If you're running a small business or you're self-employed, the chances are good that almost everyone you know has a job, and it's also likely that they've never been self-employed or run a business themselves.
I like to call these people staffers.
Now, one of the biggest challenges with these staffers is that they will never fully understand what it's like to be self-employed and, as a result, are usually unable to offer proper support and advice for you when you need it.
You see, when you work for somebody else, you can usually get away with just turning up to work, coasting for a bit, and getting away with it. Most folks who work for someone else can leave their work at work and rarely have to bring stuff home.
So, here's my thoughts on what to do with staffers:
If you're self-employed, you'll know what it's like to constantly be living your work simply because you're it. You know? You look to you. There is no one to blame. And it's interesting that many staffers blame their problems in their life on their job. It's funny. They never seem to look in the mirror, which always amuses me. So, anyway, does that kind of sound familiar?
Now, I'm not saying that all staffers are like this. But, the challenge that many of these people have is that they'll try to give you advice, but it's based on their own working experience.
And, when we're self-employed, they don't realize the challenges that you have with organizing yourself, with going out and winning the work, with going out and delivering the work, with managing the accounting, with organizing your day, and all the different constraints and challenges that most people have when they're self-employed.
When you go to work for someone else, typically your work is provided for you. Your work place is provided for you. And somebody else is doing all the motivating. So, it's difficult for them to understand what it's like to be self-motivated at times.
When you are self-employed, you have to be it. You have to find your own motivation. No one is going to fire you. No one's going to threaten to take you to discipline if you're not performing. If you don't perform, you don't get paid. It's that simple.
So, what should you do if you need help?
Well, one of the things I like to do is to surround myself with people who are also self-employed.
And I'd pick on a few good people you get along well with and ask them if they'd be willing every now and then just to meet with you to kick some stuff around, share some problems, help one another out.
And, funnily enough, you'll find that people are often willing to help this because they understand the challenges and there's an awful lot you can do to help one another out.
Asking a staffer to do this, even if this staffer is a partner, or your wife, husband, or whatever, can be a very great challenge because they don't understand what it's like to be in the shoes of someone who is self-employed.
So, find someone who's in your boat. Chances are good you know a few people in your networking circles who can help you out. There's loads of places you can go. It could be that you create your own mastermind group where you troubleshoot one another's problems, share issues, encourage, and inspire one another to do well and to get stuff done. You can find more in this post on "Who you hang around with!"
The key is to be honest. Now, when staffers try to give you advice, I'm not saying that it's all going to be bad, there always will be some nuggets you can take out of it, but be aware that they will never understand where you're coming from with your challenges.
Having said that, there are some amazing benefits that go with being self-employed. And a couple of years ago, I took an afternoon off to go and watch my oldest daughter take part in her school sports day. And, interestingly enough, there was only me and two other parents there -- only three parents there watching their children doing sports day and we were all self-employed.
And, when I told some friends of mine who were staffers, and they said, "Well, that's okay for you. You can do that. You're self-employed." But, what they didn't see was that I was awake until 10:30 that night catching up on the work that I'd missed.
Being self-employed does give you that flexibility, but the staffers just don't see that extra effort that goes into it.
And then there's money - I hate telling staffers how much I charge. My charge out rate can be as much as £100 an hour for some of the specialist work that I do. When they hear that, they instantly assume that I'm making megabucks. Well, sorry guys, but I'm not charging £100 an hour for every hour of every day. There's an awful lot of work that goes around that in terms of marketing, and administration, business development, feeding back to clients, etc. And they don't understand that. They just see the top line figure and think, "£100 an hour! He must be loaded!" And it just isn't the case. And it's difficult to get it across to them sometimes.
There are times when you just don't earn anything, sometimes for days on end. Whereas, staffers can go to work, spend a few hours twiddling their thumbs, or making it look like they're working, and as long as they don't do it too much they'll still get paid. When you're self-employed, that doesn't apply. And you know that. If you don't work, you don't get paid. You don't have a boss. You don't have a salary. You're it.
So, here's a thought on what to do with staffers who don't get your work. One of the things I try and do is simply say, "Yep. You could be right. But, that's not how it works." And, then, I try and explain to them what's it like and some of the challenges. Some get it, some don't, it doesn't matter. You've done your best.
The key is this: You're going to get advice from people, no matter what they do. Staffers, unless they've been self-employed, are going to struggle to understand your challenges. So here's what to do with staffers: surround yourself with people who can understand and will balance out that help.