How to achieve success as a self-employed person

We just read a guest opinion piece by Bill MacKenzie, communications manager for Intel,  about Oregon’s Self Employment Assistance Program. Headline: Turning unemployment into self-employment.  Sub-hed: Self Employment Assistance Program helps the unemployed start a business.

There’s a touching anecdote about an Intel employee who lost her job and decided to try to set up her own business providing “canine water therapy.” She enrolled in the SEAP, which allowed her to pass up the usual requirement for people getting unemployment benefits to be actively looking for work. Instead, she got the bennies, but was allowed to start her therapy business in an effort to become gainfully self-employed.

Second sentence in the piece is, “But sometimes the government gets it right.” But does it? Apparently,  “… the state doesn’t know how many people sign up for SEAP, exhaust their benefits and end up with no business and no job,” MacKenzie says.

Furthermore, “…success in Oregon hasn’t been determined on the basis of how many SEAP participants start and maintain a successful business. Rather, success has been judged by how well the state promotes SEAP and how much money is distributed to SEAP participants. Only government could think that way.”

It’s refreshing to read an opinion that is so honest and rational. We expect either an all-out attack on such a program or an unswerving defense.

Here’s how IFO and her DDH achieved success as self-employed persons in very different services. Working hard, learning constantly, networking unceasingly, taking chances, getting lucky. IFO did a lot of marketing – cold calls and letters to editors with story ideas.

DDH couldn’t market himself to save his life, so it took longer for his business to get established. It took word of mouth – a notoriously slow way to grow a business. But when it did, his income far exceeded IFO’s, because he provided immediately-recognizable, unique and highly valuable services to his customers. He’d get stopped on the street and thanked for repairing that, uh, technical thing. It never broke again.

Here’s an anecdote that partially explains his success. He gets a call from a regular client, a factory that made cookies. “Hey, have you ever worked on an enrober?”

“Hmmm,” says DDH. “I can take a look at it.” Rule Number One for him was never tell an untruth. DDH hangs up and turns to IFO. “Say, you do a lot of cooking. What’s an enrober?”

“No idea,” we replied. “Let us know as soon as you get back.” We were dying of curiosity.

Answer: an enrober is the machinery that covers (enrobes)  a cookie or cake or whatever with chocolate! Of course, DDH fixed it. He’d often get calls asking about machinery he’d never worked on or even seen, but this was the first and only time he had no idea what the offending equipment was.

Here’s an anecdote from IFO’s career as a freelance news reporter. After an EXTREMELY tense night meeting which included all three county commissioners and an irate crowd of citizens, she filed her story with the daily paper she was writing for around midnight.

Next day, she entered the commissioners’ meeting room to cover their regular morning session. They were all leaning back reading that newspaper. One of them commented to the other, “I’m finding out what happened last night!” They were all so focussed on maintaining order and safety, they hardly remembered what the outcome was.

Ah, self-employment, when all is said and done, is the most exciting work you can do, no matter what area you are working in! Bookkeeping and taxes are no fun, but those high points make up for the paperwork pain.


About InvestingforOne

I've been investing in various assets by myself using a discount broker for many years. Over that time, I've developed some theories that others might find useful. Plus, there is more to investing than money. Time, talent, work, friends, family all go into developing a good and satisfactory strategy.
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2 Responses to How to achieve success as a self-employed person

  1. Jan Jackson says:

    You are right on once again. I’ve done both (employee and entrepreneur) and being able to make decisions that I think are appropriate is exciting. Besides that, I seem to be the only bitch I can work for – it’s a win win – smile./jj

    • Amen to that, jj! That may be true of most of us SE people. IFO once gave her DDH a doormat with the phrase on it, “A beautiful person and an old grouch live here.” At first, he looked a little downcast, but perked up when she explained, “It doesn’t say who the ‘old grouch’ is!”

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