Tag: entrepreneur


How to Test Out a Freelancing Career to See if It’s Right for You

Freelancing for additional income streams

My good friend Ashley just started her own small-scale bakery. She loves sweet potatoes, so all of her baked goods are made from sweet potatoes, a very niche focus. (Check out Hey Sweetie on Instagram.)

Ashley began her bakery for two reasons. One, she’s passionate about baking. And two, she knows her current job is not something she’ll be able to physically continue doing in the future.

To supplement for the inevitable, Ashley’s starting now to create additional income streams through various freelancing opportunities. This includes her new home bakery.

Start by keeping it simple

Ashley began her bakery in a simple way. First, she obtained the appropriate business license to be able to bake and sell food out of her home, focusing on baked goods sharing the same main ingredient. Then, she got connected with her local farmer’s market.

At Ashley’s very first market, she sold out of all her baked goods, even though it was the poorest attended market of the year, according to the coordinator. Her product was so successful that several buyers wanted to place orders with her for their Thanksgiving feasts. She was both ecstatic and a bit overwhelmed by the response!

When Ashley and I met for dinner a few days after her first market, she asked me for a few pointers on the things I’ve learned from having my own business. I was happy to share since I was so excited for my good friend.

Now, she’s tweaking her pricing and figuring out the deadlines she needs to set for custom orders, so she can manage her various income streams without being too overwhelmed.

Test the market

What I love about Ashley’s story is she just went for it. She didn’t wait until she had everything figured out to start her bakery. Instead, she tested the market first to see if there was an interest. Testing the market didn’t require a huge investment of her time or money.

Now, she has an idea of how to move forward, while accepting she’ll have to learn some lessons through sheer experimentation. The beauty of having her own thing gives Ashley the control to decide how much or how little of her business she wants to do. She gets a say in how many orders she’ll fulfill at one time, how many farmer’s markets she wants to attend, and how long she wants to continue baking for other people.

Get help

Independent work and “solopreneurship” comes in various forms, such as freelancer, consultant, side hustler, gig worker, or a combination of these. It’s not for everyone, but it’s becoming more common for those who work well independently.

In fact, a recent study shows 58% of workers in traditional settings, who started working remotely during the pandemic, are now considering freelancing. I’ve found this also to be true among many of my newest clients.

Is working for yourself something you’re considering for your own career? If so, check out the various resources below to help you know if it’s right for you, and to help you get started. Because there comes a time when you have to stop thinking about it and stop researching it, and you have to just start, like Ashley did!

But you don’t have to go solo when going solopreneur! paNASH has services available to assist you with starting your own thing. This includes helping you determine if it’s the right career path for you, how to create your brand, how to figure out your pricing and business structure, and more.

For assistance, click here and complete the paNASH intake form. Once you’ve completed the form, we can schedule a complimentary initial consultation.

Resources for starting your own freelancing business

How to Overcome the Intimidation of Starting Your Own Business

For my clients who’d like to start their own business, they often site intimidation as the reason why they haven’t done so yet. Specifically, the thing they say intimidates them the most is the logistics involved. Their fear is real. But the things they fear aren’t really that scary, especially once they start taking steps toward those things.

This was true for me when starting my own business. I didn’t know much about how to begin. Let’s face it, I didn’t even know the difference between an LLC and LL Bean! It all seemed very overwhelming.

But the important thing is, I started. I did a simple Google search on obtaining a business license. Then I checked out the County Clerk’s web site for instructions. Filling out the form took all of five minutes, and the fee was nominal. Done!

Next, I consulted a business coach on how to set up my business as an LLC. He showed me the steps, which weren’t too difficult. And now days, getting an employer ID number for your business is easier than ever through the IRS web site. Done!

With each step completed, my confidence grew!

It’s easy to let things like the alphabet soup of starting a business cause you to panic. LLC, P&L, and IRS can all sound very scary (especially that last one). But taking just a few minutes to research their meaning, or asking someone who knows about it to explain it to you like you’re a four-year-old, can greatly reduce your anxiety.

Tips for starting your own business

If your goal is to start your own business, you’ll also gain confidence by taking one step at a time. You’ll quickly learn you can figure things out as you keep putting one foot in front of the other.

But in addition to giving you a pep talk, I want to share some practical tips to help make the logistics smoother for you. If you already possess the necessary basic skills for starting a business, then the following advice will help you do so with less intimidation, and less headache.

1. Choose a good business name

Determine the best name for your business. Use one that doesn’t limit you from possibly expanding your products, service offerings, or location. Then check for the following:

  • Business name availability.
  • Domain availability. (Always get a dot com over a dot net or a dot info. And never use a hyphen in your domain.)
  • Platform handle availability. Make sure your business name’s handle is available on every social media platform you plan to use.

