Ten Things I Learned On My Journey To Self-Employment

By Leslie Samuel | Mindset

Jun 30

If you’re reading this on the day I’m posting this, then you are reading it on my last day as a university professor.

I can’t believe this is happening. The truth is, when I got the job, it was a dream come true.

06_30_Self_Employment_PinterestI’m actually one of those weirdos who loves their job. I didn’t see myself leaving, at least not so soon.

However, dreams change, and that’s perfectly ok. I know that the direction I’m headed is very much aligned with my mission and I’m excited about the possibilities.

In this process of transition, I’ve taken some time to look back at some of the important lessons I learned on this journey, and I want to share those lessons with you.

So lets go . . .

1. Building a business is HARD WORK

I know MANY people who have started blogs because they wanted to build businesses. The unfortunate thing about it is that most of those people are no longer blogging. Of those that are still blogging, many of them aren’t accomplishing the goals that they have set out.

What I’ve realized is that intelligence, knowledge, skill and talent do not correlate with success in building a business. If you’re smarter than I am, that’s ok. However, if I’m willing to outwork you, you better watch out!

2. You must focus to succeed

One of my mentors has been on my case to get me to read the book “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results”. He said it so much that I decided to read it just to get him off my back, lol. I have to say – READ THAT BOOK, if only to get me off your back 😉

It challenged a lot of what I thought I knew about getting things done, to the point of having you come up with the one thing you’re going to focus on to build your business (or any other aspect of your life). I now realized how having so much on my plate (i.e. being a professor, working on a PhD, building Become A Blogger and Interactive Biology) has resulted in me being inefficient.

Multitasking is a myth. It doesn’t work. We are less efficient when we do so. Focus on fewer things. In fact, pick one thing and dominate it. You’ll be surprised at the result.

3. You know when you are focused on the wrong things

This is one that can be hard for entrepreneurs to accept. We often have the mindset that we can do everything, and so we try to take over the world by trying to be the hero that saves the blogosphere on our own.

Over the last few months, I’ve been dealing with a bunch of technical difficulties. Why? Because I’m trying to save money by doing a lot myself. As a result, I haven’t been able to focus on what it is I am good at that adds value – creating awesome content.

Working on all of this technical stuff has been draining my energy, and has been often times FRUSTRATING. I know that this is stuff I need to get off my plate. I know that there are people out there who love to do that kind of stuff. I need to stop focusing on those things and pass it on to the experts.

4. You can’t (and shouldn’t) do everything yourself

This comes directly out of the last point. This is something I HAD TO learn. When I first started my online business, I was much worse than I am now. I did EVERYTHING myself, and as a result, I gave up on blogging for a while.

Fortunately, I learned my lesson (for the most part) and started outsourcing a lot of the things that I shouldn’t have been doing. Since then, my level of productivity has increased significantly. I now have one other person on my team, and will be working to build my team out even more over the coming months.

5. It’s important to surround yourself with the right people

Over the last few years, I’ve been able to associate with some amazing people. I’m a part of two mastermind groups that help to keep me accountable. These are people who are doing big things online.

I can say that much of what I’ve accomplished has been the result of learning from these people. However, these relationships don’t just happen (usually). They have happened because I’ve stepped out and gotten to know people, both online and at live events.

I just came back from Digital Colab in San Diego where I got to meet a bunch of amazing entrepreneurs who are also doing great things. Get out there. Meet people. You’d be surprised at where those relationships take you.

6. Great friends are there to challenge you

Over the last two months, I decided to start back running. So, approximately every other day, I run two miles. This gets posted to my Facebook wall because of the Runkeeper app I use to track my runs. After my run from yesterday, I received the following comment from Mitch from Sports Chat Place:

“Time to start pushing yourself a little, got to do a minimum of 20 minutes, at least that's pretty much what most say that I have ever read, and that's to maintain, 30, is to improve slightly and 40 is considered a reasonable workout. If you can do 10 minutes, you can do an hour… go big or go home and always test your limits.”

Many people will read that and think – “Geesh, what’s wrong with that guy. At least Leslie’s out there running”. I’m not one of those people.

Instead, when I go running tomorrow, I will try to run that extra 2.5 minutes. Why? Because of that extra push. Mitch is one of the most successful bloggers I know, and it’s because he also outworks most other bloggers I know (if not all).

He’s an interesting guy because he doesn’t just accept what I say because I said it. He pushes back almost all the time. But you know what – that pushes me to work harder and smarter. I can truly say that he is (in part) responsible for whatever success I achieve, and I will take his (sometimes annoying) pushbacks over blind praise anyday.

7. If you wait for perfection, you’ll be waiting forever

AHHHHHH, I can’t tell you how much this annoys me. I know so many awesome people with awesome ideas who keep marinating those awesome ideas with the deluded concept that once they get it perfect, they will make it happen.

