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Ditching the Corporate Mindset

When we leave the corporate world to start our own business, we tend to take the corporate mindset with us. It’s no wonder that we do, because you might have been in corporate for quite some time, and that's what you've learned, and no one ever really teaches you what to do if you start your own business. So having structure in a corporate environment is something we're all used to and something that most of us have experienced. But now that you’re on your own, you can leave the corporate mindset behind.  

One of the first things that people take with them when they leave corporate to go out on their own is an 8 to 5 schedule – they feel that if they’re not at their desk working during those hours, they're not doing their job. In a corporate environment, office hours show that you're actually getting work done during that time, and that you're available to clients, colleagues and bosses. It's set up so that you're proving that you're earning your salary. When you leave corporate, you feel you must do the same thing to earn your worth as a solopreneur. 

You are your own boss at this point, so it doesn't matter if you have 8 to 5 business hours, that you always have your cell phone ready, or that you always have your laptop out. If you feel like you have more brain power at 4 p.m. in the afternoon, then make your start time, you know, noon and you work until 8:00 or even 4 until midnight - whatever works best for you, your schedule, and your natural rhythm.  

Your hours don't have to be the same every day. They don't have to be the same every week. They don't have to be a set block of eight hours. You don't have to prove to anyone that you're working during the day. And let's be honest, most of us started our own businesses because we wanted work life balance and we wanted to be able to control our schedules. I know that was definitely part of the reason that I became a solopreneur. I wanted to be able to come and go as I pleased. I want to be able to go to a two-hour lunch on a Wednesday afternoon and then come back and work until 8:00 at night if I want.  


Another thing that we take with us from corporate is that we have to be in the office to do the work – in a physical space set up specifically for our business. Although you may have set up an office in your home, you can likely work from anywhere. So, if you want to go to your favorite coffee shop or you want to meet your buddy and co-work, you can do that.  

Professional dress is something we also take from our corporate experience. When I first started working full time at my first real corporate job in 1994, I was required to wear pantyhose with a skirt or dress pants and dress shoes. Pantyhose. Really. You could get away with knee-high stockings with pants, but they were sticklers on the pantyhose. The great news is, as a solopreneur, you get to dress however you want. You can wear a suit every day or never again. You can wear a skirt every day or never again. That said, I recommend as a solopreneur that you dress professionally when you're going to be on a Zoom call or go out to meet people. I see a lot of business owners who are very comfortable in dress jeans, a nice top and maybe a jacket or sweater. Whatever it is that that works for them, that looks put together and professional, but is not somebody else's version of it. 

Another thing we take with us from corporate is a fixed amount of vacation time. In the U.S., companies usually offer two weeks or less per year, or you start out with two weeks and then you can earn more days during your tenure. We think that if we take time off, our business will fall apart. False. Not taking enough time ifor ourselves is not good for us. Humans are not built to work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There is a famous Ted talk by a designer who shuts his company down for a full year every seven years and sends everybody out into the world to travel and do whatever feeds them. And when they come back, their creativity level is replenished and renewed. As a solopreneur, you could shut down your business for a while in the summer. And you might feel guilty. You feel as though you're being selfish, even though it is your right to take vacation time. Many companies and organizations make you feel bad for taking that time – so it’s no wonder that we carry that guilt into our businesses. If you're working yourself to death, you are not going to be present and available for your clients. Take that time off to rest and relax. And rejuvenate. That's why it's there! 

Accountability is another thing that people get used to in a corporate environment - it is built right in. You know your direct manager and the whole chain of command. So, there's accountability. You know that somebody is watching what you do and that their job partially depends on you doing your job well. You're going to meet those deadlines. You're going to stay under budget. There's a defined time for the project. There's a defined way you need to do it, and there's a defined system for knowing whether or not you've been successful. When you go out into the world as a solopreneur, you lose that. It's nice that no one is looking over your shoulder, nobody is going to notice, but all the accountability lands right on you. Surround yourself with other people doing similar work and find an accountability partner. Check in every week at a certain time - whatever works for you - to make sure that you’re accountable to your partner.  

Motivation is tricky when you leave corporate America. No one is watching over you. When you can do something whenever you want, you might not ever do it. Block your time out on your calendar. Don’t take client appointments on certain days – keep them as administration days or project days. You’ll know that every week at this time, you’re going to do this project. Setting aside time in your schedule assures that you have control of that time block. And you can build that muscle over time. You can always set a timer for 20 minutes and use that time for a specific task. In a few weeks, bump up the time to 30 minutes. By the time you’re at the end of your allotted time, you're likely into the project far enough that you want to keep going because you're so much closer to being done. 

You are your own boss now. You make the rules.  


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