5 Tips To Avoid The Self-Employment Trap

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5 Tips To Avoid The Self-Employment Trap

Jul 22, 2016

Part of the thrill of owning a business or working as a freelancer is the control it seems to offer.  You don’t answer to anyone but yourself; the growth of your capital depends on your hard work, and you’re the one who reaps the satisfaction and the financial rewards of a job well done.

Unfortunately, many self-employed folks find themselves subject to another boss: their work.  They find that they and their families have become slaves to the unbelievable effort it takes to maintain a business. Sure, they have the ability to excel in their field, but they’re drowning in their own business.

It’s a hard balance: After all, the business wouldn’t have a chance of being successful unless the owner invested his or her life into it, at least at the beginning.  But as the business grows, the owner must release some control, or they will find themselves trapped.

Finding Freedom from your Own Business

The following are 5 tips to avoid this common trap experienced by many self-employed men and women.  Use these great tips to make sure you make the most of your work time and don’t end up a slave to your office.

1.  Give yourself structure.  Your business started with a dream – a vision.  And vision is crucial in order for you to keep up your motivation.  But dreams don’t like to be subject to structure, which is crucial in business.  The self-employed man or woman must be disciplined enough to pace themselves at a reasonable level in order to avoid burning out.  But the great thing about being self-employed is that you get to develop the structure that works for you to your own personality and habits!


The first way to employ structure is to implement a schedule.  Plan which hours and which days you plan to work (and when you’re not working, you’re not working.)  Then plan what you will be doing.  Integrate breaks; schedule lunch.  Have a big project?  Space it out so you won’t be up all night the day before the deadline.  You never intended your work to be drudgery, so shape it into something manageable!

2.  Train employees to work without you.   You can accomplish this by doing two things: Develop a written manual to answer questions, and allow your employees some autonomy to make their own decisions.  This will raise the confidence of your staff and improve the employee-employer relationship as they realize that you trust them.  Best of all, you’ll be able to go away for the weekend without constantly monitoring your phone!

3.  Record what you’re doing.  Or at least make sure someone else knows what you’re working on, the current status, and the future plan.  If you become ill or have to take an emergency trip, you’ll be able to let someone take over with minimal guidance.

4.  Say “no” sometimesYou chose self-employment because you are passionate about your abilities.  So when you’re bombarded with exciting opportunities to share your talent, it’s tempting to accept every offer.  Develop the practice of occasionally saying “no.”

One of the hardest times to say “no” is when a friend or family member wants to utilize your abilities for free.   If this happens, you can give a gentle reason for your “no.”  Say something like, “I can’t afford to help you – I really want to, but financially I need to be pursuing paying clients.”  Hopefully they’ll get the hint and offer to compensate you.

5.  Have a life.  It’s true that being self-employed can mean investing every element of your life to growing your business.  And there’s a practical reason you’re doing it: You need to make money.  If you have a family, they need a relationship with you.   So occasionally step back and ask yourself what’s really important.  Prioritizing work over relationships won’t benefit you in the long run.


The main reason you’re self-employed is because you can do it.  You have the experience, the training, the talent to do what you love, so why not get paid to do it?

Follow your dream.  Invest in your passion.  Be excited.  But you need to harness that energy into a reasonably structured plan that works with life, and these tips are a great way to start.  You’ll use your time more efficiently.  You’ll own your business instead of letting it own you.  And ultimately, your entire self-employment experience will be more satisfying!

Guest blog post by Jonathon Ohayon.  He is the COO of Brilliance.com and has been managing companies and motivating people since the 6th grade. As a proven business leader and gemologist, he is uniquely skilled in navigating the ever changing e-commerce landscape. When he is not answering emails into the wee hours of the night, he can be found spending time with his wife and three children.
The opinions expressed in our published works are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the National Association for the Self-Employed or its members.

Courtesy of NASE.org