Working for yourself can be a scary prospect. The thought of stepping away from the security of a paid job with all its safety nets and perks can put most people off chasing their dream.
But are you going to spend the rest of your life making money for other people? How much of yourself, how much of your soul, are you willing to give away to fulfil someone else’s dream?
There is another way.
Here are some telltale signs that you’re more than ready to start working for yourself.
1. You dread getting up for work
When I was a kid, I used to hate Sunday evenings. The reason for that was because I knew I had school the next day. I had double maths, and PE on the Monday, neither of which I was very good at. Worse still, I knew I had a violin lesson during my first break time, and I absolutely hated it. With a passion.
It’s that deep, pit-of-the-stomach feeling I’m talking about. I’d go to bed on Sunday evenings with an suffocating fear of dread. I still sometimes get it when I have things in my diary that I’d rather not do.
If you cuss and curse when the alarm goes off first thing in the morning, or pull the blanket up over your head and wish the day away before it’s even started, you may want to think about working for yourself.
Your hours. Your diary. Your work. Your profit.
2. You spend your working day dreaming of doing something else
I was once an AA salesman. I’d drive 100 miles to a location, set up my stand and spend the day trying to sell breakdown cover. Actually, that’s a lie. I’d spend the day cooped over my stand, working on TV scripts that I thought would make me rich and famous.
I’ve still got the scripts somewhere. And I managed to get by with my sales simply from the walkups I had because I was manning the stand. That was before I was called out by my boss and I was given a hard time. I just wasn’t that enthusiastic about making money for other people.
Do you spend your working hours thinking of what you could be? Do you look longingly out of the window and wonder how others manage to be happier?
Think about how many hours you are wasting, dreaming your life away while you make money for someone else. You could be using this time to create your own business and your own brand.
3. You don’t fit in at your workplace
One of the last jobs I had before I worked for myself was a high school English teacher. The job itself was great and the kids were a joy to work with. Most of them anyway.
But come lunchtimes, I wouldn’t want to sit around the department’s table, eat cucumber sandwiches and talk about Shakespeare. That sort of thing never interested me. Instead, I’d take my lunch elsewhere and sit with my thoughts and ideas. I’d make plans for my own magazines, books and even websites.
Ultimately, this worked against me when I applied for my own job full-time. But a full-time teaching role wasn’t something that I would have wanted anyway.
Do you avoid getting involved in workplace dramas and politics? Do you find yourself making acquaintances but not friends?
If you don’t feel that you belong in a workplace, that’s probably for a very good reason. You don’t belong there.
4. You know you’ve got bigger fish to fry
I spent many years working in call centres, making outbound sales calls. As someone who hates speaking on the phone, there couldn’t have been a worse job for me.
All the while I was working these long hours (sometimes 7am-10pm on minimum wage), I knew that I wasn’t destined to stay there. And that’s not being arrogant. While my colleagues pushed for promotion to be Team Leader (for no extra pay), I knew that I’d end up doing what I wanted to do, on my terms.
My friends and I would often meet in the break rooms and swap dreams of where we wanted to be. And a few of my friends did exactly what they said they were going to do. One set up a national charity in Africa and another launched her own online children’s shop.
You may have a childhood ambition that you’ve never fulfilled. You may think that you’re trapped in your dead-end day job.
You’re not. You have it within you to create a life of your own.
Don’t tell people your dreams. Show them.
5. You’ve already working on a side hustle
In 2007, while I was still teaching, I set up my own magazines. By 2008, I was holding down five jobs to make ends meet. I was teaching, working in a pub four nights a week, a newspaper sports desk for one night, plus I was doing some private tutoring. Oh. And the magazines of course.
By the time I realised that teaching was never going to work out for me, I knew I had to try something else. I landed a crappy job for a crappy company and got sacked for not hitting my weekly targets (in reality, I’m pretty sure that my face didn’t fit). I walked out of the building, knowing that I had to now plough all my energy and enthusiasm into the one thing that I had left – my magazines. Fourteen years later, it’s still my full-time day job.
You may have already have a sideline business going. You may sell stuff on eBay or Etsy. You may have a hobby that you can make money out of.
If you’re already working on a side hustle, it’s a case of when and not if you start working for yourself.
6. You know you can do a better job than your boss
When I was about 25, a lack of money meant that I had to get myself a Christmas job for a month or two. I ended up working in the stockroom of a popular store which was fine for me as I didn’t want the embarrassment of seeing anyone I knew on the shop floor.
My boss was an 18 year old kid who could barely speak. He came in late one day and his excuse was that he’d ‘only got 9 hours sleep’. He told me off for wearing brown shoes with grey trousers (they were the only shoes I had). He took 2 hour lunch breaks and when I once went to him with a customer complaint, he laughed and told me that they could go to hell.
Have you ever looked at your boss and wondered how on earth did they get there? Do you find yourself often telling yourself that you could do a better job than they could? Do they take the credit for YOUR work?
If you’ve got the know-how or expertise, or both, consider setting up on your own. You don’t need asshole bosses clipping your wings when you could be earning more, working your own hours and getting so much more job satisfaction.
7. The 9-5 isn’t for you
I sometimes start work at 10am. I sometimes start work at 5am. If I’ve got family matters I need to attend to, or I fancy a day off when the weather’s looking good, I book myself a day off.
Even the thought of starting work by a certain time makes me feel tight-chested.
You may feel the same. The commute, the same old Groundhog day greetings as you get to work and the same old boring faces you know you’re going to spend the entire day with.
The 9-5 may not be for you. You may be an early bird. You may be a night owl. None of us is the same. And clock-watching is soul-destroying. You can find some resources here to help you organise your working day at home.
No more putting in holiday requests and being denied it because Tina in Accounts is off to the Bahamas that week. No more being at the behest of everyone else.
This is YOUR life. This is your time. Take it.
8. You don’t need your hand held to do your job
I started working at the age of 15. My job was to man the phones and sell tickets for the last seagoing passenger-carrying paddle steamer in the world.
I learned a lot from my first boss, who had multiple businesses running at once. And every Saturday afternoon, he’d take the load of mail to the Post Office ten miles away so that it’d make the Sunday post.
For most Saturday afternoons, I was totally on my own. Even at the age of 15. And as the years went by, my boss entrusted me with all manner of things, including the marketing side of the business. Ultimately, it gave me an underlying confidence that has stuck with me for life.
If can do your job perfectly well without a manager poking their nose into your business to try and justify their salary, it’s likely that you’re big enough to run your own business.
Enough of people who are only looking out to cover their own arses.
You can do better.
9. You’re a problem solver
Much of the time spent in ‘real’ jobs is fulfilling the needs of others, and covering for other people in the business. How many times has your manager pointed out things that ‘could have been done better’ versus a genuine word of thanks or praise?
When you work for yourself, a lot of time is spent solving problems yourself. No one ever said that working for yourself is easy. But when you solve problems for yourself, there’s a bigger sense of urgency. And also a massive sense of achievement.
It’s YOUR problem. But it’s also your solution. And boy does that feel good.
10. You’re not one for endless meetings
Meetings have their place, sure. After all, a meeting of minds is a great way of generating new ideas and enthusiasm.
But then there are those kinds of meetings that some places of work have. You know the one? The ones where they meet to discuss their next meeting. And then a meeting to discuss the outcome of the meeting. And then a meeting to discuss the meeting of the meeting.
Make it stop! YOU call the shots!
What are you waiting for?