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self employed workerThe whole notion of ‘work’ used to be pretty simple, didn’t it? You worked hard at school to get good grades, and then found yourself a comfortable job where you would knuckle down for the next 45 years or so until it was time to collect your pension. But as we all know, that particular model has disappeared forever, and not only will the average worker change jobs many times during a career, but may well change actual careers a few times during their working lives as well.

What this means is that fundamentally the relationship between company and employee has changed – no longer does an employee expect a job for life, but equally, companies no longer expect the employee to give their life to the business as they once did.

The consequences for the worker therefore are that regardless of whom we currently work for – ie which company pays our salary – we should all consider ourselves to be a one man, or one woman business. In other words, even if we are currently in salaried employment working for someone else, we should ultimately view ourselves as self-employed. The company we work for just so happens to be our biggest client at present!

However, what this also means is that as a self-employed, or solo business we should be constantly seeking to update our portfolio of skills, expertise and experience in order that we can adapt and be as flexible as possible when it comes to finding additional clients for our business (even if that is another ‘main’ client, or new job).

It also means that we should avoid complacency in our jobs at all costs and take seriously the need to be continually developing ourselves and making ourselves as relevant as possible to the markets we choose to operate in.

What business are you in – and what business do you want to be in?

A primary practice of the past was to define ourselves by our job title. “Oh, I’m a plumber”, or “ I’m a nurse”, or “I work in Banking…”. This then, by association, gave the world a general idea of the things we were ‘good at’.

The problem with such tight definitions though are that they say nothing about the broader skill set we may possess, and which may be transferable to many other fields of endeavour. So instead of constraining ourselves by our job descriptions, or the preconceptions inherent in our professions, it is much better to present ourselves as possessing a portfolio of skills and experiences, which we are continually developing, upgrading and enhancing.

And this then leads to the question of what business you would ideally like to be in. Unless you are one of the very small minority who actually love the job that you currently do, or are a perfect fit for your current role then there are probably other things you would rather be doing with your working life, and other skills that you have which are not being fully utilised at present.

A key shift in our mind-set occurs when we begin to view ourselves as self-employed – it allows us to focus our attention on building a career in an area that gives us true fulfilment and satisfaction – it means we no longer have to accept the wage slave mentality of sticking with an unrewarding job or career path just because of job security fears, or a feeling that we have no choice.

Getting Down to Business

In developing your portfolio of skills and experiences, it is helpful to think of them in 3 separate areas when considering the areas of business that you would ideally like to work in:

  1. Skills and experience you already possess, which you like using and would ideally prefer to be using in the future. For example, you may have a strong skill and preference for coaching and managing other people.
  2. Skills and experience you already possess but which you dislike using and would ideally prefer not to be using much in the future. For example, you may have become a competent presenter and trainer in your current role, but find being in the spotlight to be a highly stressful experience.
  3. Skills that you would like to develop in order to further enhance your areas of strength and natural talents. This would support the areas of work that you most enjoy doing.
  4. Skills that you could develop as a natural extension to your existing skills in order to broaden your overall skillset. These would not be skills that you would ideally want to be using regularly in your ideal job.

These 4 sub-lists can then be used to highlight 2 distinct areas of your development: Enhancing your Strengths, and Overcoming your Weaknesses.

This then allows us to broaden our horizons in terms of the areas of business we are able to operate in, and to flex our portfolio of skills and expertise to meet the needs of a diverse range of potential clients, rather than a single employer, as it the case for many people in regular employment. After all, who says we need to restrict ourselves to a single client, and why should we have to undertake work that we don’t enjoy?

Clearly there is a pragmatic need to generate revenue in our business, and the model identifies areas of work which match our skills, if not our ideal preferences, and which we may have to consider from time to time, but the model also provides us with a clear focus for our future marketing and product development efforts – two of the roles we will need to consider in our own micro business.

Running Your Micro Business

As a small business owner with a staff of one you will inevitably be required to wear a different number of hats, or perform a number of different but concurrent roles as you manage and develop your business.

Here are some of the roles you may be required to perform, with some example generic activities:

  • Market Research Manager
    • know your customers, competition, market trends, latest developments, relevant legislation,
  • Product Development Manager
    • what ‘solutions’ can you offer potential clients: what resource are they buying from you?
    • how can you package your experience and expertise into a saleable product (eBooks/Courses/Instruction Manuals/Coaching and Training/Information Products/Consultancy/Hands-On)
  • Sales and Marketing Manager
    • what differentiates you from your competition
    • how do you find potential clients and make them aware of your unique offering
    • how do you secure a steady flow of business for the services/products you are offering
    • how do you go about promoting yourself and the services/products you are offering
  • Finance & Admin Manager
    • budgets, cash flow, taxes, expenses, invoicing, planning, advertising
  • Learning and Development manager
    • building and maintaining expertise in your chosen markets
    •  acquiring essential and emerging skills to establish and maintain leadership in your chosen markets
  • External Communications Manager
    • networking, industry events, forums, trade associations, trade publications

Although this might seem on the surface to involve a whole lot of work, in reality it is just a shift in attitude: a mind-set change. The chances are you are already involved in some form of personal development either as part of the company you work for, or as part of the hobbies and interests you pursue outside of work. To become your own one person micro business and to move into the area of business you really want to be in, all this requires is a shift in your thinking.  A decision to take personal control of your own development and direct it towards the creation of your own business: a business on your own terms and doing what you really love to do.

And the pay-off? Well if you are not happy with the salary you are earning you can always find the nearest mirror and negotiate with the boss…

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