Employee to Entrepreneur — The Choices Are Up to You

While many people take the Professional Author and Speaker Assistant Courses as a way to expand existing virtual assistant businesses, we find quite a few of our students are transitioning from the corporate world as an employee to the world of entrepreneurship. There are many things that change in making this transition but they almost all boil down to freedom to make choices.

Now, flexibility and freedom to make choices is a good thing. In fact, it is one of the things most often cited as the reason someone decides to go into business for themselves. The ability to chart your own course, set your own schedule, without having to answer to an employer is something that almost everyone who is working a traditional 9-5 job will tell you they want.

But the reality of being responsible for all of those choices can be daunting. If you have worked for someone else for years you are used to having someone tell you when to work, how to work, and clearly define what is expected of you. It was pretty easy to know if you were “doing a good job” or not – your employer probably gave you regular performance reviews and even pay raises to go along with positive reviews. If there was a problem, you most likely were given a plan you were expected to follow to resolve the issue.

As an entrepreneur, those things are all up to you. This can be exhilarating but it can also make you feel lost and overwhelmed. It is actually one of the places I see a lot of entrepreneurs who are transitioning from being an employee fail. To be successful you must make a conscious shift in your mindset. You have to change hats and become a boss instead of an employee. Or for most of us who start business as solopreneurs, you need to be a little bit of both.

It was helpful for me to think of myself as two people – the “boss” and the “worker bee.”  Both roles were essential to my success. When I was in “boss” mode, I made decisions about what my work schedule would be and what business activities I would be committed to on a regular basis. The “boss” was the one who developed a business plan determining what services I would offer and establishing a marketing plan. When I was in “worker bee” mode, I was delivering services to my clients.

I made time to spend as the Boss of my business and set up goals and expectations for myself. One of the first things I did was to set “office hours” and committed to working during those hours either delivering client services, consuming additional training or doing marketing activities for my business. And I remained accountable for that time. Of course, I had the ability to set that schedule around other family commitments that were important to me and could adjust the schedule if necessary. But I made my “worker bee” self actually negotiate those things with “the boss.” One of my favorite axioms about being an entrepreneur is the following: Work time is flexible but not optional.

Another thing I needed from my “boss” was feedback. I recommend that you set specific goals and regularly evaluate how you are doing in meeting those goals. I like to look at the year in quarterly chunks. I set goals at the beginning of each quarter and evaluate how I did in meeting those goals at the end of each quarter. I set these goals for both income, growth and balance with the rest of my life and family. It is important to define what success is for you. I define success differently at different times in my business and in my life. For instance, my goals were more family focused when a family member was going through a health crisis and I was able to be present for them while maintaining my business but not growing it significantly.

If you are coming out of an environment that you have been an assistant to an employer, it is easy to fall into an employee/employer relationship with your clients. I will caution you against that mindset. You are a service provider and your clients are your customers. It is really a different relationship than that of employee/employer and an important distinction to make. Keep yourself in the position of being the boss of your company.

What are some of the challenges you have faced or anticipate facing in moving from employee to entrepreneur?

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