If you’re working for someone else, you expect that after a reasonable amount of time spent proving yourself and doing good work you’ll get a promotion. But if you’re self-employed, you’re already at the top of your own personal food chain and there’s nowhere else to go. Right? Well, maybe there is a way to get a promotion.
Think about what a promotion means. More money, of course. Also, hopefully, a job that will give you greater satisfaction. And in a perfect world, more perks.
So how do you manage that when you’re working for yourself?
1. Advance Your Education
The more you know about operating a business, no matter what it is, the more you can manage it for greater success. It takes a bit of effort to allocate the time for it while you’re working, but earning an online MBA degree is a great investment for your future. You’ll be broadening your scope of knowledge, enhancing your skill set, and gaining new insight into effective communication, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving. In addition to what it will do for you in running your business, an MBA after your name will be an impressive sales tool for new and continuing clients, giving them confidence that you’re on top of the game.
2. Improve Your Work Routine
You’ve heard people say that there’s a difference between working hard and working smart. But do you know what it means for yourself? If you start your work day clearing up stuff you should have finished the day before, and then read and respond to emails until lunchtime, you may think you’re working hard, but you’re pretty much wasting half the day.
Consider the Pareto Principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule. It states that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. In other words, four out of five things that you do aren’t worth the effort. Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto came up with the concept in the 1790s and it’s become a basic tenet of time management and applied to just about every field of endeavor.
How can you apply it for yourself? For starters, as Greg McKeown suggests in The Unimportance of Practically Everything for The Harvard Business Review, when you finish work tonight, write down a list of your top six priorities for tomorrow. Then cross off the bottom five. Spend the first 90 minutes tomorrow completing that first priority without distraction. Then see what else has to be done… or if it has to be done at all.
3. Rethink Your Rate Schedule
Don’t be reluctant to ask for what you’re worth. Would you put up with working for someone who gave you a lower salary than what you deserve? Everyone likes a bargain, but under-pricing yourself can backfire, too, because people generally believe that they get what they pay for.
Unless you’re just in business for the fun of it, you need to make a certain amount of money to at least keep body and soul together. Otherwise, what’s the point? So, the first thing to do is identify the personal income that you need on an annual basis. Add to that the cost of doing business, including self-employment taxes. The total is the minimum you need to earn. Divide that number by the amount of hours you have available to work, keeping in mind that you’re not a 24/7 machine, and you have a target hourly rate you can use by itself or as your basis for determining a flat fee.
Having said all that, if the hourly rate you come up with is substantially more than your competition charges for the same kind of thing, you probably have to increase your working hours. But if it’s a lot less than the competition, you can either cut back your hours or go ahead and give yourself a raise.
4. Expand Your Horizons
You may offer a very specialized service or operate in a niche market, but you can still put your mind to innovating and expanding the realm of what it is you do as well as the kind of clients you serve. Spend some time free thinking about how else your talents or products can be adapted. Henry Ford turned the wood scraps from Model T production into briquettes and founded Kingsford Charcoal. You might surprise yourself.
5. Reward Yourself
Everyone needs a reward now and then. One of the benefits of being your own boss is that you can give yourself rewards that mean something to you. A long lunch and later quitting time? Casual Monday through Friday? Time off in the middle of the week instead of the weekend? Whatever works for you. And you don’t have to ask for permission.