Today, there are more different ways to become self-employed than ever, from starting an eCommerce business to getting a freight broker license. For people who value independence highly, being your own boss has tremendous psychological benefits, and it can also be financially lucrative for those who find a way to leverage their unique combination of aptitude and circumstance. But becoming your own boss also requires a lot of planning, patience, and self-discipline.
If you’re eager to join the ranks of the self-employed, read up first on these 5 key concepts for building a sustainable path to true self-determination. We’ll talk about the big-picture considerations that will help you shape your vision and arrive at something that’s both meaningful and practical.
1. Understand what it means to be your own boss.
Fundamentally, being your own boss means becoming an entrepreneur. It means finding a product or service that other people need, and then determining a way to make that product or service profitable. Within that core idea are a few different frameworks for becoming your own boss. You might start a traditional brick and mortar business, or you might join the booming eCommerce channel with a drop shipping business or social media storefront. Alternatively, you might choose to enter the world of freelancing and consulting, putting your skills to work at your own pace and on your own terms.
No matter which you choose, realize that being your own boss means taking responsibility for your successes and your struggles. It’s your job to keep up with market trends, trim waste from your budget, and develop the interpersonal communication skills that will help you maintain productive business relationships. The sooner you accept a mindset of personal responsibility, the sooner you’ll be in the right headspace to become self-sufficient.
2. Identify something that the market needs and how to provide it.
Being your own boss also means answering to the ultimate higher power (at least when it comes to business): the forces of the market. That’s why it’s so crucially important to understand the specific market in which you’ll be offering your products or services, and to have a plan for aligning your business’s offerings with the market’s needs.
Perform some careful market research to determine how you can align your business with current trends and demands. Take time to examine your target demographics, market conditions, and historical trends. Learn about the industries currently experiencing high demand and examine which ones might be a good fit for you.
Think about how the skills and resources you already have fit into the market. Do you have in-demand proficiencies like web design or network security? What about access to a large vehicle for moving equipment? Maybe you have a large network of contacts from previous jobs that you can use to build a customer base. Any of these can be assets, as long as they’re used correctly.
3. Consider starting your business as a side hustle.
The “side hustle” is a time-honored entrepreneurial tradition that can help you get your business started with limited time and financial resources. It’s a pretty simple idea: Start small, with a limited selection of products and services that you sell in your spare time. Take note of what works and reinvest the money you make into growing your business.
Today’s market offers lots of tools for helping your side hustle take off. Social media is a great way to get started by building through word of mouth among family and friends. Freelancing platforms like Fiverr help people enter the creative workforce at their own pace, while eCommerce platforms like Shopify and Etsy make it relatively simple to start your own online store.
Working a side hustle is definitely challenging. Of course, so is quitting your day job and going all-in on your independent entrepreneurial venture. Which one you choose is up to you, and it will ultimately come down to your tolerance for risk and your level of starting resources.
4. Learn about the legal requirements for starting a small business.
Self-employment also means taking on new dimensions of legal and financial responsibility. Planning for these responsibilities should be part of how you conceptualize self-employment from the beginning.
Start by learning about the local, state, and federal regulations you’ll need to follow as a business owner. Familiarize yourself with any special licensing requirements that you’ll need to pursue your chosen line of work. These requirements often include things like paying fees, passing professional exams, and/or purchasing surety bonds and insurance.
Remember that becoming self-employed will also create major changes in your tax situation, including having to pay self-employment tax. If you have employees, your tax responsibilities become even more complex. It’s always a good idea to talk with a tax professional before you start a new business to learn about what your new responsibilities will be.
5. Assemble a team around you.
Being your own boss doesn’t mean rolling solo all the time. In fact, almost all self-employed people rely on some help from others to run a productive and profitable business. The more assiduously you cultivate these relationships, the more they’ll strengthen your business’s resilience and flexibility. As you sketch out your path to entrepreneurship, take note of points where outside assistance could make a difference. Some examples of this might include:
- A loan officer at your bank that you work with to secure business financing
- A tax professional who helps you meet your obligations and minimize your liabilities
- A real estate agent who helps you find the perfect location
- A fellow business owner who shares tools or space with you
- Employees who help you grow your business using the value of their labor
Every entrepreneur will have their own circle of people they can’t do without, and yours will grow and evolve organically along with your business. Watch for opportunities to form key relationships, and try to give your patronage to other independent businesspeople when you can.
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