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6 Traits You Need to Move From Being an Employee to Being Self-Employed

Part 1: I Lost My Job! Should I Start a Business?


young male CEO of a computer programming business

Be Self-Employed

Image (c) Gunnar Svanberg / Getty Images

I get a lot of email that starts, "I just lost my job!" Somewhere in each email, the writer goes on to ask, "How do I start a business?"

More people are getting downsized, terminated or just plain fired all the time. And because of the state of the economy, finding another job can be difficult. Creating a job of your own by starting a business looks attractive when you can't find a job - or just can't stand the job you have.

But "How do I start a business?" is not the first question you should be asking if you're in this situation; the first question you should be asking is "Should I start a business?" Before you start thinking about the different types of businesses you might start, you have to do some thinking about you.

Starting a business is not for everyone. Being self-employed is very different than being an employee. And some people find it impossible to adjust to the differences. Let's see if you have the necessary entrepreneurial mindset to become self-employed. These are the six traits that I think encapsulate the ways you have to think and behave if you want to make a successful transition from being employed in some one else's business to starting a business of your own.

1) You have to be flexible to be self-employed.


If you start a business, you no longer have "one" job with clearly defined duties and responsibilities. You'll suddenly have multiple jobs, which will be often interrupted by unforeseen crises (particularly in the startup phase). Many employees are used to having days filled with predictable activities; many self-employed people don't.

And once you start a business, there's nowhere to pass the buck. As an employee, you may be used to passing problems up along the food chain or not be very involved in decision making. As a self-employed business owner, you're the one who will have to deal with whatever the crisis is and solve the problem. You're the one who will have to make the decisions.

2) You have to be a self-motivated initiator.

When you're an employee, other people tell you what to do, either directly or indirectly. You get used to having your actions directed by others. But you have to direct your own actions as a small business owner. You can't just sit there and hope that maybe some clients stroll in or that someone will drop by out of the blue with inventory for your retail store. No one's going to drop work on your desk or point out what needs to be done. For many people who try to become self-employed and start businesses after having a long-term full-time job, this is the hardest adjustment to make.

3) You have to be able to recognize opportunities and go after them.

Most employees do what they're assigned to do. There's someone else who's "assigned" to look out for opportunities, either a boss in a small business, or perhaps a sales department or a managerial team in a large corporation. If you start a business, you need to be the one constantly watching for opportunities - and be able to recognize them when you see them. It might be a small opportunity, such as the chance to pick up a new client, or a large one, such as getting your product on the shelves in a large retail chain, but as a small business owner, you have to keep scanning the horizon yourself and positioning yourself to benefit from the opportunities that you find. As an employee, you may be used to operating in a "head-down" position; if you're going to start a business and become successfully self-employed, you need to start operating in the "head-up" position.

There are three more traits you need to have to move from being an employee to being successfully self-employed on the next page...

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