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Picture of a man typing on his laptop to simbolise him being his own boss

Top 5 tips on how to be your own boss

Dec 4, 2020 | Tips for small businesses

Is it hard to be your own boss? Starting your own business is tough, especially after you’ve been in a large supportive team and had a really good boss. When we worked together in a large marketing team we both truly valued and admired our boss. We would definitely say he was the best boss we ever had. He guided us at arm’s length, he positively challenged us (sometimes when we didn’t even realise) and most of all he was the perfect mediator. We really appreciated everything he did for us and to be honest, we’ve really missed him being our boss throughout this process! 

Is it hard to be your own boss?

That being said, whilst it’s hard being your own boss, it can also be awesome as it provides you with so much flexibility and accountability. It’s actually really empowering and exciting. You get to make all the decisions, whether that be having an extra hour in bed or choosing a deal that might feel a tad daring. You will also often surprise yourself. When it’s your own business, there are so many things you have to do and can’t avoid. It’s a challenge but it’s amazing what you can achieve.

So, for those of you out there who are thinking of becoming your own boss – whether that be with a side hustle, or as a freelancer or as the founder of your own business…we’re here to share our learnings and offer our support. Here are our top 5 favourite tips on how to successfully be your own boss. 

1. Try to be super organised and use tools to make your life easier

We know it’s so easy to say ‘be organised’ and that actually covers doing 72 different things per week. You may have had a steady flow of work in your old role and now you need to seek out clients. Perhaps you worked in one market before and you’re trying a whole new market. Or maybe you realise that if you’re truly honest with yourself – you were coasting in your old job. Whatever the situation is, you need to ensure you’re truly on top of the priorities (as you’re the boss now!). You’re hopefully going to be very busy, so you need to get the basics sorted as soon as possible. 

We’d recommend the following:

  • Create achievable goals. When you had a boss they might have told you the top few things you needed to sort that week and then you had monthly projects and longer-term projects. They guided you in prioritising and created a buffer when there were urgent tasks. Now you need to decide and define this all for yourself! Try to make things as simple as possible when you start out – what are your 5 weekly goals and maybe 3 goals for the next 3 months/6 months/12 months. 
  • Plan every week out! What’s your top 3 tasks for each day? What do you absolutely have to achieve by the end of the week? What tasks would be a bonus to complete?
  • Find a to-do list process that works for you. Sometimes the simplicity of a to-do list can save your day. You may want to use digital tools like ‘todoist’, ‘Monday.com’ and ‘ClickUp’ (they all offer free options). Or you may enjoy writing things down in the good old fashioned way (and joyfully crossing things out when you’re so proud to have completed something!). We personally love ‘Mellow Doodles’ and their fun and bright planners and pads – but you need to find what works best for you.

2. Create your own network of ‘fake colleagues’

Whilst we are definitely each other’s favourite people to work with and we have loads of fun out of work – it can be challenging in a 2 person (or 1 person team!). For example, early on we quickly realised that we majorly underestimated the time it took to do certain tasks – that’s because we were doing them solely on our own without the support of a 8 person team! We also realised the true worth of the ‘fresh pair of eyes’ which you can’t always get when you’re working on something together. Even just chatting to different people around the office used to inspire new ideas and thought-processes. We also really missed the colleagues that we could just ask a favour from! Suddenly we needed to be good at all kinds of things we were unfamiliar with like IT/Finance/Legal. 

We would highly recommend you create a team of fake colleagues for yourself! These may be freelancers you pay (as often this is cheaper than doing it yourself). Or, friends and colleagues that don’t mind you asking quick questions to now and again (we’re sure you can return the favour). Or, it might just be friends or connections that work in the same sector that you can brainstorm with and ask for general advice and opinions (we’ve found that people love you asking for their opinion). 

Try to connect with other business owners in your area too – they may also need some support and appreciate a business friendship (and may refer clients to you when they’re too busy!). The majority of people will want to support you and we encourage you to make the most of your network! 

3. Get a business Mentor or Coach

It is hard to suddenly be your own boss – especially if you’ve had years of bosses! Even the most senior and advanced business professionals rely on their manager to guide them, reassure them or simply be a sounding board. However, it’s also important to think about your self-development. How you are going to challenge yourself and improve? We would highly recommend you approach a business mentor to support you with setting goals. Not only, they could support you with creating a plan for your own personal growth. 

Whilst you may be the expert – there’s always room to grow and evolve and we should never get complacent and assume we know it all. Mentors and Coaches can be really helpful with challenging your ideas and assumptions and keeping you on your toes. It’s also really useful to get a fresh outside perspective as sometimes you can get absorbed into your own little echo chamber and become too narrow with your ideas. Both Mentors and Coaches can also guide you around specific skills/techniques or give advice around specific business practices and processes. We do think that speaking to your Mentor regularly will help you keep your pace, focus and drive – when you feel like all you’re doing is admin and work chores – your Mentor can give you a new lease of life and inspire you for the future. 

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

This is a really important point! When you become your own boss it’s all too easy to think that you have to do everything on your own and you know best and you’ll be a failure or a cheat if you ask for help. This isn’t a test! You’re creating something new and truly wonderful and collaboration should always be at the heart of authentic success.

Black text on yellow background. Text reads: collaboration is at the heart of true success

People in your network will want you to succeed and they will want to support you. Even if they don’t have experience in your area, there will always be ways they can help. Maybe they can help proofread your website, or they can double-check your forecast maths or they can simply offer you another opinion. These people are customers in their everyday life  – so whilst they may not be your typical customer, they do engage with products and services regularly. Don’t be afraid to ask for opinions and ideas! 

Let us share a little example

Early on in our journey, one of our friend asked us how we’re doing with our market research. It was one of those ‘Yep, we should have thought about that’ moments. So we swiftly created a market research project during our set-up period. This ended up being a really crucial part of our research and the idea came from a non-marketer. Be open-minded and listen to the people that know you best.  

5. Use outside help when you can afford to

When we started up, we were super keen and spoke to at least 37 different lawyers/accountants/business advisors. Okay, maybe not 37, but still. We joyfully used their complimentary hour to absorb as much information as we possibly could. This has its pros and cons and is probably a conversation for another blog post! However, one of the greatest bits of advice we received was: when you can afford to outsource, you should!

Black text on yellow background. Text reads:  outsource when you can

Maybe you think your accounts are really simple and you can sort them yourself. But should you be paying a £150 monthly accountancy fee or wasting 3 days of your month? You could be making way more than £150 in 3 that time! In the early days, it’s tricky not to want to keep costs down, but sometimes it’s worth the investment and as we said in our recent article “Why ROE is just as important as ROI right now” – time is money! 

What next?

We get that it’s tough working on your own or in a small team. Maybe it’s time to employ some freelancers to support you with your long to-do list? Or maybe you simply need a fresh perspective? We offer a range of services including bespoke marketing mentoring. We’d love to chat with you and to share our pros and cons about being your own boss! Why not sign up to one of our free 45 mins consultations? We’d love to chat! 

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