Four Must-Haves Solopreneurs Need But Don’t Know It

Now That Makes A Difference text on purple and white background

When you start out as a solopreneur, you know you need the usual business essentials to operate professionally: computer, phone, printer, Internet, paper, and so on and so forth. Now in my eighth year of self-employment, I’ve discovered other assets I originally didn’t realize could be so important. Slightly obscure, they might have fallen below your radar, too.

 

Four Business Essentials You Might Not Realize You Need

 

  • A really good umbrella

By all accounts, I’m blessed. Our family has the good fortune to be financially secure; we have what we need and can (within reason) get what we want. BUT we have the most pathetic umbrellas at our house. There’s only one that I’m not mortified to use in public. The others are obnoxious red and white umbrellas the telecom company I once worked for offered as promotional freebies for its now non-existent Internet service provider division. After a recent rainy spell here in eastern Pennsylvania (during which my 9th-grade daughter forgot our only respectable umbrella in her locker at school), I realized I should invest in several more decent umbrellas. It’s a matter of pride—and professional appearance. Own umbrellas that won’t make you look and feel like a panhandler.

 

  • Kick-@s$ closet hangers

Upon launching my freelance business in 2010, I quickly learned being organized personally helps keep all professional endeavors in order, too. What I didn’t realize, however, is how much of a difference a well-designed hanger can make. Fortunately, a colleague recently introduced me to Joy Mangano Huggable Hangers. No more jungle of jumbled wire and bulky plastic hangers that crowd our limited space and let my outfits slip to the floor. I’ve replaced all hangers in our bedroom walk-in closet and my daughter’s closet with these gems, and I’m in the process of swapping out every last hanger in our entire house with them.

 

I’m obsessed.

With more free space in my closet, I can find what I want to wear more easily, and my clothes don’t get wrinkly while hanging. These hangers have saved me time and made it much easier to get out the door on time for meetings. If you have a closet that needs a revamp, definitely check them out.

 

  • A spritz of confidence

Nobody wants to think about this, and I can hardly believe I’m writing about it, but here it “goes.” When you’re on the go and have to go, Poo-Pourri lets you do it in stealth mode. I bought a bottle and intended it as a gag gift for a family Christmas gift swap a few years ago. Intrigued by the concept, I tried it first. The s%@t works (pun intended). Why would anyone ever want to leave home without it? The company sells 2-ounce bottles that you can easily fit into laptop bags or handbags.

 

  • Wiggle room

Despite how well you plan your project schedule, some tasks will require more time than you anticipate they will, and unexpected phone calls, tech issues, etc. will occasionally happen. If you jam-pack your day down to the minute, you’ll never have a buffer zone to address those sorts of surprises. The solution, add some wiggle room (empty slots of time) into your calendar every day. It’s a sanity saver!

 

Nothing fancy above—just practical items that I’ve found can make a difference professionally.

 

What underappreciated must-haves would you add to the list?

 

Four Tips To Help You Stop Running Your Small Business In Circles

As we start and grow our businesses, many of us adopt practices and take on administrative baggage that might hold us back fromFrustrated child at desk working toward our goals and vision. With the vast majority of 2016 still ahead of you, now is the time to take an honest look at your business and ask yourself, “What should I be doing differently?”

 

So, where do you begin? Here are a few simple ideas to get you started…

 

Four Ways To Save Time And Streamline Your Small Business

 

  1. Focus!

 

If you think you’re doing your business a favor by multitasking, think again. A Stanford University study revealed that multitaskers have a hard time filtering out irrelevant information, and they’re more distracted and less productive. Give up on trying to multitask—it’s a surefire way to mess up. Focus on one thing at a time to get more done, more accurately, and in less time.

  1. Use your own photos or source from a site that has clearly stated attribution information.

 

When you pull images from the Internet for your blog and social media, you may or may not easily be able to tell who they belong to, what rights you have to use them, or what attribution requirements apply. Avoid running down a rabbit hole to chase the information you need by using your own photos or finding an online source of images that has very clear use and attribution rules. When I’m not using my own photos, I use freedigitalphotos.net (they have large selection of free photos). I also regularly purchase images from Canva—at $1 per image, you can’t beat the economy of their offering.

