Friday, October 16, 2009

How to be stone cold self employed, part 1

First, credit where credit is due: this article series was inspired in part by a conversation today with fellow speaker and business coach extraordinaire Carol Roth ( If you find the lure of self-employment interesting, check out her website for some masterful advice delivered with a razor-sharp wit. While I don't coach entrepreneurs, long ago I put down on paper the things that made me successful, and I'd suggest this exercise for everyone - so here is my two cents:

Lots of people run small businesses or work as entrepreneurs: over 12 million of us, according to recent SBA figures. But I belong to a much smaller category, and have for much of the last 15 years: what I call the “stone cold self-employed.”

What defines the SCSE is that their self-employment is not a second income, a paying hobby, or a retirement supplement – it is a full-time career that keeps our households in kitty litter. In other words, we have met the boss and he is us.

Normally we SCSE’s are kind of like a secret fraternity. If you go to a typical small business networking meeting, those few people who seem comfortable in their own skin and aren’t desperately looking for clients – often their first clients – are probably SCSE’s. But for the most part, we tend to fade into the background and go about our business.

Except lately. With the economy the way it is, a lot of my friends and colleagues are now a lot more curious about this SCSE stuff than they used to. And good for them for asking, because I feel successful stone cold self-employment is a lot *more* secure than a single job that could be whacked at any time. So as a public service, I’d like to share what I feel are the four steps to becoming stone cold self-employed.

Step 1, which is today's blog topic, is that we do things that people pay for: I call this the “law of twice.” If you want to be SCSE, do something that you have – personally – seen at least two other people make a full-time living at. So the guy who does the lawns and landscaping for everyone on your block, does a great job, and has a shiny new truck is probably following the law of twice. So are the people who teach training courses, deliver day care, or write press releases. Conversely, the person who wants to start a consulting practice helping companies “empower their vision,” or anything remotely sounding like that, needs to look hard in the mirror and see if at least two other successful people they know personally are staring back.

I chose what I do – freelance writing and corporate training – because every company I have ever worked for has hired consultants to do these things, and I have seen several people make a good living at it. And the specialties I have developed over time within these fields, teaching communications skills and developing book projects for people, are natural outgrowths of these things. Not to mention that I love every minute of doing them.

The law of twice is frankly the single biggest success factor in being self-employed. Nail it and you can often stay out on your own fairly easily and comfortably - particulary if you do a great job and blow your clients away. Ignore it and you are toast. So, want to join that hot new MLM that your neighbor is pestering you about? Or are you gazing at a business opportunity in a magazine advertisement? Or do you want to turn your arcane job into an arcane consulting practice? Fine with me. Just find two real people who have been making a full time living at it for, say, three years, and you have my blessings.

Stay tuned for my next blog on step 2: where does the money come from?

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