Not-so-Secret Weapon of the Self-Employed

In taking the good advice of my friend Reg Adkins, I’m not going to bury the lead here: The not-so-secret weapon of those who are happily and successfully self-employed is their very healthy self-esteem and belief in themselves.

They just have to have it.

And if you are thinking of taking this leap of faith into being self-employed, you have to have it.

No shrinking violets.

Here are a few off-the-top-of-my-head reasons why.

Sidebar: Where does this topic come from?  I was recently interviewed by an MBA student who asked me a few questions including this one. Turns out I was recommended to her as someone who made the “radical shift” (her words, not mine) from a long-time corporate career in relatively big businesses, and she wanted to know why. The reasons why I think self-employment is my only way to go these days, is here.

There is no other way to get past some of the obstacles you run into.

For instance, one of those obstacles, actually a whole category unto itself, is all the things you don’t know yet as a business-savvy person. This includes talents you don’t have, skills you don’t have, and knowledge that you don’t have.

Therefore, you have to have the self-esteem that says, no problem, all this stuff can be learned, and the belief that says, and furthermore, I can learn it.

Once you learn about those previously unknowns that go with being self-employed, you soon figure out that you don’t want to do all of them yourself.

You’re now faced with two options: Suck it up and do it anyway, making quick work of it, or give it to someone else to do for you. Self-employed has just turned into self-employed with help; hired or from volunteers who really love you (and hired is less messy).

This is why I rarely refer to myself as a solo-entrepreneur anymore; personally, I much prefer to get the help I need and pay for it. The person who loves to do the things I don’t care for, will always do a better job at them than I will.

Now I still believe in myself, but this is where the self-esteem trumps prideful belief. My self-esteem tells me that my time is more valuable than that to me, and I should be using it in a better way that engages my strengths in high gear. For me, making quick work of it means it will take me less than an hour. If I’m still doing the things I have no desire to do for longer than that it means one of two things; I’m still looking for the right person to help me, or I found them, but I’m still working on being able to afford them.

I want to be able to afford them, because of this next reason…

The more you believe you are worth, the more you can charge.

 This applies to both tangible products and so-called intangible services (I think they’re both tangible.) Your worth in your market is a reflection of your self-esteem, for frankly, you have to be bold and self-assured about the price tag you put on your own time. And I’m not referring to a time-for-money model; figuring out what you are worth per hour is an internal calculation that figures into everything you do.

You have to believe you are worth your price and then some, and that you are more than capable of delivering full value to your customers every single time. That engine of consistency, where you believe you have minimal risk, comes from your self-esteem.

Here’s the practical application and test of this:

Someone wants to hire you or your business, or buy your product, and you quote a price. They say they can’t afford that price, or they want to negotiate a lower one. If you believe that what you offer is worth that price, you’ll turn down the business with no regrets, for you know that your time — to deliver that service, or to develop/deliver that product, is worth way more than they want to negotiate you down to.

My goodness, this is hard to do! And I won’t lie to you, cash flow can trump everything, particularly when you are starting out. But do so, and you’ve passed your own personal test of self-esteem and worth-connected self-belief.

The more confidence you have in yourself, the more you instill confidence in the people you serve, customers and partners alike.

The value you offer people is a reflection of what you believe you are good enough to offer them. People with high self-esteem, and a very healthy belief in their value don’t bother themselves working with and around junk. The people who are part of their world know this, and they love it about them, for they raise that proverbial bar, getting everyone around them to reach higher.

Your confidence will grow with your self-esteem, and it grows each time it has paid off to believe in yourself and your abilities. That confidence is like getting your batteries re-charged: It propels you toward your next challenge, and you have this demeanor that seems to say Let me at ’em! to everyone else.

It’s a demeanor your customers will love, for you’ll instill in them a confidence with their own decision to work with you, or purchase from you.

Think about all of this in the way you think about our value of the month too: KÅ«lia and break through! If you are one of those people who have long yearned to be self-employed, calling your own shots and designing your own destiny, this can be the month you break through all those yeah-buts that have been stopping you.

Believe in yourself even if – especially if – no one else does. They don’t know you, and so they’re wrong.


  1. says

    Developing Mental Toughness: Answer the Difficult Questions

    My friend Rosa Say has been writing up a storm lately, today she was on a similar wavelength in writing the Not-so-Secret Weapon of the Self-Employed. In this article I state that we need mental toughness while Rosa states that we need to believ…

  2. says

    I just read a terrific post on the site of a writer/writing coach who finds that the cause of writer’s block is often fear/self-doubt.
    She has six suggestions for letting go of the fear and returning to playfulness, all of which would also work for small business owners or any other self-employed folks.
    That article is on April Kihlstrom’s blog here:

  3. says

    Aloha EM, thank you for sharing April’s link; I like the way she coaches us toward finding our sources of joy. She also makes a good point about listing our past successes, for we take ourselves for granted way too much, not milking our victories for all they’re worth!

  4. says

    Absolutely! I look at being self-employed as a real test of my self-esteem. I find I must really persevere, believe in myself, and keep going in spite of setbacks. It’s tough, and I have renewed respect for people who do it successfully. Thanks for the post!

  5. says

    Learn to Build Your Personal Brand

    “Most of all, I don’t want to be defined by anything not of my choosing.” ~ Phil Gerbyshak I consider myself a newbie as far as being an entrepreneur. For the first three decades of my working life, I was