Most people understand that to accept a position at a company, no matter how humble, you need to bring the virtues of your professional talent to the role. This is made evident by the fact that in order to remain in the position, you need to bring value to your employer. While the parameters here can seem quite clear and confined, it’s hard to replicate that kind of comfort when starting your own business.


Everyone has to start somewhere, and it is a reasonably safe assertion that most people will kick their businesses off from a room in their own home, even if just for a month. That said, despite the perceived ‘comfort’ in working from home, your success requires no less diligence, care, attention to detail and self-discipline than you would in a more established setting.


Over many years in my profession I have come to the realization that while all virtues are useful in some respect, none of them are as important to curate and regularly rely on as the following five traits you should seek to embody. A good question to ask yourself is “Would I hire myself for this position?”


The answer is most likely ‘yes!’ if you display the following five attributes:

1. Discipline

Ultimately, you have to be the engine of your operation. If you cannot dedicate yourself to the idea, it’s hard to convince anyone else to do the same. Discipline comes in many forms, and is ultimately an ally more than it is a hindrance.


This means focusing on your daily professional standards. Some people even choose to wear their usual professional wardrobe in order to adopt the right mindset for work, despite eschewing the morning commute. Despite the flexibility offered by working at home, many understand the value in setting consistent hours on a daily basis. Discipline can also mean making sure you set enough time between work and your personal life. This can be hard to do when working from home, but helps your mental wellbeing and focus on the job tremendously. Cultivating self-determination and a code of working principles is almost always key to success.

2. A brave face

It’s tough, let’s not kid ourselves. You’ll try to please your clients all the time, and yet there’ll be times where you feel like packing it all in for a cushy pool-boy job in Bora Bora. Money might be tight in the early stages (or at any stage). You need that brave face, not just for false bravado, but to continue to say “the client is right” or to change your focus and go drum up some more work.


Even if you need to handle a professional disagreement or a testy client, doing so respectfully and with clear and consistent communication will help ameliorate the issue at hand.


This leads me to the next point…

3. It’s not always about the money.

You should definitely work towards the money, but sometimes that should not be the top priority. It is very normal to be concerned about cash flow, especially early on. You will have a comprehensive business plan with forecasts that we like to call ‘realistically optimistic’, but there is a bigger picture issue here:


Heightening your professional standards and investing in your business is key. This might involve purchasing a new computer with the correct software needed to perform your role. It might mean hosting your website using a template web building service and purchasing a domain name.


Ultimately, it means falling in love with your craft. Clients notice this. They understand when you go above and beyond – and word of this spreads like nothing else. This way, you’ll be able to leverage better testimonials and a stronger portfolio toward the acquisition of more lucrative clients.

4. Savvy

  • IT savvy

You need to know how to run what you have. This means setting your workstation up and your professional security (such as multi-factor authentication and cybersecurity updates) needs to be applied as necessary.

Only you will be responsible for the printer malfunction at 3 am, just hours before your deadline. This, in my opinion, is where a lot of people come unstuck. Every tool you buy, every piece of software you install needs to work in a way that you understand, right down to the apps you keep on your smartphone and how you organize your cloud calendar. It’s fine not to have these skills, to begin with, but before you take on a professional client, you need to learn them.

  • People savvy

There’s a good chance that those with the confidence to run their own business are competent in their people skills.

Just remember to keep that brave face, and understand that careful client management is a matter of juggling expectations and personalities.

Clients will still surprise you, however. It’s about rolling with the punches and allowing professionalism and documented communication work on your side. A professional disagreement with a client is not always a reflection of your capability.

Next time you’ll have more though, accumulating this skill will see you through pretty much anything that your future clients/partners/colleagues can throw at you. This is where you cut your teeth as a professional.

  • I-need-help savvy

‘INH savvy’ might be the best one. You need to be able to spot when you need help (hopefully early in the piece) AND have the internal fortitude to ask for it. Asking for professional guidance, using an outsourced professional, or further clarification from a client is only going to help you perform your job better.

  • Confidence

Repeat this to yourself during those tough days:

“I can adapt what I am doing to meet the demands and criticisms of others.”

“I have the requisite skill and knowledge.”

“I’ve done enough for today!”

“I can do this.”

Remember why and how you began this business effort, and the extent to which you hope to cement yourself as a professional. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Just keep your shoulder to the grindstone, and use every setback as a learning experience.

Wrap up

Every self-employed journey will be different. We hope that with this advice, you can find some confidence and drive during the best days, as well as resilience and tenacity to get your business through those difficult periods.


This time next year, who knows where you could be?

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