 

  1. Don’t let paperwork pile up.

 

Even though we live in a digital world, we still have a lot of cold, hard sheets of paper floating around our offices. In fact, approximately 50 percent of the waste generated by businesses is from paper. Many of us still keep printed copies of client agreements, invoices, receipts, and other documentation.

 

If you let your paperwork pile up, the process of filing it in its proper place can become a gargantuan endeavor that requires hours of your time. The bigger the pile, the more work you’ll have on your hands because you’ll need to sort through and organize it before you can actually put it in its place. Instead, place it where it belongs within hours or just a few days of when it hit your desk to avoid a marathon cleanup session down the road.

 

  1. Give your business a raise.

 

Many of us grandfather long-standing clients into rates from years gone by. It’s a wonderful way to show your appreciation for their continued business. Unfortunately it can cost you when your services are in greater demand and you discover your time spent on lower-paying clients doesn’t allow you time to take on more lucrative work.

 

If that’s the case, you may want to consider raising your rates to existing customers. I recently did this and found that overall my clients (with one exception) were fully accepting and understanding. Just be sure to review the contracts you have in place before taking that leap. And give your clients plenty of advance notice and an explanation as to why you’re increasing your pricing.

 

Running a more efficient small business doesn’t always require making big changes. Little tweaks can mean a world of difference in how much you can accomplish and how smoothly you can tackle your day-to-day to dos.

 

What changes will you make this year to streamline your business and make it more successful?

 

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Right Way To Earn Small Business Bragging Rights

Leadership expert Steve Gutzler wrote a post that made me pause to think about the qualities of being self-employed that I tend to Bragging guyemphasize when talking with other professionals.

 

Upon reflection, I realize I too often share about my packed project schedule or the fact that there never seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish everything. It’s as if being overworked or overwhelmed are valid markers on the path to success.

 

They’re not. There’s no glory in excessive stress and leading a professional life that seems to control us rather than the other way around. What’s the point of being your own boss if your business is the boss of  you?

 

Sure, we need to work hard to build sustainable businesses, BUT that’s not what should earn us bragging rights as solopreneurs and small business owners.

 

What should give us something to gloat about?

  • We can choose the types of projects we want to work on.
  • We can choose the clients we want to work with.
  • We don’t have to ask anyone permission to leave work early on a beautiful summer afternoon.
  • We can plan our work schedule around our kids’ ball games and play rehearsals.
  • We can enroll in any professional development course we want without someone telling us it’s not relevant to our position.

 

Having lifestyle flexibility is nothing to feel guilty about. It’s OK to step away from work and enjoy other things.

 

And you shouldn’t feel like less of a business professional because you have the ability to do that when others don’t.

 

Isn’t it time we wore THAT as our small business badge of honor?

 

Of course, having the ability to do more than work all the time means finding the discipline and resources to plan better and work more efficiently.

 

Accomplish that and you’ve really got something to brag about!

 

Your turn! What do you find yourself quickest to communicate when talking with others about your experience in self-employment?

 

Image courtesy of bplanet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

3 Facts About Self-Employment Your Friends And Family Probably Won’t Believe

When a national corporation bought the regional telecommunications company where I worked for 17 years, my position was among the nearly 60 percent of Realitythose company-wide that were eliminated. Rather than look for a job at another company, I decided to go the self-employed route.

I was excited, motivated, and yes, a little frightened. Some friends and family members were supportive. Some didn’t quite get it.

Sound familiar?

Now that I’ve been making a successful go of it for the past five years, pretty much everyone in my life has grown comfortable with my present career path. But it has required ongoing effort to help people closest to me understand what I do—and why I do it.

Here are some of the truths about your self-employed status that the people in your life might not understand or accept when you’re first getting started:

 

Working From Home Isn’t Unemployment.

For serious solopreneurs, self-employment isn’t a way to kill time until they find a “real job.” While some people might do it because they don’t believe they have other options, many choose the path for the flexibility, autonomy, and income potential. According to The Solopreneur Life’s annual survey in 2014, 82.8 percent of respondents said they have at least a bachelor’s degree; 38.5 percent attained master’s degrees; and 4.3 percent are PhDs. Most solopreneurs are well-educated and most likely could find a job working for an organization if they’d really want to.

