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How to transition from an employee mindset to a business owner mindset

Since the rise of the pandemic, so many of us saw a major shift in the way businesses functioned, both at an individual level and as a whole.

This has led to many people dreaming of quitting their jobs and going into business for themselves. Calling all the shots, setting your schedule, and choosing who to work with. (Working in comfy activewear!) Sounds great, right?

However, what isn’t glamorised is that being your own boss comes with endless problem-solving that may dampen this dream for some.

(A bit of real-talk: Calling the shots isn’t always cracked up what it’s said to be.)

You are no longer an employee, buffered by your boss. You are now in business — you are both the boss and the employee. You are now the one responsible for everything. If things go wrong, then you have to own that responsibility.

One of the biggest obstacles of taking the leap to entrepreneurship and being a solo business owner is shifting your outlook and behaviour from employee mindset to employer mindset and, after years of working for others, you may struggle to assume the role of being the boss.

Another key thing you’ll need to consider when having an entrepreneurial dream and running with it is that you’ll need to unlearn some of your old habits and work on developing an entrepreneurial state of mind. 

To help with this transition, let’s look at how to make the mindset shift from an employee to a business owner.

Employee mindset vs. business owner mindset

First, let’s identify the difference between an employee mindset and a business owner mindset.

Freelancers with the employee mindset view their clients as the boss and themselves as the employee. They rely on the client for direction and have the “client is always right” mentality.

These are a few signs that you’re still thinking like an employee. You…

  • Answer client emails immediately no matter what time they come in
  • Say “yes” to extra work, even if it’s not technically covered in your project scope
  • Always prioritise client work before working on your business

If you’re used to working for someone else, it can be tough to shake that employee mindset.

You’re accustomed to completing tasks based on your boss’ request. And pleasing your higher-ups was super important if you wanted to get that next promotion.

But back then, you were working to build someone else’s company. Now you’re building your own! 

Freelance business owners with business mindsets view themselves as equal to their clients. They give business ideas, set boundaries and expectations, and put their own business and growth first.

It can be scary to prioritize your business at first. But just imagine how fulfilling it will feel to have clients that respect you and a business that you run on your own terms.

So let’s look at some practical ways to start making this transition from an employee mindset to a business owner mindset.

Explore new possibilities

The first habit to break is limiting the scope of your ambitions. As an employee, you’re trained to follow a specific path. You work your way up the ladder without stopping to explore other options.

As an employer, you need to keep your options open. You need to start opening your mind to the endless possibilities in front of you. Basically, you need to start thinking outside of the box.

You now have the freedom to realise your vision, no matter how unconventional your idea may be. 

Create goals for yourself

You’re going to be the one creating the vision for your business.

Having a clear vision may be the most significant aspect of becoming an entrepreneur. You need to be able to clearly explain your vision and the direction of your company.

Setting short-term and long-term goals helps others understand the big picture and the steps needed to get there. Long-term business goals cover the overall vision of your business. These are things that you want to achieve in the next five to ten years.

Short-term goals are the stepping stones you take to reach your vision, such as the things that you hope to accomplish within the next one to three years.

Short-term goals are typically more actionable compared to long-term goals. You provide specific steps that you and your employees or collaborators need to complete.

Get ready to accept full responsibility

When you become an employer, you need to be ready to take responsibility for the good and the bad.

If a project doesn’t provide satisfactory results, the person in charge tends to take the blame. It’s a sign of good leadership when a manager assumes responsibility for failures.

When you become a business owner, everything falls on your shoulders. Own every decision that you make and every action that your employees or contractors take. It’s okay to pat yourself on the back when you succeed. When you fail—and it’s only natural that you will have at least a few setbacks or failures—it’s important to do so with integrity and take responsibility.

Prioritise your own growth

Spend the most productive hour of your day working on your own business. This could mean client prospecting, organizing your systems, or creating your own content. It’s tempting to jump straight into client work and only leave your leftover energy for yourself, but work to break this habit.

Elevating your business and sense of self-worth ultimately benefits your clients, too. Allow yourself the headspace to work on your business by giving proper lead times for client work and not always rushing against a deadline.

Learn to keep yourself motivated

Employees are given schedules and deadlines. Employers set them.

When you transition to your new role as a business owner, procrastination (or procrasti-working) isn’t an option. You need to set deadlines and stick to them and ensure that your employees and collaborators stick to them as well.

You’ll no longer have a supervisor to keep you on track, you’ll need to keep yourself motivated.

Without a set schedule, you have the freedom to do what you want with your time. This is a blessing and a curse. It’s easy to allow the day to get away from you without accomplishing anything.

To stay motivated and focused, maintain a set schedule. While you may not need to check in with a supervisor or punch a clock, you should still start your day at a set time. Sticking to a schedule trains your brain to avoid deviating from the routine. You’ll become less likely to procrastinate and waste your day. We recommend time-blocking your schedule and experimenting with the pomodoro technique to find out what productivity hack works best for you.

When all is said and done, it can be a big learning curve and mindset adjustment to step into the freelancing world if all you’re ever known is the employed world. But just know that you are not alone and finding a community to cheer you along will definitely help you overcome the hurdles.
Being your own boss can be incredibly rewarding. The freedom is definitely alluring, despite the fact that you might find yourself working harder than ever before. This time though, you’re working hard for yourself and yourself alone — so all the rewards you reap are yours to keep!

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