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3 Mistakes to Avoid When You’re Self Employed

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3 mistakes you need to avoid making if you're self-employed.

Well, I did it. I’ve been self-employed for one year now, and I’m still self-employed. That means I didn’t quit. I didn’t fail. I didn’t decide that a 9-5 gig was safer and better after all. I stayed the course, and it feels awesome, even though there were many moments I was ready to pull my hair out.

For example, very early on, during my second day of self-employment, I got an e-mail from a client saying they quit their blog and no longer needed me as a writer. So, almost immediately out of the gate, I lost a few hundred dollars of my monthly projected income, a number I had calculated a million times just to make sure I could work for myself. Needless to say, after that e-mail, I was scared out of my mind. Was every client going to let me go? (Spoiler: they didn’t.)

That experience brings me to my very first mistake, though, and my advice for newly self-employed people:

1. Don’t Get Too Comfortable Being Self Employed

 

I had almost four years of blogging experience when I became self employed. I had a large list of clients, a decent list of advertisers, and six months of solid income which showed me that I could support myself as long as I kept doing what I was doing. Yet, that made me comfortable, and it was a mistake.

In order to be successful as an entrepreneur, you have to keep creating, keep pushing, and keep reaching. People change. Life intervenes. Not all clients are going to stay with you. Not all readers are going to keep reading. You need to be constantly diversifying and inventing. This is especially true in online businesses when the rules change a lot.

2. Don’t Do Everything Yourself

 

I got about mid-way through the year before I was close to a complete nervous breakdown. Granted, I was taking care of my newborn twins while trying to run a business, and I was stretched very thin. Because I am the sole provider, I wanted all of my income to go towards my monthly expenses. I knew that hiring a virtual assistant would cut into that, and I was determined to do everything myself.

Eventually, I gave in and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. My virtual assistant, Kayla, helps with a million different aspects of my business. She makes sure nothing falls through the cracks. Every morning I forward her several e-mails that I got overnight to take care of, and it’s an instant weight off my shoulders. Yes, her services do cost me quite a bit every month, but without her I’d probably have at least $1,000 less in income every month. You can also apply this to other administrative tasks in order to free up more time. One of my favorite tools to do this with is Freshbooks. Freshbooks allows me to easily keep track of all my invoices, has awesome time tracking tools and many other tools that allow me to work on other things as opposed to focusing on accounting needs.

3. Don’t Go Too Long Without a Break

 

I work 7 days a week out of necessity, and that’s because I never have a full 8 hour workday because I am a stay at home mom. I do a few hours here and a few hours there, so Saturday and Sunday are my days to really get long stretches of work in while my husband watches the twins. All of this can really wear on you after a while.

So, I started taking ballet then hot yoga. I have so many good ideas for my business that pop into my head during yoga that I’ve actually considered bringing a notepad with me to put next to my mat. I’ve noticed that when I force my mind to be quiet, like in yoga or during a drive in the car, my mind is available to brainstorm new things.

If you're self-employed, make yourself aware of these 3 mistakes so you can avoid making them!

I realize that I need more of a break than I allow myself. There is never enough time in the day. There is always something else on the list that could have been done. Despite all that, it’s important for me to recharge, and I’d recommend that to any newly self-employed person regardless of how passionate or determined you may be to make your business work.

 

Are you self-employed? What were some of the mistakes you made early on? What are some lessons you’ve learned about how to grow your business the hard way? What advice do you have for newly self-employed people or those thinking about taking the plunge? What do you want to know that I didn’t discuss?

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Catherine Alford is the go to personal finance expert for parents who want to better their finances and take on a more active financial role in their families. Check out her award winning blog, CatherineAlford.com.

24 Comments

  • Good for you Cat. I just became a father 8 months ago and I would imagine working from home is incredibly difficult. Even on the weekend for me it’s difficult to get more than an hour or two to focus on something. That’s awesome that you’re able to make it work!

    • Cat says:

      Yeah that’s about all I get too. It’s not a luxury if I can actually sit for an hour and write. Usually the hour is all chopped up throughout the day.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    I think we must be a lot alike! I lost a writing job last year and I totally freaked out!

    You’re right that you do have to keep hustling. Eventually, things will fall into your lap…but it takes a while!

  • Kalie says:

    I am just stunned that you were able to do this with newborn twins. You rule! Great tips, too.

  • I am not self employed yet but I am gearing up for it next year. I love post like this because it gives me an insight of what to expect when I do take the leap. Thank you so much.

    • Cat says:

      So excited for you. I remember how hard it was the months leading up to self employment and then reaching the goal was great. 🙂 Good luck!

  • Congrats on one year! I’m amazed at how you’ve been able to increase your business and take care of twins. There really is no excuse for anyone else who thinks they can’t do it.

    • Cat says:

      Thanks Kim! I admit I’m kind of a hard ass about excuses. I don’t like hearing them from others. When there’s a will, there’s a way!

  • As you know I lost a big client too and STILL haven’t recovered. 🙁 My advice would be have a GIGANTIC emergency fund before you take the leap! 🙂

  • I agree, Cat. As an entrepreneur you have to be in love with the process of creating….otherwise you’ll get burnt out on making “new” stuff all the time. I think you also have to be able to batch process tasks because time is an entrepreneur’s greatest ally and biggest enemy.

  • Lauren says:

    So true, you can never get too comfortable. Situations will inevitably change, and that can and will have an impact on your income.

  • Things change SO quickly and frequently with my freelance income. I’ve learned not too used to anything.

    • Cat says:

      It’s true. At least in our business the Internet can make people lose their sites and rankings so fast so I like to be heavily diversified.

  • Great tips Cat and thanks for the shoutout! I am looking forward to making the leap into self-employment this year and I can’t wait to make the change. 🙂

  • Nice tips for would-be self-employeds! I’m really impressed and envious of how you’ve managed to juggle your business with the twins 🙂

  • I would love to see you put a notepad by your mat in yoga! I haven’t done any in awhile, but I can totally see.how it would be a great place for ideas. I come up with a million new tasks for myself when I’m on the treadmill.
    I didn’t know the story of your client tossing in the hat as soon as you started working for yourself. That must have been unnerving. Things seem to have panned out very well though. You’ve got this thing Cat.

  • SMART tips, Cat. Self-employment is a different deal. One must always be prepared to navigate around obstacles, change things up, etc. I love that you hired a VA too – delegation is so important to any successful biz.

  • I definitely had the problem of not taking breaks for myself. When you are self-employed, it’s easy to work 24/7 and you sometimes feel like to have to so that you don’t miss anything. This schedule, though, only burns you out and makes you worthless for anyone. I have started to pay more attention to taking breaks, enjoying the lulls and allowing myself to recharge as much as possible.

  • dojo says:

    My biggest mistake was under-charging. I can afford to throw some very small rates to my clients, since life here is not as expensive as in the US, but I was really lowballing it. Meaning I had to work 16 hour days to make ends meet. Now I have more appropriate rates (even if still very small) and it allows me to earn more and work less.

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