You’re Running A Business Even Though You Don’t Have Employees.

Although you don’t have multiple departments or a payroll to manage, you’re operating a bona fide small business. You’re the person responsible for your accounting, marketing, sales, administrative duties, and more. And you pay taxes (a lofty amount!) on your business’s net income. In many respects, you have more responsibility and accountability as a self-employed person than you would have working for someone else.

Your Time On Social Media Has A Purpose.

You MUST spend time—a good bit of time—on social media networks to build your business. People I know have made comments to me to the effect of, “It must be nice to play on social media whenever you want,” or “Are you always on social media?” Besides my personal Facebook page (which I don’t really spend all that much time on), my presence on other online channels is part of my marketing strategy. People who only use social media for personal purposes have a hard time wrapping their heads around the frequency and consistency required to use it successfully in a professional context. Don’t feel guilty about using social media! But do stay focused on delivering quality content to your followers, concentrate on building professional relationships, and don’t get sidetracked by watching too many cute kitty cat videos.

Realize Your Efforts To Bust The Myths May Not Be Easy—Or Successful.

As you demonstrate your self-discipline and your ability to make a living wage in your business, you’ll likely gain the support of most of the skeptics in your life. But prepare to see some relationships drift away. Your interests—and your circle of friends—will change to some degree when you’re in business for yourself.

Self-employment is an adventure in professional and personal evolution.

Do your best to help people understand that, but realize not everyone will come to terms with it or stick with you for the entire journey.

Thanks for reading! You probably know this already, but you can subscribe to my blog via RSS or email so you’re notified about new posts. And don’t forget to connect with me on social media. I’d love to meet up with  you there, too!

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What You—And Only You—Can Take Responsibility For

I just wrote a guest post about accountability for the TDS Business blog that broached the subject from the standpoint of how to be accountable for getting Finger pointing at youthings done in your business. As a self-employed small business owner, you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck, formal performance reviews, or a structured monetary award incentive to motivate you. It’s all you.

 

But besides the down and dirty business stuff, there’s another thing you need to hold yourself accountable for. YOU are the only person with ultimate responsibility for it.

 

Taking care of yourself. Physically. Mentally.

 

And your success in doing so hinges a great deal on managing stress.

 

Stress Sucks.

According to statistics provided by the American Psychological Association and American Institute of Stress (which I found on the American Institute of Stress website), 77 percent of people in the U.S. regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress. And 73 percent experience psychological symptoms because of stress.

 

That’s nearly all of us. Rather astounding and unnerving, don’t you think? But it’s a little reassuring, too. If you’ve felt the effects of stress like I have, it’s sort of nice to know we’re not alone. We’re not the only ones who have dealt with the ramifications of letting stuff get to us:

 

  • Tightened neck muscles
  • Nervousness and inability to relax
  • Never a good night’s sleep
  • Headaches
  • Moodiness
  • Upset stomach and wacked out digestion
  • No energy

 

The list goes on.

 

Unfortunately, there’s not always a way to eliminate the work and home pressures that add stress to our lives. But the one thing we can do is take responsibility for prepping our bodies and minds to deal with stress more effectively.

 

The Stress-Busting Trio

I’m not a doctor, psychologist, nutritionist, or any other variety of health and wellness expert, so I’m not going to tell you what you should do. But I know what it’s like to have competing priorities and to feel the overwhelming pressure of trying to get everything done (and done “right”). So I thought I’d share some thoughts on what helps me keep stress levels under control in hopes it will help you explore ways to manage stress better.

 

I’ve found my success at dealing with stress depends largely on how attentive I am to three things.

 

  • Exercising
    I’ve been working out for over thirty years and can’t imagine how much of a frazzled mess I’d be if I didn’t get that boost of endorphins that comes from some physical exertion and sweat. Exercise helps reduce anxiety and improve mood and sleep. And then there’s the side benefit of getting fit and feeling better about yourself.
    Now that I work from home, I find it more manageable and mentally beneficial to break my workouts into smaller chunks and do them throughout the day rather than doing a single longer workout.

