I have had great jobs. I had the same boss three times (he hired every time he made a move) and although I am not shy about picking favorites – he was hands down the best boss ever – I have worked with a lot of really neat people. I always knew I was corporate. I have an unnatural love of office supplies and team meetings. Which is why it is surprising that I went out on my own. It’s not that I am usually part of the crowd – I am fiercely independent – but I like being part of a group. The word synergy was invented just for me.
Honestly, going out on my own was my least favorite choice. I liked the idea, but the decision was made because no one hired me. I can blame it on the economy or the fact that I now live in a small market and my options are limited. Couple that with my high demands and special needs and I am pretty much aced out of every job before it hits Monster.com. So what have I learned being on my own this past year? Independence has its value, but I examine that choice on a daily – if not hourly – basis.
My advice for those considering consulting? You can go it alone, but make sure you pack as much knowledge before you hit the road.
1. Do you like what you do?
Really, do you like what you do? Not what you think you want to do, but the actual work that you do? I know PR people who don’t like to write or blog or use social media. I know nurses who don’t like sick people. I know salesmen who don’t like to sell. Every job has a core group of activities and if you only like a few of them, then you better be able to make enough money to delegate. Working for yourself means doing everything – from accounting to vacuuming. This leads me to the next question:
2. Do you like money?
Ok, I can sense your eyes rolling. Yes! Everyone likes money, you are thinking. I mean do you really like thinking about, talking about, worrying about and managing money – because when you go out on your own, that’s your new full time job. I greatly dislike discussing money. That’s why I loved being an employee. We discussed it once when I was hired and then once a year. I never had to negotiate money after a great meeting. I never had to risk losing money after a disastrous meeting. I never had to organize my spending based on my daily productivity. Call in sick – my paycheck was the same. Space-out during a conference call – my paycheck was the same. Kill it in a presentation – my paycheck was the same. When you own your own business, you are the money guy. You ask for money, you decide how to spend money, you risk losing money. It really becomes all about the money. It is a very long time before you are making so much money that you don’t have to worry about the money. And those people who say it is not about money either have a trust fund or are lying.
3. How do you feel about doing what you don’t like to do?
There are parts of every job that are not fun. Mechanics spend hours cleaning their fingernails. Manicurists can never wear nail polish. No one every offers a massage therapist a massage. You business will limit you in ways that you do not yet know. PR people are often required to keep their opinions to themselves – not fun for a highly opinionated lady. I was horrified the first time I had to ask for money. I have so rarely encountered a situation where I was owed money that I really did not know how to handle it. I felt very uncomfortable. Having to do what you don’t like sometimes undermines the joy you feel from doing what you do like. Jobs are like that and we are used to complaining about them, but there is this idea that if you launch your own business you get to do the fun stuff – pick your own projects and such Wrong! (See #2) Plan on doing twice as much of the hard stuff and half as much of the fun stuff.
4. People will think you are lame.
In my career, I can honestly say that if something went wrong, it was someone else’s fault. It’s not that I never make mistakes; it’s just that I worked really, really hard not to make mistakes at work. If something was not working, I asked for help. If something went horribly wrong, usually it was because someone else was not prepared. When you have your own business and something goes wrong – regardless of the reason – it is always your fault. Maybe not factually, every time, but your customers and clients will see it that way. At some point someone is going to think bad things about you. You cannot tell your client/customer anything that hints at it being their fault. You have to take the blame, you have to take the high road, and you have to take responsibility for making sure it never happens again. And it will be painful. And you will wonder why you ever had this crazy idea of working for yourself. And you will go to bed at night worrying about money and the fact that someone thinks you are lame.
People say “Do what you love and the money will come.” They are lying. Money flows in and out of our lives regardless of whether or not we love what we are doing every moment of the day. I love being a mom and no one has paid me a dime for it. I know a woman who retired very wealthy because her company was bought out at just the right time. She was a secretary and she had purchased all of the stock options that were given to her over the years leading up to the big buyout. She hated every minute of her job, but she had a small child and needed secure employment. They money came, regardless of her lack of love for what she did every day. The money came because she saw her future and made her own luck. Her future independence and security is what she loved and that’s what she worked for. I don’t love every aspect of my professional life – especially in this economy – but I love that I am willing to pay the price for my professional freedom.
Happy Fourth of July! Now go outside and light things on fire to pay homage to our forefathers who risked everything for the ultimate display of independence. ~ Jules