Mad Men and Women – The New Generation of Entrepreneurs

Startup Drinks

Figures from Statistics Canada showed an overall rise of those in work by 17,500 last December.  In fact, the number of people in employment fell by 13,600; the rise was only due to those choosing self-employment – 31,000 of them.  Choosing may not be entirely the right word here, as a “choice” usually means two or more options.  The rapid rise in the number of people in the self-employment category has been a feature of the recession across the world, and Canada is no exception.  There are, however, some common misconceptions about becoming your own boss. So what are the pitfalls and what sort of person do you need to be?

Great Expectations

Figures suggest that on the whole most of the self-employed earn less than their employed colleagues.  It’s true that many millionaires started out as self-employed individuals, but they are the exception.  Becoming self-employed certainly puts you in control, and offers a much more flexible lifestyle than other ways of working, but it doesn’t necessarily mean mega-bucks or as much spare time as your employed friends.  This is perhaps the most important thing to understand as you take the leap into this lifestyle – that it is often much harder work, it involves longer hours and may not pay as well as the alternatives.  Many of the newly self-employed fail early on in their careers as the expectations are not met by the realities.  There’s nothing wrong with having great expectations – they are what helps you to build a successful business – but at the same time being grounded in reality won’t do you any harm!

High and Low Tech Marketing

Unless you plan to run a marketing agency you probably aren’t a marketing expert.  This is one area of running your own business that is crucial and often overlooked by those new to being their own boss.  Whatever business you are in you’ll need a marketing strategy, a budget and you’ll need to implement both.  This is not as daunting as it might sound, and there are a number of tools that you can use to get started.  Make a marketing plan before you get started if possible – if you don’t you may be left with plenty of time on your hands to do so.  Marketing is about telling people about what you do – and the old fashioned word of mouth approach is both free and available to anyone.  Include this in your plan from the start.  Often this can be enough for the smallest of businesses to get plenty of work in.  Reputations are built on recommendation, so ask your customers to pass on your details.  Cards in the local store are the next, and usually free, way to get some business and should be made the most of too.  Internet advertising, using services such as Google Adwords, also allows you to budget for a small or large internet campaign.  Google gives you complete control over how much you spend, and it helps you to target customers who are searching for your services.

Money, Tax and Accounting

As a self-employee you’ll be managing all aspects of your business.  Another area that many fail to get control of from the start is the money management side of things.  Simple accounting software is available online these days and it often comes with a free trial period.  Make the most of this free trial to get to grips with the systems available and you’ll get the most out of them once you start paying.  Accounting software and accountants are essential to keep things running smoothly – you’ll need to be sure that your business is able to produce professional invoices, reports and that the information your accountant needs is easily accessible and clear.  This latter point cuts costs on the accountant’s bill, which is one area that many small businesses find essential.

Making it Through the Early Days

So the first few months of self-employment will be a learning curve for most people, but with the right tools, and the right attitude, you’ll find they go smoothly.  There are up and downsides to self-employment, but the up outweigh the down in nearly all cases.  While you may find yourself working longer and harder than many of your friends, you won’t find yourself complaining about the boss or watching the clock – the hours will certainly fly.

Carlo Pandian is a freelance writer and blogs about start-ups, technology and business covering everything from QuickBooks Online to web marketing tools. He loves reading great entrepreneurs biographies and speaking at conferences about how the internet can help small businesses.

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