2. Select your business structure

If you already know what kind of business structure you want, get registered as such. While registering as an LLC is more expensive than registering as a sole proprietor, it’s much easier to do it upfront than to start as a sole proprietor, and then change to an LLC later.

Consult your accountant or a business coach on which structure would best suit your business.

3. Set up a bank account

Get a separate bank account for your business. You never want to mix your business income and expenses with your personal account.

4. Make it easy for customers to pay you

Set up business accounts through payment method platforms like PayPal and Venmo. This way you can receive customer payments quickly, and make it easier for them to pay you. Setting these up as business accounts under your business name, instead of as personal accounts, will make the IRS less suspicious of your transactions.

5. Keep a P&L

In the beginning you may not have the money to hire a bookkeeper, so you’ll need to keep track of your own income and expenses with a profit and loss ledger. It can be as simple as pen and paper, or an Excel sheet, with an itemized list of all your expense and income categories.

Then, you’ll want to keep a copy of every invoice and receipt to account for all the numbers you plug into your ledger. You’re required to hold onto these receipts for up to seven years in the event of an audit. (I know, the word audit sounds really frightening. But as long as you’re using your income strictly for business expenses, and you account for every penny, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.)

Even if you don’t have the money in the beginning to hire a bookkeeper, you will want to dish out the money for an accountant to assist you with your taxes. He or she will tell you what business expenses you can write off, and which ones you can’t.

What I’ve found easiest for me is to keep an Excel P&L myself throughout the year, which gives me a first-hand picture of how my business is doing. I update my P&L monthly. Then every year, I give it to my accountant at tax time for her to have when filing my taxes on my behalf.

6. Pay your estimated taxes

As soon as financially feasible, get into the habit of setting aside 15 to 20 percent of every receivable and every revenue stream. This is the estimated amount you will owe on the income your business generates.

Use this amount to pay your taxes every quarter. Paying taxes online through the IRS web site is quick and easy.

I suggest linking a business savings account to your business checking account, so you can move your estimated taxes to it. This will help you keep it separate from your revenue. You can quickly and easily pay out of this account via ACH, through the IRS web site.

Getting into the habit of taking the taxes off the top of each receivable makes it less painful than getting hit with a large tax bill at once. Doing so can even result in a tax refund!

Take it one step at a time

While the advice above may still leave you feeling unsettled or intimidated, I promise it will reduce your chances of facing something even scarier down the road. These tips really are much easier than they sound, and they will save you a lot of headaches in the long run.

Remember, the logistics of starting a business are not obstacles. They’re simply steps. Just take one step at a time and keep moving to the next step. When in doubt, ask your accountant, your lawyer, a business coach, or someone who’s been down this road before. But don’t ever be so intimidated you become paralyzed with fear and give up on your goal.

Related resources

Career Advice No One Will Ever Share With You (Re-post)

As a career coach, I’m always responding to career-related questions with various tips and career advice. I recently received a question asking,

“What are a few unique pieces of career advice nobody ever mentions?”

This is a good one because there are a lot of possible answers to it, but I chose two answers to reflect what most of my clients don’t know when they first come to me.


Career Advice Tip #1:

If you work for someone else, you still need to think like an entrepreneur.

Why? Because no one’s job is secure.

You have to view your employer as your client. And if your “client” decides not to continue working with you, you have to be in a good position to quickly land your next client.

You do this by becoming a good salesperson of your skills.


Career Advice Tip #2:

If you work for yourself, then you need to think of each meeting with potential clients or potential investors as a job interview.

For instance, I have several consultations with potential clients each week. Therefore, I’m going on job interviews EVERY SINGLE WEEK of the year!

I know I have to clearly express the benefits of my skills as a career coach.


Determine Fit

In either scenario, you not only need to sell your skills.

You also need to treat the situation as a two-way street. You need to find out if your next job or your next client is going to be a good fit for you.

This is why I always suggest job seekers ask their own questions during a job interview.

These questions should be ones to help them determine if the company (i.e. “the client”) is who they really want to spend 40+ hours a week with for the next several years.

**Check out The One Surprising Tip That Guarantees a Good Interview for sample questions to ask when being interviewed.***


Be Selective

For me personally as a business owner, I’m selective in who I take on as clients.

Therefore, not only do I present the benefits of my services and make sure they’re a good fit for the potential client’s goals, but I also ask questions to find out if they’re the type of client I’ll want to work with.

I start with questions in my intake form and ask additional questions during the initial consultation.

I’m looking to see how serious the person is about my coaching program.

I’m also looking for someone with a teachable spirit, an open-mind, respect for others, courtesy, and professionalism.

