All posts in self-employment

4 lessons learned in 3 years of self-employment

Since I opened markobrienwritingservices.com in December 2011, I have written all sorts of material, primarily for various businesses and individuals. 

This is my first time being self-employed after working all my career for newspapers and public relations agencies that took care of “the paperwork” — Social Security, taxes, insurance, paid vacations and other stuff I barely considered before I went to work for myself.

I have ghostwritten books for other people — on marketing and social media as well as a man’s memoir. 

I have written short stuff, too — a postcard mailer that needed some zing for an insurance agent, Twitter and Facebook campaigns for events. I’ve researched and written blogs on insurance, audio and fire safety systems, cranked out electronic brochures on chemistry, news releases for numerous organizations, and scripts for business videos. I’ve also provided plenty of public relations advice and donated my services to several nonprofits. I’ve enjoyed it all. 

My biggest challenges have come in cases that I never anticipated, perhaps because I went into this venture with little forethought.

Some things I have learned since I went into business for myself three years ago:

•Lots of people say they will call you, often without you even soliciting their business. But few do.

Don’t take it personally. People do this because they have dreams of improving their website or writing a book, but then they get back to reality and forget their goals. Or maybe they think they’re being polite by saying they will call.

Should I call them? It makes me feel so needy, and it leads to awkward encounters. 

I wrestled with this issue a lot, and now I send them a simple email saying, “You said you want to talk. Here’s my contact info. Get in touch when you’re ready.”

Hardly anyone follows up, but the few who do have been great clients.

•Be grateful for small clients.

I know the maxim is that it’s more efficient to work for a few big clients than a bunch of small clients, but I like little guys.

They’re down-to-earth, their causes are interesting, and they tend to pay promptly, perhaps because they know firsthand the squeeze that slow-payers can put on a business. 

Being a big client too often means never paying a bill in less than 45 or 60 days.

Must. Budget. Accordingly.

•I need to spend more time “Marketing Mark.” I enjoy research, writing and editing, but I need to mingle more with people in business so I can attract more work and build stronger relationships. For instance, I do a lot of tourism work, which I like, but it’s seasonal. More clients would mean both more continuity and more writing challenges.

•Always do your best work. When a client is being troublesome or cheap, the urge may be to cut corners, but I force myself to do my best anyway.

Ultimately, I’m my own boss and I have to answer to myself.

What do you think? Do you have any advice for me as I enter my fourth year in business for myself?

Please contact me at markobrienusa@gmail.com