Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Who's The "Boss" Of The Self-Employed?

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I’ve heard the phrase, “be your own boss” so many times that it appears to be synonymous with the term “self-employed.” But, is that really an accurate description? The formal definition of “boss” is, “an employer or supervisor” or “one who makes decisions or exercises authority” (Nelson Canadian Dictionary, 1998). Although self-employed people have authority over their business activities and make decisions on what work they accept, they still have to answer to a number of others. Let’s take a look at who else has some authority or influence on the work of the self-employed, the ones that keep the self-employed accountable for their business activities.

Clients: One of the largest influences of the self-employed is their clients. Without clients the self-employed are just working, which, in itself, does not generate any income. Business activity is only worth something if there is someone willing to pay for it and unless clients are happy with the product or service, they won’t buy it. Therefore, in a sense, the self-employed answer to their clients. I think of each client as one of my bosses; this keeps me accountable.

Family: The successfully self-employed know how much they need to make in a month to cover expenses and make a profit. The standard of living their family is used to will have some authority over how much money they need to bring in each month. Also, the demands of family responsibilities will impact the time the self-employed have available to dedicate to their business.

Colleagues: Observing the activities of colleagues and competitors can help the self- employed gauge if they are doing all they should be doing to run a successful business. Networking through events and social media is an effective way to keep up to date on their activities and glean feedback on business ideas and practices.

Accountant and/or Bookkeeper: Without reputable financial guidance, the self-employed could find themselves in a nightmare when tax time comes. The self-employed must submit to the authority of the revenue experts to find financial success.

Professional Associations: Joining professional organizations are an effective way to build a positive reputation in the marketplace. With membership comes the adherence to ethical codes of practice and the authority of the professional association.

Mentor/Coach: A coach or mentor is only effective if the advice is considered and acted upon. Without compliance to their subject matter authority, meeting with them is an expensive and timely façade.

Investors: Some start-ups require financial backing of investors. Whether its subsidies, family, friends, or venture capitalist–they probably invested because of a convincing business plan. Therefore, the plan and the investors will influence the business decisions of the self-employed.

Board of Directors/Business Advisor: Similar to investors these people are committed to seeing the business of the self-employed succeed. Adhering to their guidance is paramount to self-employment success.

There may be other influences that have authority over the self-employed. Can you think of any others that keep the self-employed accountable?

Miranda Vande Kuyt is a self-employed project and communications consultant. She is also the facilitator of the "Look Before You Leap: Self-Employment Survival Strategies" online course through