For 30 years, Jeanne Yocum has been self-employed as a public relations consultant and ghostwriter. This Spring, Rowman and Littlefield published Jeanne’s first solo book, The Self-Employment Survival Guide: Proven Strategies to Succeed as Your Own Boss. Jeanne previously authored two books: The New Product Launch: 10 Proven Strategies and Ban the Humorous Bazooka: [and Avoid the Roadblocks and Speed Bumps Along the Innovation Highway]. She has also ghostwritten books on open innovation, strategic partnerships, and leading fast-growth companies. A Pennsylvania native, Jeanne holds a BA in Journalism from Pennsylvania State University and a Masters in Journalism from Boston University. After spending most of her career in Greater Boston and in Western Massachusetts, she now lives in Durham, North Carolina. She credits her parents for fostering skills that have enabled her to succeed as her own boss. Her mother was a high school teacher who led her to love writing. Her father was self-employed and served as her example on how to succeed out there on your own.
[1:23] Marc welcomes you to Episode 89 of the Repurpose Your Career podcast and invites you to share this podcast with like-minded souls. Please subscribe, share it on social media, write an honest iTunes review, or tell your neighbors and colleagues so Marc can help more people.
[1:52] Next week’s episode is planned to be the fourth episode of the four-part series “Can Juan Repurpose His Career?” You’ll want to come back and hear the closing episode of Juan’s saga!
[2:04] This week, Marc has an interesting interview with Jeanne Yocum. Marc shares her biography.
[3:25] Marc welcomes Jeanne Yocum to the podcast. Marc says he relates to The Self-Employment Survival Guide: Proven Strategies to Succeed as Your Own Boss. For three years, setting up CareerPivot, Marc was going through much of the mindset described in the book. He sometimes thinks he works for the worst boss ever.
[3:49] As her own boss, Jeanne indulged her own requests for days off, usually.
[4:15] Jeanne had been self-employed for 25 years when she started writing this book. In addition to her own experience, a significant number of her public relations and event planning clients were self-employed. She also worked with self-employed graphic designers.
[4:52] Jeanne didn’t find any books that addressed the nitty-gritty of running your business and the perplexing people problems you run into on a day-to-day basis. So she decided to write that book as a resource for others.
[6:01] When Marc first got started he hired a business coach who walked him through understanding the types of clients he wanted and those he didn’t and learning how to determine the difference quickly. Marc has come up with a business model where he asks for a lot of his money up front.
[6:33] Jeanne discusses the question of whether someone can succeed in self-employment. Everyone likes to think they could. Then they start asking about staying motivated. (Well, the mortgage comes due every month! How’s that?)
[7:16] There’s a mindset that you do need, including some specific characteristics. Some of them can be learned. You can be great with your product or service, but are you great with the people issues?
[8:04] When Marc got started, he was used to being an employee, not self-employed. It took him a long time to get the self-employment mindset.
[8:24] Persistence, decisiveness, risk tolerance, self-motivation, confidence, and optimism are the six characteristics Jeanne recommends you need before deciding to become self-employed.
[8:52] Most of us working for anybody else rely on someone above us to make final decisions. That is not the case for the self-employed.
[9:22] Marc’s problem as a self-employed person was in being his own biggest critic.
[9:37] Some people starting out lack persistence. It’s easy to get discouraged from people who are not interested or keep you dangling. Get used to rejection and get used to going after people who owe you money. Not everybody says yes and not everybody pays on time. Take assertiveness training.
[11:07] You have to be decisive. Put a strategy in place and give it a good, honest chance to succeed. You have to work toward something. Jeanne shares a client story. If you get queasy about being the decider, you need to give this serious thought. Self-employment may not be right for you.
[12:43] Marc runs into some people who can’t make decisions and others who make slap-dash decisions without thinking enough about them. Do the research but set a time-limit to how long you research before the decision.
[13:48] Marc asks how long to hold onto an idea before letting it die as unworkable. Don’t worry how much time you have invested in it. Investing more time won’t make it work. Marc notes his own flopped ideas before he started this podcast.
[14:27] Don’t keep digging a hole that you’re in over your head. If you never make the decision, then you really have made a decision not to do something. You’re going to face risks day-to-day, through no fault of your own. If you just can’t tolerate risk, self-employment will make you unhappy.