    According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, I seem to be on the right track with that approach, “Studies have found that people who spend more time each day watching television, sitting, or riding in cars have a greater chance of dying early than people who spend less time on their duffs. Researchers speculate that sitting for hours on end may change peoples’ metabolism in ways that promote obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.”

    As solopreneurs and small business owners, we typically do a lot of work at our desks or sitting in a sedentary state somewhere. In addition to refreshing our minds, fitting in breaks to get our bodies moving could help us keep some potential health issues at bay.

    Not sure you have the discipline to do it? Consider getting one of those fitness bands like the Vivofit (that’s the one I have), that tracks your steps throughout the day and raises the equivalent of a red flag whenever you’ve been planted on your behind for an extended period of time.

 

  • Eating Smart
    “You are what you eat.” I’ve found that to be true. Certain foods can trigger and aggravate stress, particularly processed foods like soft drinks, fast food, microwave and out-of-the-box meals that are pretty much void of nutrients and full of sugar, sodium, and additives.

    I notice a big difference in my ability to concentrate and to deal with challenges when I stray from eating whole foods and indulge in quick convenience foods instead. There’s plenty of evidence to support that food plays an important role in regulating cortisol (the stress hormone) levels. That gives us very good reason to eat wisely.

 

  • Sleeping Enough
    It’s a vicious, frustrating cycle; stress can interfere with your sleep and not getting enough sleep can make you feel more stressed. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendations, adults from 26 – 64 years old should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each day.

    Hands down, sleep (or lack of it) is the one thing above all else that can make or break my day.

 

It’s a Package Deal

All of the above don’t work as well alone as they do together—at least not in my experience. Eating better makes me feel more energetic when exercising, and exercise facilitates better sleep at night, and better sleep at night makes me more inclined to exercise.

 

My outlook, energy level, and productivity are all more optimal when I make the trio of exercise, eating well, and sleep a priority. And only I can hold myself responsible for doing those things.

 

How accountable have you been for managing stress and taking better care of yourself? It’s not always easy when you’re schedule is jam-packed and you’re pulled in multiple directions. But remember, if you don’t do it. No one else will do it for you.

 

As I finished this post, by friend, client, mastermind group colleague, and all-around savvy small business owner Rachel Strella posted an article reminding us how important it is to take time for ourselves. Check it out!

By Dawn Mentzer

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

Survey Shows Email Remains Biggest Time Suck For Small Business Owners

In its fourth annual survey of freelancers during Time Management Month (a.k.a. February), OfficeTime.net asked more than 1,200 freelancers, small business owners, and professionals how much time they spend on various activities during their workdays.

For the fourth year in a row, email has taken first place as the “Top Time Killer.”

That probably doesn’t surprise most of you if you’re like me and do the majority of your communicating with clients via email. While 90% of my email interactions are completely necessary and productive, there’s that 10% spent answering questions I’ve already answered or trying to get answers to questions I’ve already asked multiple times.

So what time suck came in second?

Meetings.

Most of us can relate to that, right? Lack of agendas, attendees who can’t seem to hear themselves talk enough, and tangents that put meetings into overtime put the stops on getting things done.

Here are the top five “time killers” (along with the percent of people who said they spend at least one hour per day doing them):

Top Small Business Time Killers 2015

 

An interesting finding from this year’s survey is small business owners say procrastination is a major obstacle to their productivity. Nearly half of the respondents feel they spend too much time putting off necessary tasks each day.

According to OfficeTime’s press release about the survey:

“Procrastinating is a huge time-suck, and working professionals are no more able to escape from that vortex than anyone else,” said Stephen Dodd, CEO of OfficeTime. “If you recognize you’ve developed a habit for procrastinating, set up self-rewards for getting an unpleasant task done and find an accountability partner who can help you stay on-task.”

So it looks like solopreneurs and small business owners could do a little better in managing our time. Big surprise, eh?

Doing that is easier said than done. Not every tactic or approach works for everyone. But a good place to start is to do what OfficeTime suggests: Focus on what’s “most important.