PERFECTION NEVER HAPPENS. Stop waiting for it. If you have a great idea, TAKE ACTION. College degrees, advanced training, reading a bunch of successful blogs, going through training courses – they are all worth nothing if you don’t take action.

My philosophy is this – take action on your ideas. You will get data from your results. Use that actual data to continue the never ending process of striving for perfection. You can get it as perfect as you want in your mind and when you launch, it sucks. It’s not about what’s in your mind, it’s about serving your audience. Serve them the best you can with what you have and refine from your hard data.

8. Fear is a natural and excellent thing

I’ve come to realize that people are afraid of being afraid. In fact, it’s fear is one thing that holds many people back. I won’t apply for that job as a professor because I’m unqualified and I’m afraid I’ll be rejected.

That fear makes sense. However, if I didn’t go beyond that fear and apply, I would’ve never gained the experiences I’ve gained over the last 3 years.

Here’s the thing about fear – it’s natural. In fact, it’s an indication that you are stepping outside of your comfort zone. Fear is the body’s natural way of preparing you for a challenge. Adrenaline gets released, your heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure increase to prepare your body to fight (or to run).

Leverage that response to make things happen. There’s nothing wrong with the fear itself. It’s how we choose to respond to that fear. Stare that fear in the eyes, acknowledge it, and then move forward with more gusto than ever.

9. It’s important to show up, day in, day out

06_30_Self_Employment_#10This is one thing I’ve somewhat failed at. Because I’ve been doing so many different things, I’ve started a number of projects and never fully went to completion. In short, I didn’t always show up.

The fact is – it’s more difficult to grow if you aren’t consistent. I’m so happy that I'll be able to spend more time focusing on my business. It'll allow me the opportunity to be more consistent than ever before.

So, be ready . . . because it's a comin!

10. The right time never comes

Today is my last day on my job. Do I feel fully prepared for this change? To be honest . . . no. I don’t have everything lined up as yet. I have ideas on how my business will run from here on, but it’s a business . . . you never really know. I don’t have as much saved as I’d like.

If I look at ALL of the data, it doesn’t seem like it’s the right time. However, if I continue to wait for the “right time”, I will be waiting forever. Entrepreneurship and self-employment is a risk – hopefully a calculated one.

At some point, you just have to bite the bullet and take that leap of faith. Well, I’ve bitten and it tastes good. With that, I look forward to the rest of this journey. It has just begun, and I know that it will be an eventful one.

My Question For You

So, I have one question for you: Are you aiming to be self-employed? If so, let me know in the comments below. I'm really curious here 🙂

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  • Leah Fisch says:

    CONGRATULATIONS Leslie!!
    Self-employed and loving it!

  • Super excited for you! Can’t wait to see what happens next!

  • Ed DeJoliet says:

    Congratulations! It has been an amazing journey for you. All the best…

  • grahame says:

    You’ve hit the nail on the wall. Everything you mention here makes a lot of sense in order to get the business done correctly. Well thought out. Loved the information you have provided. Best of luck with your venture. I’m with you all the way. I’ve been blogging for six years now and I’m not giving up ever. I’ll win through at the end of the day.

  • wayne saunders says:

    i agree with all the points, have been self employed till retirement and i find that being self employed i found and kept more friends than if i worked for someone maybe strange but thats what i have found

  • This is all excellent advice Leslie! I’m pinning it to my Teacherpreneur board. We have a lot in common, I also loved my “day job”- but I’m still doing what I love. Best of luck on your new journey!

  • Mary says:

    I am always amazed at how much you have been able to do all at once. You have been so many things to so many people. Your top 10 makes sense and those are the things that have been both in my way and made me realize that yes, I want to be an entrepreneur. But after I learned how much hard work it really is, I realized I didn’t want to give up my security at my age for the time and money it would take to develop. After I realized that, I have been developing and learning on the side. And I’m developing thicker blood.

    • The truth is that I have gotten so much done because I have good help and that’s a blessing. Thanks for your support through this time and I wish you all the best. Learning on the side is a great thing. That’s exactly how I got to this point.

  • Sarah says:

    As ever most inspiring, and very helpful advise….. Just need to take the first step…..

  • Lori :) says:

    Yay!! Congrats! My sisters and I were talking about some of these points the other day as one of them recently quit her job and the other is thinking about it (to be self employed). Great summary!
    Btw – typo in #3 – Your our instead of You. 🙂
    Proud of you and excited for what the future holds for you and your family! Keep being a blessing!

  • Linda McFadden says:

    I just wanted to wish you the best as you take the next step, Leslie. I have followed you for a long time & truly respect what you have done. Your list is great…good for anyone whether they are self-employed or not. I am aiming for self-employment….& still have on my TO DO LIST creating a blog/or writing for a blog. Thanks for always sharing your experiences and inspiring the rest of us.

