I would have been perfectly content eating cupcakes all day to celebrate the fifth year of my communications and coaching consultancy. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last five years, it’s that self-employment breeds self-awareness.
Reaching the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy isn’t something you anticipate when venturing into soloprenuership. Yes, you get to work in your pajamas and yes, you wake up breathing a little easier because there’s no horrible boss breathing down your neck. Yet there are plenty of other character-shaping, perspective-altering benefits of being an independent consultant. Here’s what I’ve learned since CK Consulting was born in 2013.
- Up your game. As a consultant it’s not enough to do your best, you must have output that is at its best. I feel a heightened sense of pressure and responsibility to give my clients their money’s worth. My work has to be just as good – if not better – than what they can produce themselves or get elsewhere. It’s the only way to get repeat business and ignite word of mouth marketing.
- Get comfortable with uncertainty. Over the last five years, I have not been able to anticipate the work (and income) I’d have three months down the line. Yet, in the past five years not a month has gone by without some income. Whether you believe in God or trust in the Universe, going solo means having faith and surrendering to how little control you have over the exact details and course of what’s ahead.
- Don’t turn it off. I’m not talking about working 24/7. I’m referring to an entrepreneurial mindset in which you’re always open to receiving new information, ideas and inspiration. I once got a tip on a new client while lunching with an old friend. A new angle for one of my services came about while listening to a podcast over the weekend. And I’ve experienced a burst of inspiration on a spa day.
- Enjoy slow days. Guilt consumed me the first time I went to a weekday matinee. Although there wasn’t anything I needed to work on at the time, I felt like I should be in front of the computer in case an important email came through . From elementary school to the corporate world we are programmed to allow someone else to define when we should be working. When you’re flying solo you can redefine the work day and give yourself permission to enjoy those slow days (or weeks) that are inevitable for most consultants. As long as your clients have what they need on time, your schedule is yours. If you believe in #3 (above) then you know that the “off time” may turn out to be equally productive!
- Alter your relationship with money. The biggest and best byproduct of self-employment has been the shift in my relationship, attitude and management of money. A steady paycheck can give you a false sense of security. Self-employment is like keeping the temperature just cool enough that you stay awake. I now save more than I ever have before and am more mindful of when and how I spend those hard-earned dollars. It’s not the starving artist stereotype, rather, the profile of a responsible professional who enjoys the highs and plans for the lows.
Lots of other little lessons, but that would require more time, more space and definitely more cupcakes. Thanks to all who have been on the journey with me and hello to those whose paths I’ll cross in the years to come!