Wondering if you’re ready to become a small business owner? Good news – if you’ve spent time in a 9-5 job, you already have all kinds of essential skills.
‘Hello, thank you for calling the offices of Awesome & Awesome Ltd. Why yes, I’d be glad to do some work for you. Can I take your name and email address please?’
Picking up the phone in a busy office means you’ll have developed an automatic internal script for handling calls in a professional way. Your brain already knows what to say, what information to ask for and how to write down the essentials of a phone message. All of that will become invaluable when you’re self-employed, especially if you do business on your mobile and will be taking calls at odd moments when you’re out and about. Your office telephone skills are also super-handy for making introductory calls to potential clients, suppliers or stockists.
Sure, anyone can write an email. But professional email correspondence is a totally different animal from the leisure-time variety. As Inc.com note in their tips for email etiquette, every message should be written as if it’s going under the company’s letterhead.
Your day-job will have subtly schooled you in the tonal differences between ‘Kind regards’ and ‘Cheers’ as a sign-off, and you’ve no doubt come across some handy stock phrases for common requests. With the right turn of phrase, you can discuss just about anything in a way that sounds businesslike without causing awkwardness, whether it’s asking for a better price or reminding someone their reply to you is overdue.
If there’s one thing all kinds of employment have in common, it’s that things run on a schedule. Whether it’s turning up for a shift in a restaurant or chairing meetings on the future of nuclear physics, you’ll have developed punctuality skills for work events like meetings and calls. You’ll also have a sense of how long it takes to do something, and you’ll know from experience how much extra time you need to leave for inevitable interruptions, discussions and coffee breaks when you’re planning a job. All that makes it much easier to manage your own workload as a self-employed person, and to keep your calendar of appointments and deadlines running smoothly.
It sounds like a strange accomplishment, but making mistakes and learning how to put things right afterwards is a really beneficial part of work experience. And it’s even better if you’ve made your early mistakes within a team or a larger organization where other people can help you figure out solutions – because they’ve no doubt made the same errors themselves.
People with less experience in the world of work are more likely to worry about making mistakes and to be over-cautious, meaning they hold back from pursuing great ideas in case things go wrong. In fact, getting it wrong is one of the best ways to build confidence and resilience at work as you realize most things can be set right again. Lifehack.org has no less than 40 reasons it’s good to make mistakes
Remember your first ever day at work, when you had to dress up in weird ‘grown up’ clothes and shoes that just didn’t feel like you? Thankfully, the intervening years have (we hope) brought you to a point where you can dress appropriately for a business setting while feeling comfortable and credible. Being self-employed, you can revel in the freedom to wear what you like day-to-day, but it’s really handy to have a business-ready wardrobe on standby for important meetings and events.
Maybe the greatest benefit of working for an employer is that you learn to separate your professional and personal roles. As an employee, you develop a sense of yourself as representing a company, rather than taking actions you feel wholly responsible for. If someone isn’t interested in your sales pitch, you don’t see it as a reflection of yourself as a person.
Naturally, your own enterprise will mean more to you than somebody else’s ever did. But being able to step back from business activities and look at them strategically, instead of personally, can save you energy and help you make more balanced, objective decisions.
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