    • Thank you Linda. I feel like you’ve been here from the very beginning and those are the kinds of things that keep me going. Thanks for all you do and I wish you all the best on your journey to self-employment.

  • Alvern says:

    Leslie, I felt like if you were reading my heart. Got to get that book! All the best on your new adventure.

  • Elvetha says:

    Leslie, this is an amazing journey. These points listed are at the core of every successful adventure whether it is self-employment or any other job. You have stimulated my reflection on my own journey and I am motivated to continue reaching for my goals.

  • Nancy says:

    Leslie, I’m sorry if this sounds silly, but I’m really proud of you! To not only go through this major transition, but to also bring us along with you in such an informative manor is just
    plain outstanding. Congratulations, big time!

  • Tracy says:

    Congrats! I’ve been a fan of this blog and you for quite a while now, Leslie. Love your advice and whatever you do. I’ve actually have that book on my to-read list; yet but it’s been sitting there for a long time now…Gotta dig it out and read it!! Thanks and look forward more great advice from you!

  • Ngoni says:

    Congrats Leslie. You were my inspiration for turning my boring website to a blog. After operating on a part time basis for just over a year, I decided to make my business full time last month. I always get inspiration from your posts, especially during tough times. Keep up with the good work and wish you all the best on your journey.

  • Lyn says:

    Congratulations Leslie and continued success!

  • Scarlet says:

    Congrats Leslie! You are truly blessed. I’m aiming to be self employed as well but boy is it hard when your blog is aimed at teenagers. One day soon I hope to be in the same position you will be in at the end of the day… Self Employed. Great tips today and I appreciate you, your blog and everything you give. Not that you need it, but good luck in the future with everything 🙂

    • Thanks Scarlet. The truth is that it’s hard regardless of who your blog is aimed at. Takes A LOT of HARD work, but it’s so worth it in the end. Wishing you all the best on your journey.

  • Nate says:

    Ditto. I am also walking away in 5.5 months and taking a cruise to celebrate it after turkey day. While most see me as being crazy, I call it trying to regain my sanity. Love my job but also love my potential.

    • Wooohooooo. 5.5 months. Make sure to come back and let me know so that I can celebrate with you 🙂

    • Nate says:

      Could go in September but want to finish a huge integration project for my CV and autobiography, plus align a few important stars — home sales, etc.. Followed you for a few years and like your style — even when it wasn’t “cool” as the gurus would say. I will be connecting with you …

    • Awesome stuff Nate. Definitely stay in touch.

  • Congratulations, Leslie, and good luck on your journey! I kind of went in the opposite direction lately by taking a full-time job after blogging exclusively for almost a year – had to do that because my blogging efforts were monetizing at a slower rate than I initially hoped. It’s ok though – I haven’t given up my blog, and while it’s way harder to find time for it now, I’ve been putting in the effort almost every day, and finally I’m seeing some success with monetization!

    I have to thank you: the job I just started is based on the skills I learned through blogging, which I initially started fully under the supervision of your blog, videos and podcasts. My blog may not be bringing in the big bucks yet, but you indirectly helped me find a job eventually!

  • angela1313 says:

    Congratulations Leslie. I’m still new in the game and I’m so glad my friend Roger steered me to you. I’ve already seen improvements and .I’m avoiding a lot of pitfalls. You are a true force for good!

    • And I’m so glad your friend steered you here too. Glad to hear that you are seeing improvements and avoiding a lot of pitfalls. Feel free to share specifics with me because I’m always thrilled to see how people are applying what I teach. Keep on moving forward. You can do this.

  • Mitch Wilson says:

    I have not 1 doubt in my mind u will be very successful, doing it a different way than I did, which is great, always more than 1 way to get it done. Always test your limits, that’s how you break through them. Never say ” someone else is already doing that”, you can do it better. Never be afraid to change your mind quickly if something is an obvious mistake, don’t force it. And most importantly, always be true to yourself, because whether you are talking about biology, blogging, what a jerk I am, or whatever, you are always selling you, you will never be the only source, but if you are you you will be a source people want. GO FOR IT!!

    • Dude, that was so motivational that I’m considering printing it out and putting it on my wall, lol. Seriously bro, thanks for the support, encouragement and but kicking!

  • Very inspirational and informational article. It will be useful to me!!

  • Leslie! Congratulations! I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge with all of us in such a way that is easy to gobble up and put to use right away. Good luck being self-employed!

  • Sherri says:

    I’ve been self-employed for about 10 years, and I’m looking to go back to a regular job for awhile. It’s harder and harder to get clients, and until I work out the marketing problems and get back to earning a living, I’ve got to have a regular income for awhile.

    I’ll have to work my business part-time until my financial situation is back on track. I’ve got a lot of reflecting to do and a lot of brainstorming to figure out how to compete in a market that’s changed so much since I started my business. I can no longer afford to outsource, and this is hurting me, too.

