Personal Development

How to Transition into Self Employment

August 2, 2016

I’m Michelle.
A modern maker with a classic approach to design. Ever in search
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Self employment is quickly becoming the most coveted position out there. You get to be your own boss, make your own hours, do what you want— what’s not to love? Unfortunately, transitioning into self employment is not as easy as flicking a switch. The financial reality is, that if you are employed full time, it probably means that you need that steady income to support yourself. When you run your own business there’s no ceiling on the money you can generate, but there are also no security or guarantees. So how can you make this transition happen without living out of your car? Here are some tips on how to make that leap without crashing and burning.

Have you been dreaming of working for yourself, but don’t know how to make it happen when you are employed full time? This article explores practical solutions for transitioning into self employment that don’t involve risking the livelihood of you or your family. // From MichelleHickey.Design

Have a plan

Hating your boss is good ammunition for going off on your own, but it won’t get you very far. It’s not enough to know that you want to quit, you need to know what you are going to do once you leave. It’s great that you identify with being a creative, but what specifically are your greatest strengths and passions? What can you bring to the table to help others, in your own unique way? I encourage you to use the dream-building worksheet I shared in this post to help you in defining your path.

Build relationships

This step is very underestimated and has the most potential to fast-track your success. So much of your business is going to be about you, so you need to be able to sell yourself before you can sell a product. Begin interacting and connecting with other people in your niche, and who are already self employed. Tell them your hopes and dreams, ask for advice, and look for ways that you can genuinely help in elevating their businesses. When it comes time to launch your business, you will have a built-in network of people who will support you.

Where can you find these magical people? Just log onto a computer. Search Facebook Groups, participate in a Twitter Party, Google to find forums in your niche, or join your local Tuesdays Together chapter. It’s okay that you don’t have your own business yet. We all have to start somewhere, and most entrepreneurs never forget that.

Become an expert

One of the other benefits in making those connections before you even start, is that you will have your finger on the pulse of what is happening in your industry. It’s super important to stay on the ball when it comes to trends, and more importantly, the needs and wants of your potential customers. If you go into your business armed with the knowledge of a seasoned professional, you’ll have a greater chance of having the success of one.

Live like nobody else

Here’s where the hard part starts. You need to put the time in to begin the development of your business. Unless you have a ton of savings, this means working on nights, weekends, during your lunch break, and whatever free moment you can find. As a major rule follower, I can’t believe I’m about to advise this, but this may even mean putting in some time, while you are at your full time job. If you log on and check Facebook during the day, it’s really no different. Instead of taking a coffee break, grab your laptop or a notebook and go put in 15 minutes of work in your car if you need to. If you call yourself a creative, now is the time to use that talent to find those pockets of time you didn’t know you had.

The sacrifices you make by skipping out on girls night, missing your favorite tv show, or the really tough ones like asking your partner to step up and take on some of your parenting responsibilities, are all investments in your future, and that of your family. Establish a timeline so that everyone in your life will understand that this time of absence for you will only be temporary. There’s a quote from Dave Ramsey that perfectly articulates the importance of making these sacrifices: “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”

“If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” – Dave Ramsey

Think small

Set yourself up for small wins by choosing just a few actionable goals every week. When you are ready to launch your website, product or service, don’t offer the world. Choose one thing that you are equally good at and passionate about. Build a strong foundation by offering just one or two, superior products or services, and grow your offerings as your audience does. This will prevent burnout on your part, and will show your customers that you are dedicated to what you are selling. There are two books that really helped me understand the importance of simplicity in business, and I highly suggest reading or listening to one or both of them:

1. The One Thing, by Gary Keller

2. Essentialism, by Gred McKeown

Reach your tipping point

If you’ve truly followed what I’ve outlined above, you will start bringing in some extra income, and it’s going to feel awesome. At this point, it’s tempting to see what you’ve accomplished and think that you are ready to go at it full time. Instead, I suggest moving into a transitional role, where you have one foot in your business, and the other in a place of security.

See if there is the possibility of cutting back on your hours, or switching to a part time position within your company. If not, start looking for another position that offers more flexibility, but that still provides you with a steady income stream. This may be an eye opening experience for you. When I got let go from my job in 2009, I started freelancing to supplement my own invitation + stationery business. In that first year I generated almost double my former full time salary, working half the hours, just from freelancing alone.

Use your extra time wisely

At this point, it’s more important than ever to make good use of your time. Pretend like your business is your only source of income, and maximize the potential for earnings in the areas where you are already successful. If your art prints are flying off your virtual shelves, put the same designs on tee shirts, mugs, etc, and see if you can generate even more income without needing to design something new. Really tap into those principles of The One Thing and Essentialism, and don’t waste time on something that’s not directly leading to your main goal of full time self employment.

Look at the big picture

The period in which you are in this limbo is going to be different for every individual, and the amount of money you’re generating will not be the only factor in deciding when to go full time. You also need to consider the amount of money it takes to run your business, and the future needs of you and your family. It’s at this point that you might decide to downgrade, and move into a smaller home, or to a town where the cost of living is lower. Or you might decide that you want to move into a bigger house, or that you want to travel abroad for a year and need the extra funds to make that happen. Whatever your situation is, be honest with yourself in knowing when the time is right to complete your transition.

Make the leap

If and when you reach the point where you are generating enough income to support yourself, it’s time to pull the plug— if you want to. You may find that running your business, while also working part time or freelancing is exactly the right fit for you, as it has been for me. You may also realize that you hate working for yourself, and that you were just in the wrong job. If so, take this time of exploration as a learning experience. When you set off on this journey to transition into self employment, your goal should not be to become self employed, but to find happiness.

It’s so easy to be anxious and want everything to fall into place quickly. We are living in a world of instant gratification, and it’s frustrating to realize that establishing a fruitful, successful business doesn’t happen with the snap of your fingers. As you are on your journey and experiencing those moments when you feel like you will never reach the finish line, remember that it’s the ones who keep going that emerge victorious.

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  1. Ina says:

    Hey Michelle,

    Firstly, congratulations on your new endeavours ! Wish you all the best.

    I’ve been inspired by you and your work for the last few months now, since the moment your blog. Thank you for great suggestions, that I found in this article! All is left to do now –> HUSTLE !

    • Michelle says:

      The hustle is real, Ina! I’m working on it every day and I know that you can too. 🙂 Thanks so much for your kind words and for supporting me here + on social media too!

  2. Ann Marie says:

    Great post! Very inspirational and useful information. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Carmia says:

    Congratulations on your new website, Michelle! It looks fantastic and I know it will be a huge success. I can’t wait to learn more from you!

    • Michelle says:

      Thanks so much, Carmia! It always means so much to hear from you, fellow rockstar graphic designer!

  4. Nyle says:

    Great points discussed here, Michelle. One of the biggest difference I experienced was on how I manage my time. I was working from home but employed full time to clients. It made me procrastinate so much that i didn’t realise I wasn’t bringing value anymore.

    When I decided to shift my mind to being a business owner than just being an employee, it made me value my time more and my client’s businesses increasing, so much of my productivity. It enhanced the value that I’m providing to clients. Well, you badly need highly productive hours especially with 3 kids around. You won’t have all day.


    PS It’s been a while that I haven’t been here and I love the new site. It’s sooo pretty it makes me want to eat it. ????

    • Michelle says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, Nyle! Time management is a huge factor, and I’ve experienced some in the same struggles with trying to freelance + run my business at the same time. You have some great insights on productivity and I appreciate you sharing! 🙂

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