Up until 2011, I worked in a mortuary with my husband for a meager salary. Worse, I only had a few weeks of vacation and sick days for the entire year. These days, though, we are self-employed, earning many times what we used to, and traveling around for three months of the year.
What happened in the interim? We started a blog, ClubThrifty.com, and learned how to use affiliate marketing and advertising platforms to earn six figures through our website alone. In the meantime, I started the freelance writing career I still work in today.
It’s weird how much life can change in a matter of years — and what a whirlwind it has been. We have worked hard to get to this point, putting in 80-hour weeks and overcoming many obstacles along the way. But, like most things in life, the hard times we’ve endured have been the catapult for growth.
Here are six of the biggest lessons I’ve learned along the way as a small-business owner.
Outsourcing Is the Key to Growth (but You Shouldn’t Outsource Everything)
One of the biggest mistakes we made early on in our blogging journey is being “too cheap” for our own good. We never wanted to hire someone because we didn’t want to part with our revenue and we struggled to do everything ourselves as a result.
When we worked up the nerve to hire a virtual assistant (VA), all of that changed. We found that handing over small tasks allowed us to accomplish more and earn more over time. On the flip side, we don’t outsource our most important tasks because we know we are better suited to complete them than anyone else.
Entrepreneurship Is Harder Than It Looks
A lot of people assume that work-at-home jobs like blogging are a piece of cake. Those people are wrong. In the real world, you have to have a lot of self-discipline and a great work ethic to stay on task, day in and day out.
Getting your business to generate a sizable income is another hurdle to get past. It takes time, patience and perseverance to get to the point where you can earn a real income from any job, let alone a website.
The bottom line: Self-employment isn’t for slackers. You need courage and grit to succeed.
More on Entrepreneurship: What It’s Really Like to Be an Entrepreneur
The Downsides of Self-Employment Aren’t a Big Deal — If You Earn Enough
When we first struck out on our own to earn our entire living online, most of the questions we received weren’t about our business plans — they were about retirement and healthcare. People were confounded as to how we pay for health insurance and what we would do without a 401k.
One thing I’ve learned over time is that, when you earn enough, you can pay for your own benefits and never worry about it again. With residual income from our blog and my freelance writing career, it’s just not that big of a deal. We pay for our own healthcare and dental, and we have solo 401ks and other investment accounts with Vanguard.
Others Only See the Upsides of Your Success
Here’s another interesting component of self-employment: Other people will have no idea how hard you work. Many people in our lives see those Fridays when we quit work at 3:00 p.m. or the fact we travel fairly often and think we have it made. They don’t realize we had to work several 80-hour weeks to take that vacation or that quitting work early Friday means having to work Saturday.
When you work for yourself, many people will only see the outward signs of your success without ever considering the sacrifices you’ve made and continue to make. All you can really do is shrug your shoulders and keep working toward your goals.
You Have to Stay Organized
Another aspect of self-employment I never realized before is the fact that you have to stay extremely organized. You have to track all your business expenses to stay on top of them, and you have to continually keep tax information accurate so you don’t face a huge mess at the end of the year.
You also have to pay quarterly taxes, and we have to pay unemployment insurance, even though there are only two of us. It takes a lot of organization to keep it all together, but we are getting more organized all the time.
Discover: How to File Self-Employment Taxes
I Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way
Last but not least, I have learned that the many challenges of self-employment will never deter me from doing my own thing. I don’t think I could ever work for someone else again after understanding the freedom self-employment provides.
I might have to work 80-hour weeks every once in a while, but there is no greater feeling than succeeding or failing on your own terms. There is also nothing more fulfilling than knowing the full rewards of your efforts will go to you and not an employer.
Click to read more about why one blogger says “niching down” is key to a successful business.