vision. They face their customer market, their supply market, their labour market, the entire world for that matter (!), with clarity of purpose, drive, a positive mindset and several other key attributes and frameworks which SUPPORT their business growth and success.

I know there are LOADS of people out there (amongst our blog readers, in our personal and professional networks, and in our social media network) that are either currently self-employed (at various stages of business evolution) or have a deep desire to be self-employed (but might not know how to get started, or they are blocked by fear). This blog is for all of you!

I wanted to share with you nuggets of wisdom from someone else's first-hand experience. That someone is a very successful self-employed person that I know very well. I have watched this person diligently go about creating his self-employed lifestyle from scratch, very successfully, and I've always admired his approach and the way he has carried himself personally and professionally through his endeavours. When I see people like this and I watch them walk their talk and thrive, I want to know one thing – HOW DO YOU DO IT?

Why do I want to know that? So I can share it with you of course!

We are not here in life to mimic other people, or compare ourselves. But we are here to learn and evolve. There is much we can gain from noticing the wisdom that others have gathered on their journey and seeing how this might apply to our own situation. Wisdom is passed down from generation to generation, as well as across markets, across businesses and shared amongst peers. It is learnt from first-hand experience. It is also learnt from asking smart questions of the right people who have walked the path ahead of you.

So in this blog, I am sharing 11 gold nuggets of wisdom for getting started and succeeding in self-employment from my brother-in-law, Hamish Walker. It's been a pleasure to watch his success, and I'm very proud to know someone who made it happen for themselves. A vision turned into reality is a beautiful thing to behold!

Hamish is currently a partner of a prestigious law firm (Izard Weston) in New Zealand's capital city of Wellington, where the company serves some of the country's largest private companies and Government organisations, as well as start-up and small/medium sized businesses.  Hamish loves life as a self-employed Barrister & Solicitor, alongside other partners at the firm, and preceding this he was also self-employed as the principal of another law firm, Walker & Co.

As you read, notice what resonates with you, what triggers you, what inspires you and lights the self-employed fire in your belly!

1. Get clear on what drives you

All those years ago, what initially motivated you to become self-employed?

  • The desire to control my own destiny by owning my own business, and in so doing to move ahead financially and to create something I was proud of.
  • Freedom was a big part of that.
  • Having trained and worked as a lawyer, and enjoyed it, stepping up and running my own legal practice was a natural progression.

2. Dream, plan, believe, act

What lessons have you learnt that you wish you knew when you first became self-employed?

Many small lessons, and some bigger ones, but a lot of things you just have to learn through experience and making mistakes. What works for someone else doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you, but there is a lot to learn from the right people.

To maximise your chances of success, you do need to:

  • Dream big
  • Plan it
  • Believe it
  • Back it up with action

3. Hone the traits and skills for success

What do you believe are the essential personal traits for success in self-employment?

  • Discipline
  • Self-motivation
  • Time management
  • Organisation
  • Delegation
  • Leveraging other people's time and expertise
  • Tenacity
  • Ability to deal with a wide variety of people and personalities
  • Good self-awareness, and
  • A hunger, desire and belief in what you are trying to achieve.

NOTE from B: For those of you reading this and thinking… “NUTS, I don't have all those traits/skills!” Well, guess what? YOU CAN LEARN THEM. You are far more capable and malleable than you realize. Almost anything, be it a trait, skill, behavior or belief/mindset can be created within you with the right support. So don't let yourself find a reason why you can't do something, instead… look for the ways you can fill your gaps so that you CAN do it!

4. Learn and apply techniques for dealing with uncertainty

How have you dealt with uncertainty, particularly around creating opportunities and a pipeline of work for your business?

  • Having good people to talk to about different things, to use as a sounding board, to go to for advice or mentoring, or just to lend a sympathetic ear.
  • To have a clear vision and defined goals and targets and to visualise and remind myself of those constantly.
  • To suck it up, and just get out there and do it – you usually know what you need to do if you really listen to that inner voice, and you need to have the courage to just act on that.

5. Be aware of the challenges of self-employment – forewarned is forearmed

What do you perceive to be the greatest challenges/risks for a self employed person?

  • Lack of support
  • Not knowing what you don’t know
  • Knowing what you don’t know and not doing anything about it
  • Insufficient working capital
  • Balancing growing the business with cashflow
  • Taking on staff
  • Keeping all the balls in the air

6. Plug your gaps

For anyone who is an expert in their chosen field, and passionate about their craft, but with limited business skills – what advice would you give them before they dive into self-employment?

Surround themselves with the right people who can do the things that they can’t, or who will help them do those things themselves. You do not have to be an expert in everything (no-one is!), but you need to cover all bases.

7. Team Up Your “Being” & Your “Doing”

What practical steps have you found most important for ensuring the vision for your success turns into results?

  • Action; planning what actions need to be taken to transform a vision and dreams into reality, and then taking those actions.
  • Also, very importantly, to maintain belief in the vision, by visualisation and by sharing that vision and my journey with those closest to me

8. Embrace the Fear

Many people have a vision for their career success in self-employment but feel paralyzed about moving forward because of fear about failing and fear about the risks involved. What would you say to those people?

  • Acknowledge the fear, and even embrace the fear! If you do not feel some form of fear or nervousness, I would almost be inclined to think you do not care enough about what you are doing to actually pull it off. There will always be risks, challenges and obstacles, and you need to really want it to get past those.
  • Do your homework of course, and plan for, assess and put in place measures to deal with those risks, but …

9. Don't forget to live, love and enjoy life along the way

Being self-employed must come with its own unique challenges and stresses. If you had to pick 4 key ingredients not just for success, but for true happiness as a self-employed person, what would those 4 things be?

  1. Balance – make sure you maintain other interests, relationships, exercise and health
  2. Sharing the experience with someone else, whether business partners, a relationship partner, family or close friends
  3. Give it your absolute best shot. Don’t die wondering!
  4. Perspective – be grateful that you are in the position that you are in, and remember that problems are often conduits for a breakthrough in some aspect of your business or for moving up to the next level

10. Have a team of expert advisors you can call upon

How important is it to have expert advisors and trusted confidantes if you are self-employed?

Absolutely critical, they will make you much more than they cost you and are worth their weight in gold in the success of your business.

11. Acknowledge the upsides and celebrate them

What are the biggest upsides of being self-employed?

For me, a sense of pride in what I have created and can create, controlling my own destiny, the freedom that comes with that, and freedom in the sense of doing what I want when I want (within reason of course, especially when you are in business with others).

Hamish Walker is a partner at Izard Weston, a legal firm providing advice for some of New Zealand's largest companies and Government sector organisations. Hamish has a strong commercial, property and private client practice. He primarily works with start-ups and small/medium sized businesses, with all aspects of their operations, and provides advice on structure, governance, compliance and contracts. He also assists individuals and families, and provides expert advice on property, estate planning, family trusts and asset protection. Hamish enjoys working proactively with clients. He works to understand his clients businesses and personal circumstances, and focuses on achieving their desired outcomes.

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