    Other issues have also sucked up my time and energy, and now that they’re behind me, I need to catch up financially and refocus.

    • That’s definitely understandable Sherri. You have to make the decision that works best for you and sometimes that means getting a job. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I built my business part time while working full time, so it’s definitely possible. Keep on moving ahead. Be constantly evaluating how you can improve things. Don’t be afraid to change direction if necessary. You can do this.

  • Carissa-loy says:

    Congratulations on stepping out the box Leslie! Your article has tickled my soul. I have the business gene in me. I’m just not sure how to make it blossom.

  • Cindy says:

    Leslie,
    ….If I may ask a question of you and the group, as I am excited to hear of your leap.
    My question, in your opinion….Can one be out looking for a job, while trying to start a business? …Can that work, especially when you talk about focus! ….. Im in need of a better paying job with benefits due to medical issues, YET my heart is “starting a business” …..what your thoughts…..thanks everyone

    • That’s an excellent question Cindy. My answer to that question is YES.

      Here’s why I say that. I’ve been working on my business part time while building my business on the side since January 18, 2008. In that time, my business has grown significantly. It wasn’t easy. It was HARD WORK. But it was so worth it.

      It takes serious focus in order to make that happen. It takes cutting through all the clutter and figuring out what the few things are that you are going to be focusing on. Once you figure those things out, you spend most of your time focusing on doing THAT. THAT’s what’s going to build your business.

      Do what you need to do, but don’t loose focus. You can make it happen!

  • Sangeetha says:

    Congratulations!! This article has touched a lot of issues I am dealing with. I have been a fan of your blog for some time now. I find your articles to be very inspiring and always have a call to action. Thank you.
    Regards from India.

  • John says:

    Congrats on your big step Leslie! God bless!

  • SSpears says:

    Yes yes yes.

  • kanadan says:

    Hi Leslie, congratulation for your next step in your life and for great article, it is so amazing and I wish you all the bst in this regards ! I just started listening to your podcasts and went through all your tutorials and created new blog according to your instrucitons ! So, lets do it ! 🙂

  • Eric says:

    Once I get paid tomorrow I already have an idea planned out for a brand new blog.

    Will it work? I don’t know. But there’s one thing I do know: If I don’t test it and create a plan with a simple strategy and all this complicated stuff, well, it’ll never work.

    Just kidding.

    I know that if i show up and put in the work, keep focusing on the next step, learn from the real results I get often enough and keep improving as I go, things will happen. Or, I’ll learn it’s not a good idea and take that information and apply it to the next project so I have gained something from the experience.

    Rock on Leslie! Congrats on your amazing accomplishment!!!!!! 🙂

    • Hi Eric,

      Glad to hear that you are going to be taking action and launching your blog. Will it work? It all depends on what “it” is. If by it, you mean taking action, that always work, if you look at it correctly.

      If the project you are working on succeeds, GREAT. If it doesn’t, you learn, and can take that knowledge to help you take the next step. THAT, to me, works regardless of the result.

      So yes, take action and keep moving towards your goal. That’ll work, and I’m here to encourage you along in that process.

  • Much luck to you, Lesliie. Patience is important. But you know that!

  • rajeshconver says:

    Hi Leslie Samuel,

    Thanks for sharing very informative information.What i more like on your tips in fourth point,that is really interesting.I do make a mistake so many times while doing everything on my own,because it needs lots of time to complete everything on a time and finally get frustrated.now after reading these tips i am going to split my work.Thanks for the tips.

  • Raymond says:

    Thank you very much for the tips. I will sure use them.

  • Ntathu Allen says:

    Well done Leslie. Yep. After parenting, owning your own business has to be most rewarding (and physically/emotionally challenging) endevour ever. Wishing you every blessing as you live your dreams. Thank you.

    • Thanks Ntathu, I appreciate the support. Yes, parenting is definitely rewarding and I’m starting to see how rewarding owning my own business can be, and it has only been a few days 🙂

  • ekaette ekong says:

    Your piece on is an eye-opener and it of immense benefit to me. I have several important tasks, all demanding my time and energy. Your article has taught me to focus on what is important and necessary. Thanks a million

  • knight says:

    Nothing can pay you better than hard work,Follow your dreams with your full efforts to achieve them.Thanks for your inspirational thoughts and best luck for your future

  • Lucy says:

    Wow! Congratulations! I’m sure you are a great professor and many students learned from you. Without you as their foundation, they won’t get what they have right now. This tips are very informative! No doubts it came from a good person like you. This is for sure came from your heart. Continue to inspire others! Thanks for sharing Leslie!

  • Elvetha G Derrick-Telemaqu says:

    Powerful! I am getting my mojo back and will be rolling out in a few days.

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