It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since I threw myself overboard from the corporate ship, and I thought it might be fun to share some things that I’ve learned in my first full year of self-employment. Now. Don’t get it twisted. I do still have a full-time gig, but it’s in an industry I love, so while I’ve reduced the amount of work I do with my business, I’m still very active in the small business world.
1. Invest in things that will make your work-life easier.
There are still investments I will make in my little business, but I cannot emphasize this point enough. You have a career that you are passionate about, so invest in the things you need to do that job well! For example, I’m an Instructional Designer who develops e-learning products. Things that make my life easier that I’ve invested in over the past year include: a computer that can handle the type of work that I’m doing, a nice desk, an all-in-one printer, some external hard drives, dropbox business accounts, software licenses, and a billing software (which admittedly I don’t leverage to its full potential, but it keeps my finances organized), professionals who know how to do things better than I do instead of trying to do X myself (e.g. my portfolio plugin and an accountant for tax time).
2. Keep organized records.
Administrative blah blah is still the bane of my existence, but being somewhat organized makes my life a whole lot easier when it comes time to do say…taxes. Or locate an invoice. Or locate a software product key. I’m in the middle of preparing to file my taxes, and let me tell you…it is OVERWHELMING. However, keeping organized records is making this task a litttttttle easier for me and using the best online tax software also helps!
3. BACK UP YOUR WORK…ALL THE TIME.
This might seem self-explanatory, but I know I’m guilty of not backing things up everyday. However, after several lessons learned that I paid dearly for in headaches and extra labour, I back my work up REGULARLY. This comes especially in handy if you’re guilty of over-trusting your technology. Yesterday my Macbook decided it wanted to get lame. To the point of having to reinstall the operating system. It sucked and cost me the better part of a day to resolve, but in the end, I had all of my stuff backed up, and it was business as usual once the reinstall was up and running.
4. Reward yourself with professional development opportunities.
Professional development is always important. It allows you to network with fellow industry professionals and learn new things. In this new fangled information society, it’s important to always keep learning.
In 2014 I participated in two speaking engagements (Articulate E-Learning Heroes Community Roadshows: Toronto and Denver), and I learned so much! It was also a learning experience for me to get up and speak about something I know in front of people interested to listen. I also began my Online Learning Consortium Teaching Certificate under the recommendation of the Director of my department at the University. I’m almost finished now, and it’s been a fantastic learning experience.
This year, I’ll be speaking at Learning Solutions Conference 2015 (later this month) and I’m hoping to speak or attend Dev Learn in the fall. I’ll also try to hit up at least one more Articulate E-Learning Heroes Roadshow.
5. Take opportunities when they’re presented to you.
I understand that you might not be able to take all of the opportunities presented to you, but you can weigh the cost-benefit and determine which ones you can engage in. For me, this was authoring two books for Packt Publishing, Articulate Storyline Essentials (released in a week or so – EEEE!) and Mastering Articulate Storyline (released later this year) – the former will hold your hand and get you up and running with Articulate Storyline, while the latter will have activities and will teach you how to push Articulate Storyline to the limits.
I had never before considered writing a book, because who am I to be an authority on ANYTHING?! But, when in Rome. YOLO!
6. You are your best sales person.
You know what you’re capable of doing and you know (or have a rough idea) of who you want to do work for, so get out there and SELL YOURSELF! I’m not saying you’ll making half a million dollars in your first year of business, because that’s just nutty. What I’m saying is that there will always be some modicum of hustling that you have to do, and sometimes you’ll need to hustle more than other times, but eventually you’ll get to a point where you’re comfortable with the level of hustling you do.
7. Come correct!
Piggybacking on #6, in order to be an effective sales person, you need to come correct. What I mean by this is: overhaul your resume, get a proper email address (e.g. not xohotgirl81), update your linkedin profile, update your portfolio, and BE PROFESSIONAL! When applying for new opportunities, you want to put your best foot forward.
8. Network like you mean it.
Find out where your clients or peers are hanging out, and go hang out with them! For me, this started with the Articulate E-Learning Heroes Community. I found so many great clients through the forums, gained a lot of insight, grew myself as a professional, and made a TON of friends.
I slowly began incorporating social media, so now I engage with my new friends on Twitter and Linkedin.
9. Don’t be selfish.
Once you find your clients (and potential clients) or peers, don’t just engage with them on social media for your own benefit, promote them! Whenever one of my pals tweets about a new blog post or promotes an interesting article or something they’ve developed, I try to share these items as much as I can. This will help your pals out when they’re looking for opportunities, or it might help a client find the perfect person for the job.
10. Treat Yo’ Self!
You might not need fine leather goods or velvet slippies like Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle, but you do need to take time and enjoy life. Many of us are guilty of being workaholics, but there’s this thing called burn out, and if you’re not careful, you will find out exactly what it is. Going on vacations, find a hobby, get out of your chair and go outside!