Someone who doesn’t possess these qualities is not a good fit for me or my company’s mission or programs.


You need to be selective too.

If you’re a job seeker with multiple job offers, be selective.

If you’re an entrepreneur with multiple potential clients, be selective (even when you feel like can’t afford to be!).

Here’s how.

Before walking into an interview or a meeting, take some time to do an inventory of:

  1. your skills and strengths,
  2. how you uniquely demonstrate those skills and strengths,
  3. the benefits of your skills and strengths,
  4. your needs and wants,
  5. your deal-breakers,
  6. and the questions to determine any potential deal-breakers or to determine if the other party can meet at least 60% of your needs and wants (because you’ll rarely find a case that meets 100% of them! — BE REALISTIC!).

Choose only those opportunities that are at least 60% compatible with your inventory.

Keep in mind also numbers 1–3 will give you leverage to ask for numbers 4–5.

Following this advice will help you develop good habits and preparedness for those times when you find yourself at a career crossroads.

career advice

10 Lessons I’ve Learned From 10 Years of Freelancing

Last week I posted an announcement about the celebration of paNASH’s 10-year anniversary. In it I told how I started my freelance business, the fears I faced in leaving a secure job to go out on my own, and how my business’s mission has evolved.

Today, I want to share some of the freelance lessons I’ve learned over those ten years in working for myself. I hope they will serve as an encouragement to those who are thinking about starting their own thing, are new to the freelancing world, or have been in it long enough to have faced some common struggles.

Freelance Lesson #1

I had to be disciplined. Being your own boss requires A LOT of discipline. Why? Because there’s no one looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re showing up on time or getting your work done. Discipline has always come naturally to me, and I was raised by a former Marine Corps officer who further instilled this trait in me. This is not to say that discipline can’t be learned later in life. But the discipline required to work for yourself will make things easier if you’ve already mastered it through other methods such as playing a sport, sticking with a commitment, etc.

Freelance Lesson #2

I had to use my love for life-long learning. I’ve always loved learning new things. And I realized the need for constant learning when starting a business because “a skill does not a business make” according to my friend and colleague Melody Bowers, co-owner of VirtualCollective.

You need to either already have some business sense, or be disciplined enough (see lesson #1) and have the ability to learn it as you go while managing your other responsibilities. If there’s something you can’t learn, there’s always someone else who has the knowledge you can pay to either teach you or to do it for you.

Freelance Lesson #3

I learned it was normal to question my decision almost every single day. I also realized it was normal to feel like giving up on a regular basis when things got hard. But, once I began working in a way that was true and authentic to my own personal mission in life, those doubts and insecurities started to diminish. I became okay with the discomfort of a process that isn’t linear. Instead, it looks more like this:

freelance lessons

Entrepreneur Darius Foroux further explains the figure above in his encouraging article Don’t Quit When It Gets Hard. I love it when he says, “If you never feel like quitting, that means life is too easy and you need to take action in your life.”

Freelance Lesson #4

I learned I had the ability to figure out the logistics. It turns out the things that seem intimidating at first (i.e. getting a business license, paying for your own health insurance, tracking your income & expenses/P&L, etc.) aren’t really all that scary. In fact, a lot of this not-so-fun part of having your own business is easier than you think.

And Freelancers Union has made a lot of it very simple. They provide tips and resources on the logistics of running your own freelance operation and even provide access to affordable insurance.

Freelance Lesson #5

I learned what I’m worth. The toughest thing for me was figuring out my pricing. At first it was hard to know how much to charge. And even when I thought I knew, I then had to figure out which pricing model worked best. An hourly rate? A day rate? A package or retainer rate?

Like most people first starting out, in the beginning I was devaluing my skills and expertise. But, after I started getting clients and began listening to their feedback on the services they received, I started to better understand my worth.

Yes, it helps to look at your competition and the average rate others charge for the same service or product to get an idea of what you should charge. But, what helped me most was asking current and past clients if they would’ve paid more based on the value they’d already received. To my surprise, most of them said yes, and even some told me flat out I was undercharging.

Now, most people (both potential and current clients) say my pricing is reasonable and fair. It took some tweaking and trial and error, but now my pricing structure is in harmony with the service I’m providing.

Freelance Lesson #6

I learned when to say no. This included being selective of potential clients, turning down certain speaking gigs/presentation requests, not wasting my time with potential contacts who only wanted to talk about themselves but never wanted to listen or make the relationship mutually beneficial, discontinuing professional relationships when trust had been broken, etc.

This is difficult to do when first starting out. Especially when it comes to turning away money. But, I can tell you the times I listened to my gut and turned away the opportunities that weren’t the right fit for my business, I was always glad I did. The times I didn’t listen to my gut, I always regretted it.