Plan. Prioritize. And get it done!

By Dawn Mentzer

Graphic used with permission from Office Time

Why You Might Not Get A 1099-MISC From Your Clients

You’re probably (hopefully!) aware that if your business is a sole proprietorship or LLC and a client has paid you more than $600 in non-employee Tax formcompensation, they’re required to send you a 1099-MISC form for the just-completed tax year.

 

But did you know clients who pay you through PayPal or credit card aren’t required to issue you a 1099?

 

The Burden Of Reporting Electronic Payments Made To Solopreneurs Doesn’t Fall On Their Clients

That’s right. Starting in 2011, the IRS put the responsibility of reporting electronic payments on PayPal and the credit card companies. They are required to issue a 1099-K form—but only if you received $20,000 or more. Which means you might not get a 1099 at all.

 

Honestly, up until yesterday, I wasn’t aware that clients who make electronic payments to me through PayPal weren’t on the hook for sending 1099-MISC. One of my clients who pays by PayPal monthly discovered it when he went to process his 1099s for vendors.

 

I’m figuring other independent workers AND companies who do business with them aren’t in the know about this either.

 

Cause For Keeping Insanely Accurate Accounting Records

With not all clients realizing they don’t need to send 1099-MISC forms if they paid you electronically, you could end up with 1099s from them anyway. That raises the concern of both PayPal or credit card companies AND your client reporting your income (i.e., your income from that client could potentially be reported twice to the IRS). Moral of the story: KEEP ACCURATE INCOME RECORDS. It’s your best defense if discrepancies arise.

 

For more on this topic and 1099s in general, check out these helpful articles:

 

Must You Send 1099 Forms to Contractors Paid Via PayPal or Credit Card? via Small Biz Trends

Fast Answers About 1099 Forms for Independent Workers – UPDATED for 2015 via Small Biz Trends

General FAQs on Payment Card and Third Party Network Transactions via the IRS website

Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income via the IRS website

What Is the IRS Form 1099-MISC? via the Intuit TurboTax website

 

Disclaimer: All that I write on this blog is for your reading pleasure and informational (and sometimes entertainment) purposes only. It is not meant to serve as professional advice. Readers absorb and take information from this blog at their own discretion and risk. Please use responsibly.

Why Your Desk Should Be A “No Food Zone”

Believe me, I’m not getting all self-righteous here. I’ve eaten at my desk on countless occasions. That’s precisely why I feel qualified to write this post.No-food-allowed

 

Call it a New Year’s resolution or whatever, but I’ve recently adopted the rule of no food (coffee and water are still fair game) at my desk. I’m always looking for ways to work smarter and maximize my productivity. The “no food zone” strategy will (hopefully) help me optimize my time in front of my Macbook.

Are you an at-your-desk diner?

Here are five very good reasons not to eat at your desk:

You deserve—and need—a break.

By now, you’ve probably heard about the Pomodoro Technique or similar approaches to working. They advocate breaking the time you work into a series of short intervals intermixed with short rest periods. That M.O. has been proven to improve mental acuity and help you stay more fully focused on your tasks.

When you’re eating at your desk, you can call it “working through” all you want, but chances are you’re not focused on your work enough to accomplish much of anything. Instead, schedule work sessions and break periods for yourself. Then work during your work sessions and eat (away from your desk) during break periods.

It can make you sick.

I found several articles (including this one by Huffington Post and this one by the Advisory Board Company) that reference research indicating your desk may harbor 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. Gross, right? You wouldn’t eat on your toilet (I sure hope not anyway), so don’t make your desk your dinner table either.

It can expand your waistline.

According to the Daily News, a British survey revealed that one-third of people who ate at their desks consumed more than 1,200 calories during a typical workday. My understanding is that included lunch and snacks; add breakfast and dinner to the equation and the calories really escalate. And eating at your desk can make you less attentive to the nutritional value of the foods you’re eating. You might be more inclined to grab a bag of chips rather than veggies and a good protein source.

It can feed the procrastination monster.

