How to make a living as a self-employed professional

The dream of self-employment is to make as much (or more) than you would make in a “real job” – while doing the thing you love to do with clients you love to work with.

The sticking point for many of us is figuring out the “how to make enough money” part.

Here’s an honest overview of the five steps you need to take in order to name your salary – then make enough money to pay it to yourself.

1. Design a business model to meet your financial goals

Decide how much you want to pay yourself, then figure out what to offer in order to make it happen.

You don’t need to limit yourself to charging by the hour or session. Your pricing can be based on the value you provide, rather than the time it takes to do something.

You can package your services, offer group programs or create digital products to supplement your service-based income. You can augment that with additional streams of revenue.

2. Clarify who is going to buy from you (and why)

The biggest mistake small businesses make is trying to market to “anybody and everybody.”

As a small business, you cannot possibly serve every person who needs what you have to offer. Instead, focus on being the number one choice for a specific group of people. Identify your ideal clients – the people who want your products and services and are ready to buy.

When you know who is going to buy from you – and why – you can create marketing materials they will respond to, find potential networking partners who serve the same clientele, easily locate prospects and develop services that are custom-tailored to their needs.

3. Develop a cohesive marketing system

It’s not enough to engage in “random acts of marketing” and hope that people buy.

Effective marketing takes people step-by-step from “stranger who needs your services to happy paying client” – so each piece of your marketing system needs to lead to the next.

A complete marketing system will match your client’s buying process so that you give them the right information at the right time.

4. Create clear, compelling, client-centered marketing messages and materials

Your messaging will make or break your business.

If potential clients don’t “get” what you do, or understand how you can help – they won’t buy.

Your networking introduction, advertising, website content and sales conversation all need to be clearly focused on how your services can help your client solve their problem or get what they want.

5. Take consistent action, track your results and improve over time

Once you have the above in place, all that’s left is action.

Create a marketing plan, block out time in your calendar to get it done – and then do it.

Approach everything as an experiment: try something, review your results, adjust if necessary, try again.

When all of the above are in place, magic happens

Once you’re clear about your business model, ideal clients, messaging and marketing plan, you’ll be able to:

  • Confidently introduce yourself and talk about your business in a compelling and conversational way
  • Easily summarize your business in a sentence or two (even if what you do is new, complex or hard to explain)
  • Create website content that clearly explains how you help your clients and why they should choose you
  • Quickly decide whether or not a strategy or opportunity is right for your business and avoid shiny object distractions
  • Feel confident about your goals and your plan to get there

Which will make it much easier to take the necessary actions.

Simple…not necessarily easy

Like many things in life, building a successful solo practice is simple, but not necessarily easy.

The big challenge with being self-employed comes from being so close to your business that you lose perspective. A business coach friend of mine refers to this as “being unable to see the picture because you’re stuck inside the frame.”

I often say that you “can’t read the label on your own jar.”

If you’ve been struggling with your business or marketing, sometimes a bit of outside perspective from someone who has “been there and done that” can make all the difference in the world. If you’re tired of wasting time trying to figure it all out on your own, maybe I can help. Click here to learn more about my consulting services and programs.