How to Escape Your Dead End Job and Become Self-Sufficient.
Do you ever experience the gnawing ache of despair as you prepare to go to work? Do you feel unappreciated, underpaid or like you're suffocating under the weight of stress and responsibilities? If you've ever worked a soul sucking job chances are you're shaking your head yes right now. If you're currently in this situation, you may be actively seeking ways to make your escape from the drudgery of a dead-end job.
I was there once 15 years ago. As a matter of fact, the very thought of spending one more day doing my job was so devastating I quit – without a plan, without much foresight. It was not the smartest move I ever made, but despite the many challenges, I have never regretted it.
I learned a lot about how to become successfully self-employed when you have next to nothing. It is possible to free yourself from the monotony of traditional employment, and today it is much easier than when I did it! If you're aching for freedom, or you are struggling with anxiety at the prospect of being “down sized”, know that it's never too soon to start planning how to take your power back. Life is short, why spend it working to make someone else rich if what you do is not rewarding or fulfilling?
Many of us were raised with a lot of deeply ingrained beliefs. You have to work hard to have money. You need to find a good job in order to be successful etc. While these things are true, it doesn't necessarily mean you have to work for an employer punching a time clock in the traditional sense. This mindset was hard for me to shake for a long time. I believed that the average “lay person” couldn't start a business without a lot of prior experience and money up front. The truth is, with a bit of creative thinking and resourcefulness you can start several different types of businesses for next to nothing.
Planning for Self-Employment
So, you want to be self-employed – either by choice, or because you're unemployed and no prospective jobs are opening up. No problem. The first step before deciding what to do is to take an honest assessment of your knowledge, skills and passions in that order. You want to do something that is both practical, but also fulfilling. Those who are truly interested in the jobs they do fare better. Freelancing requires a deep level of dedication and you won't have that if you are pursuing something that doesn't appeal to you.
For example, I have an impressive typing speed, but the idea of transcription and its repetitive, monotony is not something I could stick with long-term. Yes, there is money in transcription for sure, but it is not something I can enjoy. I need a job where I am able to get up and move around, change rooms etc. I don't do well with tons of structure or sitting still in one place for hours on end with demanding deadlines. This would not have been the job for me, despite having the skills for it.
Look honestly at your skills and also at your interests and personality. You have to find something that can work into all these areas to be successful.
Sally is a fantastic cook who loves to tell a good story. She has a lot of old family recipes, coupled with a natural knack for knowing how to put ingredients together. She loves cooking and feels great when she's in the kitchen. Although she loves to tell stories and interact with people, her writing skills are not the best. She prefers to take an active role.Food blogging may not be a great choice, but cooking videos on Youtube could be a potentially lucrative source of residual income as she works to become a caterer or develop her own product line.
Some self-employment ideas for Sally might be to get a food handlers license and start selling items at fairs and markets. She could also consider becoming a personal cook, catering, baking pies/cakes for office parties, etc. There are many ideas that would fit her natural talents and abilities. The key is to brainstorm and start small. Perhaps she could cater a small function for a friend or relative. Business cards and word of mouth advertising are the key to growing a micro-business or sideline. Creating videos to monetize could help her show off her skills and earn her some money as well.
So, consider your hobbies, skills and natural inclinations. If you are not a people person and prefer more solitude, you may want to freelance doing something more “behind the scenes” for clients. Copywriters, transcriptionists, translators, programmers, and editors are a few examples of freelance careers that lend themselves to more introverted types.
Can't stand the idea of isolation or hours in an office? Consider other career choices that allow you to interact with people. Personal organizers, party planners, craftspeople, and entertainers are all great ideas for those who need a lot of interaction.
Use this guide to help you know and understand self-employment taxes. When you freelance you will be using 1099's instead of W2's etc. It's important to know how to itemize deductions and expenses to ensure you don't end up paying more than you should.
Transitioning to Self-Employed Status
Ideally, you should start your micro-business while still employed to avoid the stresses that come with loss of income. This isn't always possible, especially if you have been laid off. The key is starting small. When I first left my job, I placed an add in a local paper to clean houses. My ad and supplies cost me less than $100. My first job covered the start-up costs.
Once I had been doing that house for awhile, my client recommended me to others and my little sideline business blossomed. I did several houses per month, bringing in over $1200 almost immediately. It was very part time, allowing me to pursue other interests simultaneously. On the weekends; I went to fairs and festivals to sell my handmade soaps and lotions.
I also taught myself HTML and built websites in my spare time. Writing had always been my hobby and first love. I knew that one day I wanted to “be a writer”. Over time, I grew my client base enough to be able to write full time. Writing and building websites also provides me with residual income every month. This comes in handy whenever there are dry spells or extra expenses.
Business Ideas with Potentially Low Start Up Costs
Here is a list of just a few of the many ideas for self-employment. What can you come up with?
- Crafter (sell your items at craft fairs and on Etsy)
- Writing – (Ghostwriting, blogging, product descriptions, instruction manuals, tutorials, website content, magazine articles)
- Cooking (cake baker, homemade candies, specialty recipes, dip and soup mixes etc)
- Detailing Cars
- Cleaning Houses or Offices
- Running Errands
- Handyman / Janitorial Duties
- Consulting (use your accounting, business, finance skills to assist individuals and businesses)
- Party planning
- Personal organizer
- Personal trainer / fitness coach
- Yard work
- Refurbish and sell electronics, computers, games
Self-employment brings weighty responsibilities. To find success; you must be a resourceful, creative thinker who is not afraid to try new things and solve problems. It's also important to be thrifty, and above all, patient. It takes persistence, long hours and usually some tears to see measurable success.
There is a lot of trial and error with a personal business, because it's just that – personal. Every individual will respond differently to challenges and will have different ideas for where they want to take their business.
Start small. Most successful businesses started as micro-businesses. McDonald's was originally a barbecue stand with 15 menu items started by two brothers. Again, think small – all great things start that way.
A lot of people fail because they don't see how they could keep up with the giants. You don't have to! Offer something unique to your area, bring your own skills and talents forward. It isn't about competing with “box mart” it's about doing something that no one else offers in quite the same way you do.
Another valuable lesson: be willing to do more than one thing, but don't spread yourself too thin. At one point I was cleaning, doing craft fairs, writing, and going to school - all at the same time. It got to be too much and everything began to suffer.
At first, more than one thing was exciting. The diversity ensured that I was making enough money and that I was never bored. Too much going on however, had the opposite effect. Soon the stress was overwhelming and I couldn't manage all of my priorities, so I began to let go of things I didn't need anymore.
I stopped cleaning and doing the fairs and devoted myself full time to writing for clients and managing my own blogs and websites. These days, I am always very busy, but it's a “good” busy. I have multiple streams of income, but I don't feel like I need octopus arms and more hours in the day to keep up with it all.
Is Self-Employment Right For You?
Ask yourself the following questions and be brutally honest. Even if the answers aren't what you think you want to hear, addressing them with candor can help you develop the right stuff to make it on your own, even if you need to wait for awhile.
- Are you disciplined and organized? If not is this a skill you can realistically learn?
- Do you take initiative to do things? Or do you do better having a set schedule where you know what is expected of you?
- Does not knowing what to expect make you feel exhilarated or overwhelmed?
- Do you love to learn?
- Do you have adequate problem solving skills?
- Do you have the technical skills your business will require?
- Can you cope with not having a set, steady paycheck?
- Can you manage your time and resources well?
- Do you have supportive people around you?
- Do you have marketable skills?
- How resourceful are you when a problem presents itself that you don't have an immediate answer for?
Are you or have you ever been self-employed?
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