Before I became my own boss, I worked in the corporate world for a number of years.
Let’s just say it was an interesting experience. Number-crunching spreadsheets that were painful just to look at, dealing with office politics, manoeuvring my way through different layers of management, creating and delivering ridiculously long powerpoint presentations to Senior Management, that kind of stuff.
You can imagine my relief when I was able to say goodbye to all of that when I left the corporate world!
It’s not really a secret that being self-employed is a totally different ballgame than being employed.
Different game, different rules.
What works in a corporate setting might be the greatest disaster in a new or small business. And vice versa: things that work in a new or small business, might not do so well in a large, established company.
Needless to say, I had to figure out a lot of things when I started working for myself.
Those years of climbing the corporate ladder weren’t for nothing though.
Working for a number of large companies with years and years of knowledge and experience has taught me tons of incredibly valuable things that anyone working for themselves can benefit hugely from.
Let’s dive straight in.
This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how few people follow-up on emails they’ve sent or phone calls, meetings and introductions they’ve had.
Here’s the thing: people are busy. So when you send an email, you can bet that they’ve other things vying for their attention. If your email is not top priority for them, chances are that they’ll mark it for later (and then forget) or that it simply ends up on an ever growing pile of unanswered emails.
Same goes for phone calls, meetings or introductions you’ve had with someone. If you don’t follow up on this with a short email summarising what you’ve talked about, confirming some action points or just telling them it was a pleasure to meet them, all your efforts and time could be wasted.
The hard truth is: if you’re not top of mind (or top priority), people are very likely to focus their time and energy on other things.
Following up can open doors, where they would otherwise have remained closed.
It looks professional and shows that you take things seriously. It’s also a very subtle way to say “hey, I’m here” and stay on top of someone’s mind.
The best thing? It costs you very little time and effort, but the results can be huge.
What’s in it for them?
When I was developing new products and services for companies like EE and BT, the question on senior management’s lip was always: what’s in it for them? Why does the consumer care?
I see a lot of self-employed people ‘chasing their passion’. While I’m all for starting a passion-based business, just because you are passionate about something doesn’t mean it’s a viable business.
Reality check: most people don’t really care that your business allows you to do what your passionate about, work from anywhere or travel the world.
You have to think about others first.
How are you making a difference to them? Why should they care about what you do? What’s in it for them?
You shouldn’t just ask yourself these questions about your potential customers, but also about partnerships, collaborations and even job applications.
What do others gain from working with you? The more specific you can be, the better.
Make this the focal point of your conversations and you’ll be way ahead of the curve.
Be clear about what you want
“Be clear about what you want? How does that marry with ‘what’s in it for them’?” I hear you ask.
Focusing on others first doesn’t mean that you can’t know what you want. They’re not mutually exclusive.
You can be super clear about what you want and still approach others from a ‘what’s in it for them’ perspective. What you’re creating there is a win-win.
When you’re working for yourself, the sky is the limit. Anything is possible. That’s exciting, but there’s also a danger.
When anything is possible, there’s a real risk of steering off course or doing things that aren’t right for you – especially if you’re a people pleaser and tend to say ‘yes’ to things.
As the Cheshire Cat said to Alice: if you don’t know where you’re going, any road’ll take you there. And that’s, I’m sure you know, not a good thing when working for yourself. If you don’t set out the course, someone else will do it for you.
You always have to keep in mind what your goals are – or at least in which direction you’re heading.
These 3 simple, but important things will make a big difference to any business owner or freelancer out there.
Remember, what you do isn’t always the most important thing. How you do it matters just as much.