As with anything, the good parts of working for yourself come with the not-so-great parts. I think feeling lonely and blue is more of an issue for people who aren’t busy, but of course it can happen at any time and for many different reasons. The good news is that the blues and the loneliness that come with starting to work for yourself will usually go away as you build your reputation and business network.
When you are busy, your time is consumed with trying to keep your head above water. Often, you don’t have the chance to think about anything else. Regardless of your normal disposition, you need to have a plan for when things get tough. This will help you to get your head out of the fog. When things aren’t quite going to plan, your confidence can also take a bit of a hit.
Questions of self-doubt begin to creep in. “Do I have enough experience?” “Are there other people out there that are better than me?” The answer is: yes, there probably are. However, your experience is different from theirs. No one else has had a unique set of experiences. You are unique and your offering is unique. You can deliver to your customers what others can’t. Don't get hung up on what everyone else is doing. Just focus on being the best possible person for your clients. You control your message and your pitch. You own your delivery and service. My tips for escaping the blues:
- Join a networking group, or get a membership to an industry organization.
- Don’t lock yourself away in an office all the time, go sit in a café for a day. You will be surprised by how much better you feel by just being around people. I put my headphones in and can always get a lot done.
- Work out what your story is. Who do you work with and how do you add value?
- Take a day off, read a book or just do something else unrelated to work.
Taking A Break
In a previous post, I have talked about what I do for exercise. However, I didn’t cover the importance of taking breaks. It’s very easy to not take breaks when you are busy. You find yourself eating lunch at your desk while working on something (I have just done that). This means that you haven’t really paid any attention to what you are eating, you have just shoveled it in! This is a big no-no, and give you work for yourself, why not go sit outside and eat your sandwich, or go find a comfy couch to sit on. Tony Schwarz, creator of The Energy Project, and author of The Way We Are Working Isn’t Working, recommends that you take a 15-minute break every 90 minutes. A break being where you stop what you are doing, get up and do something else that is completely unrelated to the work that you were doing. You can read something else, have a stretch, go grab a coffee, take a walk or call someone on the phone. Just this short amount of time can help you go back to your work feeling revitalized.
Investing in yourself
Don’t forget that you need to invest in yourself as a business. There are two challenges that individuals face with this: going on too many different conferences or courses, or not going to enough. It’s exciting to have free rein and not have to apply or get permission to go to a conference. However, you should still apply a level of due diligence to understand what benefits you are going to get from going. You need to know what you will learn and who will be there that will be useful for you to meet.
The most important question is: do you need to do it, right now? I have been lucky so far, but I am afraid I did pay $900 once to go on a conference dedicated to investment in the resources industry in Africa. Maybe I just got a bad day, but the programme was full of African dignitaries reciting geographical and political information about their country. It was like listening to year 5 students presenting their geography assignments. I was able to stay awake, but the two delegates from the Democratic Republic of Congo who was sitting next me couldn’t.
So, what are you doing to keep current? Are there changes in your industry that you need to be kept abreast of? Can you develop further so that you can offer a more differentiated service to that of your competitors? My tips for keeping up to date:
- You have already made an investment in yourself by going it alone, don’t forget to keep doing it.
- Read as much as possible as you can about your industry.
- Check out books on marketing, strategy and business management.
- Go on at least one training course per year to help you build upon your offering.