Independent work, once a mere fantasy for weary corporate warriors is a mainstream alternative for millions of people. In fact, independents make up 20- 30% of the US workforce. The ease of setting up shop as a solo, however, often overshadows the realities of working on your own. Independent work is a viable and sustainable alternative to the traditional workforce, but it is not without challenges.
While the benefits of becoming an independent consultant have been well documented – freedom, flexibility and the ability to fully control your own career – the challenges of working on your own are far less discussed. If you’re considering becoming an independent pro, you will want to be fully prepared, for all of it, the good, bad and in-between.
Your straight line may become twisted. You may start your solo business with a detailed, documented plan that would make professional project planners proud. However, the market, clients, and your own interests can result in your business evolving in ways you never considered. You need a plan but don’t be afraid to adjust it.
Tag, you’re it. You are the boss but you’re also every other department. Consider all of the departments that supported your work in the traditional workforce. That's now all you. Find your local computer shop or Best Buy to support your IT needs and rest assured that you can find a human or technological solution for the other things that come up.
About those P.J.s. There may be days that you work in your pajamas, but it may not be by choice. The more likely scenario is that you were so busy that you never got dressed. When you finally come up for air, the day is nearly over and you have not showered, dressed or eaten. Make these days the exception rather than the rule with clear client plans and boundaries.
There will be doubts. You will have doubts that range from mild panic to a full-on existential crisis. In fact, you will continue to doubt yourself at various points in your solo career, no matter how long you’ve been doing it. A change in your personal or professional life, such as losing a client, can trigger a wave of questions, but so can boredom. Take a break and do something that reenergizes you. You can then look at those doubts with a clearer perspective and assess if there are changes you need to make.
You are not an employee. Regardless of the position you held in your traditional career, you were an employee. What you did and how you accomplished it was largely directed by someone else. For many considering a solo career, you think about being in charge of the work you do but not necessarily being the boss of you. Without a team, multiple bosses, a board of directors and an annual 360, you are fully in charge of your work life. You not only get to make decisions about the work you do but how you accomplish it. In the beginning, you will default to what you know but over time you’ll find new tools, resources and a new way of working that fits you.
You have no idea what you like to do. As an employee, you did the things that were assigned to your role. There were things you liked and others you are happy to kiss good-bye. However, as you work on your own, you may discover new interests and skillsets. In fact, it is not uncommon for solos to do a full pivot into a new career once they are on their own. This may be one of the best benefits of working on your own. You can go up the ladder, sideways or choose an entirely different ladder. Celebrate the freedom to truly choose how you structure your business and career.
It is a business. One of the biggest shocks to many new independent consultants is all of the business details that are required to run your own shop. Whether you remain solo or create a team of employees or partners, you are a business, and this will require a shift in thinking. You will have to think about margins and bottom lines, taxes and more. Hardest of all for some is learning that you the person does not have to be you the business.
Working as a solo, has a number of benefits and many never envision going back to the traditional workforce. However, it is important to make the decision knowing that the journey will not be without challenges.
How about you? What would you add to the list? Share your insights and experience in the comments!
If you are a PR, Social Media or Communications professional considering launching your solo business, join Solo PR PRO. We make the solo life easier by providing helpful resources, tools, tips and a supportive community that will cheer you on every step of the way.