Eating at your desk diverts your attention from what you should be concentrating on when working. It can become an enabler to procrastination, a way to steer clear of the task at hand when you don’t really feel like tackling it. Oh, but that task won’t magically disappear like that bag of microwave popcorn you chowed down on at 2:15 p.m. You’ll be stuck sitting at your desk longer because you didn’t stay focused. Eating at your desk is essentially multitasking. And, according to a Stanford University study, multitasking makes people less—not more—productive.

It’s messy.

Crumbs. Dripping condiments. Sticky fingers. Ick. Need I say more?

 

Final Thoughts

I’m not suggesting that you don’t eat during your workday. Goodness no! But why not eat somewhere else? Your kitchen or dining room (if you’re a work-at-home type like me), your office’s lunchroom, a picnic table, a friend’s house, or a restaurant are viable options. By taking your dining activities away from your desk, you just might find yourself more productive—and you might enjoy your food a good bit more, too.

 

By Dawn Mentzer

Another Insatiable Solopreneur Post

 

Looking for blog writing or editing help? Let’s talk!

Image courtesy of  Iamnee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

What To Expect When Going From Corporate Employee To Self-Employed Solopreneur

A friend recently asked me to meet up over lunch to talk about his thoughts of making a career change. Not happy with the degree of autonomy or flexibility he Question mark under corporate business suithas in his corporate management position, he said he thinks the route to go is self-employment. He wanted to know more about how and why I took that path. And he asked for any insight and advice I could offer to give him a better idea about what to expect from becoming a free agent.

An hour over lunch really doesn’t provide enough time to really get into the nitty gritty of going from corporate employee to self-employed professional. It’s a decision not to take lightly. And since talking with my friend, I’ve felt impelled to write about some of the considerations potential solopreneurs should keep in mind as they explore the feasibility of making that significant transformation.

In my situation, the regional company I worked for (for 17 years) was purchased by a national organization. My position and many others (about 60% of the total workforce in our area) were eliminated. Thankfully, the company gave us plenty of advance notice. I had nearly six months to explore my options and figure out what I wanted to do during the next phase of my career. Even though my hand was forced to make a transition, I was fortunate to have time to assess my situation and determine if self-employment was a good bet for my family.

If you’re gainfully employed and considering leaving your present job behind to pursue starting your own business, you’ve got the advantage of time, too. Don’t act in haste by jumping in before you’ve thought it through and considered how the change will affect you and your loved ones.

With the flexibility of becoming your own boss come challenges.

The things you need to prepare for when going from corporate to self-employed include:

Unpredictable Income

It takes time to build a network of connections and a client base. When you’re starting out, you’ll likely experience cycles of feast and famine revenue. That can make it difficult to keep up with expenses both professionally and personally. I know several small business owners who haven’t taken a paycheck for themselves after being in business for several years, BUT they have spouses who work and can cover their personal financial obligations. I was fortunate to be able to jump right into freelancing because my husband had a good job, and we knew we could make ends meet until things ramped up for me. Even then, it took some adapting. Having been the one who always brought home the larger paycheck, I felt guilty about not pulling my weight financially as much as before.

Moral of the story: Expect to make less than you did in your corporate position and assess your income needs before you decide to ditch the day job. Don’t make a hasty decision that lands you in the poor house.

Cutting Back On Life’s Luxuries

Get ready to make some personal sacrifices when you enter the realm of self-employment. If you’re accustomed to starting each day with a Starbucks caramel latte, going out for expensive dinners each week, and spending money with abandon on leisure and entertainment, prepare to alter your lifestyle a bit. As I mentioned earlier, your pay scale as a solopreneur probably won’t match what you earned before. That means you’ll need to get more selective about which “non-essentials” you’ll spend your hard-earned money on.

Adjusting To Working From Home

When you work from a home office, you face a whole new set of distractions that threaten your productivity. Some people are able to tune out all the personal to-dos (cleaning, laundry, home repairs, a drive to the grocery store to restock the fridge, TV, etc.) and others aren’t. It helps to have a dedicated office space within your home so personal obligations won’t be in your face and lure you from staying on task. I rarely work from anywhere other than the spare bedroom we’ve converted to my office.

