Avoiding the top 5 pitfalls of working for yourself


Self-employed individuals have a lot of defining characteristics. They are not afraid of risks or challenges and they can be passionate about what they do. They are people who enjoy having control over their work lives and relish the fact that they can be more flexible than a 9-to-5 job might allow.

As entrepreneurial spirits, self-employed people are great at thinking on their feet and finding ways to make things work. They are driven, hard-working, and always striving to improve. Even the most successful self-employed people fall into a rut every now and then. In some cases, these pitfalls can be avoided. We’ve outlined the top five pitfalls to look out for.

1. Not having a routine

While some freelancers got into business for themselves to avoid sticking to a set schedule, it may be necessary. While being self-employed means you get more control over your work life, it doesn’t mean you should go without some structure. Having a routine in place not only helps you be a more impactful worker, but it can also keep you organized and reduce stress.

Waking up at the same time every day, setting aside similar hours for work, and shutting down at the same time each day is a good start. While you don’t need to set and stick to a routine perfectly, it can be helpful to add some structure to your day.

2. Failing to set boundaries between work time and downtime

One of the benefits of working for yourself is the ability to work from anywhere. Many people choose to work from the comfort of their own homes. On the surface, this seems great; you can take care of certain errands and chores during the day. You may even be able to sneak in an extra-long lunch with friends from time to time. While there are many perks to this freedom, it has drawbacks, too. The best way to keep both work and personal life in order is to set reasonable boundaries. Set aside a special office or space for work. Be sure your family knows that this is your sacred workspace between certain hours. This can keep unnecessary distractions to a minimum.

Also, be sure to draw a line between work and “play” hours. Shutting down around the same time each day (except in the case of client emergencies) can be a good way to make sure you leave work “at the office.” Avoid taking work calls after the specified time (again, except in emergencies). Join a club or a team that gets you out of the house in the evening as an easier way to delineate when work is over.

3. Not keeping tabs on finances

One of the downsides of working for yourself is that you must handle all the things. That means you may have to wear many hats and handle many different aspects of your business. One of those hats is that of Chief Financial Officer. You are probably tasked with handling the financial side of your business, including taxes. Tracking income and expenses is a must.

Consider setting up a simple spreadsheet or utilizing an online tool like QuickBooks to track money coming in and going out. As your business grows, you may consider bringing on an accountant or investing in more complex tracking software. No matter which option suits you, avoid not doing anything about it. Inaction will only make things worse down the line.

4. Missing marketing

Another hat many self-employed people must wear is that of a marketer. If you actually are a freelance marketer, you’re ahead of the game. You likely have a good idea about what it takes to get your name and brand out there. For everyone else, it may be a little more challenging. Marketing doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it can make or break a small business.

Consider signing up for a marketing certificate course online to brush up your skills. Hone in on what works for you. If you’re very extroverted and social, leverage networking opportunities as a way to promote yourself. If you lean more towards the introverted side of things, read online articles about the best ways to market your business online. Writing blog posts for your website or tapping your creative side to build a stellar social media advertising campaign might be your best bet.

5. Doing too much

As the saying goes: “when it rains, it pours.” This can be especially true for freelancers trying to bring in new business. You may go months without one bite, but all it takes is one new client to get the ball rolling. Before you know it, you have a queue of new business and a ton of work on your plate. Without adequate support, you may risk taking on too much by yourself. This can lead to burnout and excess stress.

Try to have a plan -- and a support system -- in case you get overwhelmed. Having another freelancer you can tap for help is a good ace to have up your sleeve. Consider hiring a virtual administrative assistant for other non-core tasks that may be eating up your time. Try not to forget to take small breaks throughout the day as well as longer vacations when you can. It is tempting to dive headfirst into all the work, but going too long without the chance to recuperate can do more damage than good in the long run.

This is just a small list of the potential pitfalls freelancers and self-employed people face. With any luck, you’ll be able to avoid all of them and enjoy some ease and freedom in your entrepreneurial ventures.

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