[15:39] Jeanne started her business at the beginning of a recession and has survived two more. She was worried. She lost a major client. But somebody else came along.
[16:16] You’ll need self-motivation. When you’re self-employed, you have to have it within yourself to do what needs to be done.
[16:45] Don’t fall for distractions. When business is down, it’s no time to paint a bedroom. Get back to your desk and do something to produce income.
[17:10] You have to build up your self-motivation. You have to want the business to succeed. Many businesses fail before the five-year mark, largely because the owner lacked self-motivation.
[17:35] Marc discusses the Birkman Assessment. One of the measurements is ‘change/insistence.’ Marc is very low ‘change.’ He has to separate himself from ‘devices’ because he is too easily distracted. He has taken Facebook off his phone. He moved his podcast setup into a closet to isolate himself.
[18:57] Jeanne addresses myths: ‘Life will be better without a boss.” Think of all the decisions the boss makes. You have to understand the accounting, especially about taxes.
[19:53] When you’re self-employed, you have multiple bosses — all your clients. Each of them wants to feel they are the most important person on your schedule that day and that you will jump when they call. Jeanne talks about clients trying to micromanage her.
[21:27] Don’t make the decision to be self-employed because you are unhappy with your current boss. You have to see if you have the self-employment mindset, a solid plan, a market who will buy from you, and the expectation of making a living off the price you can charge in that market. If you want to escape your boss, find a better boss.
[22:57] If you are running to something, not away from something, self-employment may be right for you.
[23:10] Will your work/life balance be so much better when you are self-employed? Eventually, that may be true. In the startup phase (the first couple of years), your work/life balance may be worse than when you work for someone else.
[23:33] Marc has not had a work/life balance for five years! If you want to run a lifestyle business, you may not build up much business. It takes time to create a business.
[25:13] You will go to early-morning networking breakfasts, after-hours meetings at the end of the day, and do all sorts of work running the business that you don’t get paid to do. You have to run your business. You will need accounting training, etc. You don’t get to do just what you love (providing your service or product).
[27:38] Marc makes two points: it’s very important to work on the business, not in it, and figure out what you are not good at or do not like to do and find other people to do that. Don’t think you can’t afford to hire. You can’t afford not to.
[28:17] Marc can do any of the tasks in his business. So he needs to learn how to outsource to people who will do it faster than he can, and for less money.
[29:02] Look at what your own time is worth writing business proposals rather than writing code for your website. Cash flow, cash flow, cash flow is the mantra of the self-employed.
[30:02] Marc asks how to deal with income and workflow fluctuations.
[30:08] Jeanne says, keep at it. If you have “just a little” work to do, don’t put it off to do your grocery shopping or mow the lawn. Do the paid work first, then spend the rest of the day bringing in new business. You can’t let up. Do chores outside of business hours. When things are down, don’t let that distract you. Keep it up.
[31:21] Another aspect of the self-employment mindset is optimism. When business slows down, you can get discouraged or you can open another door. If you just keep at it, your plate will get full again.
[32:04] When you have too much work, outsource new work to a known and trusted vendor. Or ask the client if they can wait until next month when you can devote time to them.
[33:27] Kay McManus of K-Kan says when you get started, the only qualification for a new client is a pulse. It’s hard to run away from a client with money but sometimes you have to trust your instinct. You don’t want to work with clients that take energy away from you. It takes a while to trust your instincts, Jeanne says. Meet them for lunch.
[34:48] If you have dollar signs in your eyes, you never learn to listen to your instincts. But you can’t afford not to do your best work for everybody. Word will spread. It helps if you have clients that are really great. If something is putting you off, just walk away.
[36:00] Jeanne’s last words — “Buy my book!” Jeanne also invites you to her blog, Succeeding in Small Business. Find yourself some friends who are self-employed, not necessarily a mentor (but get mentors, too), with whom you can commiserate. Having someone in the same situation to talk to will be a big help.
[37:55] Marc ties this into his online community where he asks people to get an accountability buddy.
[38:20] Jeanne says you can buy the book on Amazon and it is also available in a Kindle version. Barnes & Noble carries the book in many locations. Or check your independent bookstore. Also available in Audible format. Jeanne shares her contact information (see below).
[40:52] Check back next week, when Marc will air the fourth and final part of “Can Juan Repurpose His Career?”
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