Another thing to keep in mind: you’ll work alone a lot. Even if your new career path involves consulting or coaching, you’ll spend a lot of time by yourself. Lack of social interaction can leave solopreneurs feeling isolated. You can get past that by seeking networking and professional development opportunities that take you out of your home office. But be careful not to overbook your schedule with those types of engagements; you might find yourself without enough time to get your work done.

Developing A Heightened Level of Discipline and Determination

Working independently requires self-motivation and project management skills. Without someone to lay out your work for you, you are fully responsible for planning your efforts so you can meet deadlines. Your organizational skills—or lack thereof—will largely affect your ability to succeed as a self-employed professional.

Working hard. Really hard.

I can’t emphasize this enough. If you’re serious about making self-employment lucrative for you and your family, you will eat, drink, sleep, and breathe your business. Solopreneurs typically handle all aspects of their businesses—especially when they start out. You’ll be your all-in-one Sales, Marketing, Accounting, Operations, and Customer Service department. One of the biggest challenges will be “clocking out” as a solopreneur and giving yourself the much needed breaks you’ll need so you don’t suffer from burnout.

Health Insurance – What Now?

Health insurance is a biggie, especially if your spouse and children are covered under your policy at work. If you leave your job, you leave your medical insurance behind as well. Review your options before you cut the cord. If your spouse works, can you get coverage through his/her workplace? If not, can you afford the premiums and deductibles of policies from other insurers?

Life Insurance – Giving Up Peace of Mind?

If your life insurance coverage is through a group policy via your company, you’ll relinquish that peace of mind as well when stepping out on your own. Do your homework before leaving your job, and consider talking with a financial planner about your options.

Paying Your Taxes

Without your employer taking money out of your weekly or biweekly paychecks to cover your federal, state, and local taxes, you’ll need to estimate your revenue and expenses and make tax payments quarterly based on your estimated net income. And note that as an employee working for someone else, your employer pays half of your Social Security and Medicare tax. As a self-employed person, you’re obligated to pay the entire 15.3%. “Ick,” I know. I don’t know any solopreneurs who enjoy this part of self-employment, but it goes with the territory.

Putting Yourself Out There – Social Media Is A MUST

If you don’t actively use social media as a tool for building professional connections, you’ll put yourself at a severe disadvantage. You’ll still need to work on nurturing relationships face to face, but online networking platforms amplify and extend your ability to stay top of mind. Don’t wait until you’ve left your day job to start working on your online presence. Although you might not be in a position to promote yourself yet, you can start following leaders in your industry and connecting with people/businesses in your target market. You can also begin demonstrating your interest and expertise in your field by sharing relevant content and providing thoughtful commentary on it. Do it now rather than later.

Not Everyone Will Support Your Decision

Sadly, not all of your family and friends will understand or encourage you when you start your own business. You’ll meet skepticism and even animosity from some people. As a solopreneur, you’ll need a thick skin.

And Last, But Certainly Not Least, Expect To Doubt Yourself From Time To Time

Self-employment has its ups and its downs. You’ll have moments when you feel fully confident in your decision to go out on your own and others when you wonder, “What the #@*% was I thinking?”

That’s normal.

When you experience self-doubt, stay focused on moving forward by accomplishing something—no matter how small—to reinstate your momentum and self-confidence. The path to success as a solopreneur has some jagged twists and turns. Stay flexible and resilient as you make your journey.

My final words of advice for you—and anyone you know who is thinking about going from corporate employee to self-employed—is: Talk to others who have made the change! You can only benefit from hearing about their first-hand experience—the good, the bad, and the ugly. And consider using a resource like SCORE, where you can get free mentoring and guidance as you start and build your solo business.

Again, the move to self-employment should not be taken lightly. It’s a rewarding career path, but it’s not right for everyone. And even if it is right for you, it may not be the right time. Think about it carefully, assess your situation, and make an informed decision before you jump in.

If you’ve gone from corporate to solo pro, what would you add to my list? Know anyone who’s considering making the same change? Please share this post with them!

