At some point in your career, you might ask “Should I work for myself or not?”
Maybe you are a student starting out. Maybe you have past experience of being an entrepreneur or owning a business. Maybe you’re employed but not being able to create the work-life balance that you crave. Or maybe you already work for yourself, but find that you are working ridiculously long hours for low fees, struggling to balance it all and feeling like getting off the treadmill.
As surveyors, we love what you do, but might not love running a business. And when you don’t have a well-run business, and you don’t have good boundaries around your wellbeing and your personal life, things get messy, disorganised, and your risk of claims increases. So if you’re asking yourself “Should I stay, or should I go?” here are some things that can help you decide.
Firstly, get curious about what has triggered the question. What’s the motivation? In coaching, we often look at triggers and the motivation towards or away from something. If your motivation is away, then you’re more likely to make limiting decisions that are short-lived, and that’s why we end up on yo-yo diets that we never stick to. It becomes too hard to do.
A positive, towards motivation, means that you make small changes that stick. You start having one healthier meal a day, you increase your water, you start taking a short daily walk and it becomes part of your life. You then feel better, and then you’re encouraged to do more.
It’s important to ask yourself truly whether you are running away from a situation. Maybe you don’t like your line manager, or maybe you are scared because someone has told you that you’ll most likely get sued if you become a valuation surveyor, and then you hold back from exploring the possibilities of early-career employment through fear and hearsay. If you start a business for the wrong reasons, you won’t find what you’re looking for, because you’re always looking behind you.
Then you need to ask yourself if you can do anything about your current situation. If you woke up tomorrow, and all of your problems were gone, how would you notice? What might be different? That is where your solutions lie, and often we don’t take responsibility for that.
Sometimes it has absolutely nothing to do with working for yourself. It could be that you’ve gotten so worn down by your situation that you can’t see a way forward. You need to know that firstly, you can change the situation, you just haven’t found the solution yet. And until you fix those problems, working for yourself might only exacerbate them.
If you decide that yes, working for yourself is something you want to explore, then the best thing to do is to surround yourself with people that work for themselves. Before I started to work for myself, without even realising it, I had built up a huge network of mostly female entrepreneurs. When I left my corporate job, they helped me find agile and creative ways of working.
Finally, you need to ask yourself if you have enough information to make the decision. It’s important to immerse yourself in learning and personal development. Education in business is key. Ask other people how they got started. Join memberships, attend masterclasses and masterminds. Asking questions and getting curious will help you when the time comes to just do it. And it should feel exciting and the right thing to do.
And if you’re still in training as a student, my suggestion to you with my many years of experience in this industry is that just because you can, doesn’t mean it is wise that you start working for yourself. Surveying is about maturity and experience, and you need to build that up in the volume of property that you see and inspect, and also in picking other surveyors’ brains. Remember that claims can come to you many years down the line. So create a plan, a business vision that includes time working for a corporate for the experience, building up your network and business knowledge, and you’ll be ready to go when the time is right.
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