Starting Self Employment

When I started self employment a few years back, I didn't really plan for it. I kind of got pulled into it and went with the flow. I made several mistakes; but also learnt from them. Looking back, I wish I had taken a more structured process using a business planning approach.

Starting self employment is no rocket science. You just need to be disciplined about following a structured approach. I would suggest this three step approach of –

Plan > Prepare > Launch

Step-1: Plan

What do you think is the most important component of starting a new business?
You must have something to sell that customers are willing to pay for. Right?

So, ask yourself these questions,
• What skills do I have?

Take an inventory of your professional skills, both soft and hard. Your hard skills are the core job skills such as:
Process Reengineering,
Data base administration,
Bookkeeping etc.

Your soft skills might be your -
Presentation style,
Negotiation skills,
Time management abilities etc.

• Of those skills, which ones am I really good at?

My recommendations is to conduct a survey of your friends, colleagues, managers, customers and staff; both past and present. You can get that information via a casual discussion or through a formal survey.

I have used SurveyMonkey's basic service before and it's pretty good. Also, it's free.

You will be surprised at what you find. Things you thought obvious (about you) may turn out to be not so true. For example, you might think that your core strength is data base administration; but you might find out that others perceive you as a better Project Manager, who is really good at managing database related projects. Keep in mind that "Often, perception is reality".

The bottom-line is you need to know what your strengths are and cash on them. You also need to know what associated skills you are lacking so that you can work on them.

It's entirely possible that you might not like to pursue a self-employment career in what you currently do or where your core job skills are. In that case I will say "follow your passion".

However, I am not going to lie to you. It's going to be relatively harder to pursue a new self-employment career, because self-employment is all about your personal brand. Customers like to hire folks who have a track record and reputation in a particular job field. But all said, at the end of the day, you should do what you enjoy to do. Then it won't feel like work, and success definitely will follow you. Think hard about what you are passionate about and how you can translate your current skills and experience to reflect that.

Check out the “Self Employment Ideas” and “Self Employment Tips” links for anything that might be your passion and how you can make them work for you.

• Is there demand for these skills?

In other words, are there customers who are willing to pay you to perform these skills for them? While evaluating this you also need to look at the following factors:
Where are these prospective customers located?
Are there enough customers local to your area?
If not then are you willing to travel or relocate? (We'll get to the cost part later)
How is the competition? Are there many people with your skills available in the market?
What do you have to offer that they can't? (Remember, offering a "lower rate" is a bad answer. It will come back and bite you.)
What is the market rate for your skills?

This last one is really important. I have an excel spreadsheet that I created for myself that allows you to calculate the (approximate) minimum rate you can afford to charge to break-even with your current compensation. I will post it on this site, once I figure out how to do that. :) Until then send me a request at (admin at and I will email that to you.

• Is this the right time?
Consider this question from both professional and personal aspects. Check out the "Benefits of Self Employment" section and decide for yourself if this is the right time for you. Discuss with your immediate family and make sure they are on board.


Start Self Employment: Plan->Prepare->Launch