First Person: 5 Keys to Staying Self-Employed

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I never planned to be self-employed. In fact, when I was in college, it's probably the last career role in which I thought I'd end up. However, I've been self-employed for nearly six years now, and I've realized that while difficult, there are some key elements to stay working for myself.

There are certainly pros and cons to the role, and it's not for everyone, but if you're thinking that self-employment might be right for you, or maybe you've already taken the plunge, here are five things that I've learned that have helped me stay self-employed.

Remember, It's only business

There can be a lot of rejection in the self-employment realm…and I mean a lot of rejection. I've had more than my fair share of turn-downs, and this can really get my blood boiling if I take it personally. And sometimes it can seem personal, especially when people are refusing work that I've put a lot of time or work into. But it's at times like this, that I have to remind myself, "It's only business."

These customers are looking for something specific and need a product with which they can make money. If I haven't provided such an item then I can't expect to be paid for my services. I wouldn't pay for a product that wasn't a right fit for me, so I'm not going to expect this in return. Getting mad and taking it personally would only leave me saying something unprofessional to the customer and in the process burning bridges to those I've done good business with.

Negotiating "Win/Win" Situations

I find that it's important to look for ways in which I can make business situations a win/win for both me and my customers. This might mean tossing in a little bonus product or work or going the extra mile for a customer so that they feel as though they've gotten a deal on my services. However, at the same time, I look to negotiate a proper level of pay for my work so that I'm not left feeling discourage, unappreciated or not properly compensated for my efforts.

Understanding the Market

Understanding the market in which I'm working is important to staying self-employed. In our digital age, things in business are happening and changing faster than ever. And not staying apprised of such changes or staying current can leave me with higher rejection rates, lower prices, and generally failing with my business.

I tend to use news websites like MSN, CNN, CNBC, and Yahoo! to stay up on the recent trends, fads, and technological advances within business and around the world.

Staying Flexible

From the way Google searches for my products to the particular whims or wants of individual customers, I find that I constantly have to stay flexible to meet the various needs of my customers and requirements of my business. Staying flexible with the products I produce is one thing, but I also have to stay flexible when it comes to productivity methods and enhancers, being willing to try new products and productivity standards, and even be open to new income streams.

Staying flexible means that sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail, but in the process, I glean valuable data about what works and what doesn't when it comes to being self-employed, and from that I can often fine tune certain work methods to meet my particular needs.

Understanding Finances

It doesn't pay to stay self-employed if my expenses outweigh income. This is why tracking both aspects of my self-employment is critical to understanding not only my personal finances but the progress I'm making with my business efforts.

Being able to gauge income peaks and valley, knowing how more income affects my tax rates, understanding expenses and how those expenses might also play into my taxes and available tax deductions, and similar business-related items are all critical aspects of my self-employment. Understanding and watching these things over time has allowed me to make informed decisions as to whether it's worth continuing my efforts, where I might make adjustments in earning or spending, and consider other important areas of working for the best employer I've ever known…me.

*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a personal finance story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.

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The author is not a licensed financial or career professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader's discretion.


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