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Making the leap to self-employment is equal parts thrilling and terrifying. You’re now the boss which is great because you get to decide what gets done when and what work you want to take on. Being the boss also means being responsible for everything. You will now need to bring in enough income to pay the bills, do the invoicing, complete all work that must be done, and constantly trying to balance life and work.

The First Few Days

The first few days of self-employment can be a bit disorienting. The entire way that you spend your day has now changed. It feels a bit like a weekend, but you know you need to be working. Somehow you feel like you have tons of time, but not nearly enough to get everything done. As you build your business, you start to realize there were some things you weren’t completely prepared to do.

No matter how much research you do before the leap, there is always going to be something you didn’t think about. It will inevitably throw off your day, shake up your balance a little, and take more time to figure out than you’d like.

The point is, if you know this before the leap, you can anticipate. Meaning you can plan to have some time set aside to deal with the issue. It may be an invoicing glitch, technology compatibility issues, or just learning a new tool you didn’t know you’d be expected to use. If you give yourself a break by planning for a few things to go a little wrong and for things to get a little crazy the first week — it won’t throw you off as much.

Finding a Schedule That Works

Everyone struggles with finding the schedule that works for them. This is especially true if you are working from home full-time for the first time. There are endless distractions and ways to procrastinate. It’s really difficult if there are numerous others residing in the home — such as spouse, partner, or children. And it’s really difficult if there are no other people residing in the home — just yourself.

Chances are if you are procrastinating, your home is extremely clean and all the laundry is done — because you did all of that work, while trying not to buckle down to work. However, going out to a coffee shop or some other location with fewer distractions can also be distracting and add up in costs.

Even if you worked from home before it’s different when you are working for yourself. There are no colleagues to call and chat about accounts or just catch up a bit. As much as you love your significant other if they are the only human being you interact with each day, you’re going to go crazy. Which means building a schedule that incorporates your work and human interaction that isn’t email.

A good step is to find a fellow entrepreneur and set up a weekly meeting either face to face or via video call. The benefit is threefold, it helps to build your schedule, set and be held accountable to goals, and keeps you sane during the day when you are hustling. On another day schedule a virtual happy hour with business friends.

Or plan an actual happy hour with local friends and entrepreneurs. While you don’t want to weigh yourself down with appointments and meetings that don’t directly result in income, the networking and ability to bounce ideas off of someone else can be extremely valuable. There are always conferences where you can meet other like minded individuals in the same predicament you are who you can connect with.

Using Systems to Save Time

Just like figuring out how to schedule your day to be productive and sane, figuring out what systems work best will save you time and stress. If you can automate those systems, things will be even better.

Here are a few areas to build systems to save time and stress:

  • Billing, invoicing, and bookkeeping
  • Client communication
  • Pitching stories
  • Marketing
  • Producing work product
  • Social Media

Each of these areas are important for sustaining and growing your business. However, they can each take up a ton of time on their own. By systemizing and automating parts of your business, you’ll be able to stay on top of it all and still have a life.

What tools you’ll use will depend on what you need for your business. If you bill by the hour, then an invoicing tool like Due which includes time tracking would be helpful to you. If social media is crucial to growing your business, schedulers like Buffer or MeetEdgar might be beneficial.

Having preset responses to typical email questions will cut back on time. Having a method to set a meeting either through email or a tool like Calendly will prevent back and forth emails or texts which are huge time wasters.

Of course, you’ll have to weigh the costs and benefits of each tool you implement. Remember that your time is valuable and you shouldn’t waste it on menial tasks.

So whether it is the overwhelming responsibilities of working from home, building a schedule or figuring out what tools will work best for your business, knowing that these things will happen will help you to prepare for the learning curve that comes with a leap to self-employment.

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Liz is a writer for hire, specializing in personal finance, entrepreneurship, and legal issues. She shares her own journey to debt freedom and helps graduates dealing with above average student loan debt on her site, Less Debt More Wine. She currently resides in NC after calling Massachusetts home for nearly a decade.

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