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

Image courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My Move From P.C. to Mac

It was time for a change. The Acer laptop that had served me well (although lately at a snail’s pace) will soon celebrate its sixth year, and I realize its days are Macbook Pronumbered. Although I have all my files backed up in the cloud, I decided to take a proactive approach rather than wait for my business to come to a temporary halt when the hardware I depend on so much comes down crashing.

After much contemplation, grilling representatives at our local mall’s Apple Store, and asking advice both online and off from people who transitioned from P.C.s to Apple computers, I decided to get me a Mac.

That was one week ago.

Overall, so far, so good. But it hasn’t been all roses.

The Mac is slick. No doubt about that. But expect a learning curve to navigate if you decide to make the change.

Before I share about the hurdles I’ve experienced, let me first say I really, really, really like my Macbook Pro.

    • It boots up and shuts down in the blink of an eye.
    • It’s quick as a whip offline and online (unless you’ve got a shoddy internet connection).
    • It’s super thin and light, which will make by back happy when I need to go on the road.
    • Viruses are less of a threat than with P.C.s. (All signs point to this anyway.)
    • And the lighted keyboard…well, I wouldn’t be typing this blog post at nearly 9 p.m. on my back patio without any other source of illumination if I didn’t have it!

I’m extremely happy with my decision to buy my Mac. But it’s different than a P.C.

Change is good, but it can also be frustrating.

The challenges I’ve faced during the process of acclimation going from P.C. to Mac include:

The Lay of the Land on a Mac

Finding your stuff on a Mac requires some retraining if you’re coming from the P.C. environment.

  • On a Mac, you access your primary programs and apps on the “Dock.” It’s the strip at the bottom of your screen. It goes away when you’re working in an app, but it will pop back up when you drag your cursor to the bottom of your screen.
  • All of your programs are in the Launchpad. It’s simple to get to via a single click on the rocket icon on your Dock.
  • Your files are in Finder (smiley face icon on your Dock).

Not crazy tough to get used to, but you might find it not altogether intuitive at first.

Gmail and Mac Mail – Not a match made in heaven.

Mail is the Mac equivalent (for lack of a better way of explaining it) of Outlook for P.C.s. While I didn’t have problems connecting both my personal Gmail and Google Apps business Gmail account to it, I discovered a few usability snafus. I like the capability to access my separate personal and professional email inboxes in one place and to easily toggle between them, but starred emails from both accounts get all lumped together in a “flagged” box. I also discovered that unless a particular setting is changed, emails sent through the Mail app appear in Gmail as open drafts even though they successfully reached their recipients. Confused, I proceeded to resend clients email messages they already received.

Ultimately, I decided to disconnect my Gmail accounts from Mail and access them in Chrome as I always have.

Pages — It’s like Microsoft Word, but not really!

Having used Word alone (except for the few instances when clients needed me to craft documents in Google Docs) for many years, I find Apple’s word processing app to function somewhat similar to Word, but not nearly identical to it. Granted, in time I’m sure I’d figure it out, but after four days I downloaded Office for my Mac. As much as I need to use a word processing tool in my business, I couldn’t deal with the unfamiliarity factor. Plus, before I put Office on my Mac, I had to save my Pages documents as Word documents before I shared them to ensure clients could open them. Extra work? No thanks! Word 2011 for Mac works nearly the same as the Word 2010 I have on my P.C.

If You Didn’t Use Keyboard Shortcuts Before, You’ll Need to Start

As a P.C. laptop user, right clicking to perform functions like copy and paste was my way. I could do that using the P.C.’s built-in laptop mouse, but not with the Macbook Pro mouse. Instead, you need to use the Command key to make those sorts of functions happen (for example: Command + C for copy and Command + V for paste). However, I can right click when attaching my USB mouse to my Mac, which is great for when I’m working from my home office work station. For times when I’m mobile, however, I’ll need to familiarize myself with the keyboard shortcuts to work more productively.

As I said earlier, I’m happy with my Macbook Pro. The more I use it, the more I’m understanding why nearly everyone I’ve talked with is a stark, raving fan.

I expect I will be, too, after a little time.

If you’re considering making the investment (at $1999 for the 15″ laptop, it really is an investment) and moving from a P.C. to a Mac, just prepare for a transition that’s not completely seamless.

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ Post