Freelance Lesson #7

I learned not to compare myself with others. My pastor’s wife always says, “Comparing yourself to others makes you either small or smug, and neither of those are good.” I realized because I do what I do in my own unique way, comparing myself to my competition is a waste of time because it’s like comparing apples to oranges.

The same is true for you because you also have your own unique way of delivering your service or product that no one else can duplicate. Instead of comparing, focus on what makes you and your brand solely yours. This is what becomes your selling point!

Freelance Lesson #8

I learned (and am still learning) when it’s time to shift gears. When learning to drive a stick, you start to develop a feel for when it’s time to shift gears. This doesn’t mean you won’t grind your gears on occasion.

The same is true in running a business or working as a freelancer. You’ll start to learn when to give something a little more time to grow before uprooting it. When to pull the plug on what’s not working. And when to simplify if you’re trying to do too much or be too many things.

This type of self-awareness can mean the difference between success and failure.

Freelance Lesson #9

I realized the real risk. At first I thought the obvious risk of starting my own thing was leaving the security of a full-time job with benefits. I was wrong! Since leaving my job at a prestigious university where there were constant hiring freezes and multiple firings, I’ve had more job security than ever before.

I’ve been able to develop the grit and skills required to work for myself and bring in a steady stream of clients, to supplement my income at times when the stream was unsteady, and to eliminate the salary cap I had at my previous job.

The only real risk I faced was potentially losing any or all desire to work for someone else again. Let’s face it. It’s pretty hard to go back to working for someone else after having worked for yourself. But if I ever had to again, I’d be very selective in who I worked for (see Lesson #6).

Freelance Lesson #10

I learned fear is inevitable. Fear is not a reason to not venture out on your own if it’s what you truly desire. Instead, it’s often an excuse. Everyone who’s ever done this has had some level of fear.

Do your research. Prepare (but don’t wait until you feel fully prepared because that will never happen!). Then push through the fear.

Related Posts

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Career Advice No One Will Ever Share With You

As a career coach, I’m always responding to career-related questions. I recently received a question on Quora asking, “What are a few unique pieces of career advice that nobody ever mentions?” This is a good one because there are a lot of possible answers to it, but I chose two answers that reflect what most of my clients don’t know when they first come to me.

Number 1:

If you work for someone else, you still need to think like an entrepreneur. Why? Because no one’s job is secure. You have to view your employer as your client. And if your “client” decides not to continue working with you, you have to be in a good position to quickly land your next client. You do this by becoming a good salesperson of your skills.

Number 2:

If you work for yourself, then you need to think of each meeting with potential clients or potential investors as a job interview. For instance, I have several consultations with potential clients each week. Therefore, I’m going on job interviews EVERY SINGLE WEEK of the year! I know I have to clearly express the benefits of my skills as a career coach.

Determine Fit

In either scenario, you not only need to sell your skills. You also need to treat the situation as a two-way street. You need to find out if your next job or your next client is going to be a good fit for you.

This is why I always suggest job seekers ask their own questions during a job interview. These questions should be ones to help them determine if the company (i.e. “the client”) is who they really want to spend 40+ hours a week with for the next several years.

***Check out A Proven Interview Hack for sample questions to ask when being interviewed.***

Be Selective

For me personally as a business owner, I’m selective in who I take on as clients. Therefore, not only do I present the benefits of my services and make sure they’re a good fit for the potential client’s goals, but I also ask questions to find out if they’re the type of client I’ll want to work with.

I start with questions in my intake form and ask additional questions during the initial consultation. I’m looking to see how serious the person is about my coaching program. I’m also looking for someone with a teachable spirit, an open-mind, respect for others, courtesy, and professionalism. Someone who doesn’t possess these qualities is not a good fit for me or my company’s mission or programs.

You need to be selective too. If you’re a job seeker with multiple job offers, be selective. If you’re an entrepreneur with multiple potential clients, be selective (even when you feel like can’t afford to be!). Here’s how.

Before walking into an interview or a meeting, take some time to do an inventory of:

  1. your skills and strengths,
  2. how you uniquely demonstrate those skills and strengths,
  3. the benefits of your skills and strengths,
  4. your needs and wants,
  5. your deal-breakers,
  6. and the questions to determine any potential deal-breakers or to determine if the other party can meet at least 60% of your needs and wants (because you’ll rarely find a case that meets 100% of them! – BE REALISTIC!).

Choose only those opportunities that are at least 60% compatible with your inventory. Keep in mind too that numbers 1-3 will give you leverage to ask for numbers 4-5.

Following this advice will help you develop good habits and preparedness for those times when you find yourself at a career crossroads.