631 Days of Working for Myself

“Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.” – Oscar Wilde

I quit my nine-to-five 1 year, 8 months and 21 days ago. There are a few things I wish I had known before setting out and quite a few I have to keep reminding myself along the way. So rather then scrawl it into yet another notebook I thought I’d publish it.

If you haven’t left your job yet

  • Now is the time to become an expert at time and project management; as well as how to balance your work and real lives. You’d think working full-time and developing your own business in the late night hours would be worse but I’m here to tell you- it’s not. When you work for yourself it becomes that much harder to leave “work” at “work”.
  • Save three times as much money as you think you’ll need. Campaigns will die, you’ll need a new water heater- whatever, something will happen.
  • Read the E-Myth Revisited. Pay attention to everything he says about “having an Entrepreneurial Seizure”.
  • I’m not kidding, read that before you quit anything. I wish I had.
  • Write out a business plan. Trite, I know, but if you don’t have a business you can write a plan about – you don’t have a business.
  • Assemble your support services team now; CPA, attorneys, etc. Make sure you have health insurance covered for you and your family, if applicable, before you leave.

You’ve Struck Out on Your Own Recently

  • Lower your expenses as much as possible.
    • “Most young people who take a business from four to ten million feel they deserve a watch and a car and a cool apartment as rewards for their savviness and hard work. Get over that. You come last. Before you invest in yourself, you have to invest in your long term future. That means your profits should funnel right back into your research, your content, and your staff if you have any.” –Gary Vaynerchuck in Crush It, pp. 92.
  • Create a work space and leave work in it. Close the door and be with your family or friends when your work is “done”.
  • Don’t steal from your company.
    • The first job I landed after college was at a small boutique intellectual property law firm that enforced (what I thought at the time were excessively) strict rules. Among them internet access was restricted because surfing the internet and taking personal phone calls was akin to stealing from the firm (they are paying you for your time, you depriving them of your time is tantamount to stealing). I, personally, wasted way too much time worrying about what other people were up to, goofing off on forums, twitter and blogs that could have been put to profitable use. The time you waste today will cost you twice as much to regain tomorrow.
  • Work your face off.

Refocusing After Being Self-Employed for a While

  • Outsourcing and Productivity Flow ChartFocus on efficiency of work over volume.
  • Read “Work Smarter, not Longer Hours
  • Learn to Outsource.
    • You will, eventually, reach the point of “grow or die”. You’ll either need to commit to remaining “x” big and turning away opportunities/ clients/ campaigns or begin taking on staff in order to scale your operation. A tool I’ve found useful to gauge what should or should not be done by you is this flow chart found in The 4 Hour Work Week.
  • Make sure you’re eating well and exercising. You may be comfortable with spending hours online but your body is not.
  • Conduct an AAR on your business.  (AAR defined on Wikipedia)
    • Identify problematic issues and needs for improvement
    • Propose measures to counteract problematic elements
    • Obtain “lessons learned”

Any advice from the crowd?

If you have productivity notes, business hacks, or lessons learned- I’d love to hear them.