While there’s no one way to become a successful independent professional, there are several key stepping stones that can put you on the path to success. Here are five habits to keep in mind if you are considering going independent, or if you feel like something is missing from your routine that’s keeping you from being your best.
It may seem silly that an idea as simple as this makes the list, but in the morning rush of checking your phone, responding to emails, and answering client questions, taking the time to start your day with a well-balanced breakfast can easily be overlooked. Running your own business comes with a lot of responsibility and pressure—that takes energy, so why start on empty? Setting aside a small window of time in the morning for breakfast allows you to focus and take a moment to get mentally organized before diving into work.
Today, email has essentially become a virtual to-do list of what needs to be done, where, when, and in what manner. Email is a great tool and is an essential part of your business, but that full inbox can be overwhelming. Start your day (after breakfast, of course) by checking your email right away so you can create a rough schedule of what you need to do. Prioritize responding to client emails so you don’t forget about them, and once you read through or respond to an email, archive or file it to keep your inbox organized.
The idea that your time is worth money is at the heart of every independent business—after all, it’s how you gain income. But what about that time beyond when you are directly providing a service to a client? All those minutes of in-between time or side projects can quickly add up to a few extra hours each week. How do you place value on that? Take some time to think through how you value your time, not just for billing purposes but also for setting priorities and goals for your business. How much you think your time is worth will dictate how and when you choose projects, charge clients, and take time off.
Many independents feel as though they have to accept every project that comes their way, but the truth is, you don’t. If you feel a project will be too overwhelming, too costly, or simply does not align with what you want to do, don’t hesitate to say no. Yes, you want to make money and grow your business, but overcommitting or taking on the wrong type of project can be costly. When accepting new work, consider all of the factors that will go into the project and how well it fits into your long-term business plan.
Last, but certainly not least, say think you. No small business can operate entirely on their own. Whether it’s a vendor, supplier, client, spouse, or partner, take time to show your gratitude. A quick thank you note or email can do wonders in the business world and will always be appreciated.
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