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How to Work for Yourself in 8 Steps (+10 self-employed jobs)

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Want to learn how to work for yourself? Then this is your guide!

By the end, you’ll know what you need to do to become your own boss with a 6-figure business idea.

Ready to dive in? Let’s go!

You’ll learn:

How to start working for yourself

If you want to start your own business, you’re not alone.

Almost 16.2 million people are self-employed in the US – and that number is consistently growing. 

And to switch to being your own boss, there are eight key steps you need to follow.

Let’s dive into them together.

Start your business on the side

I know how tempting it can be to march into your boss’s office and say “I quit!”

We’ve all heard those stories where someone quits, starts their own thing, and boom – success! 

But there’s a reason why these stories are so famous…

They’re rare — not the norm.

You want a success that lasts.

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6-Figure Coaching Business so you can achieve more freedom!

And chances are that if you dive headfirst into your business without a backup plan, you’ll burn out.

That’s why I always tell my students to start their business BEFORE they leave their jobs.

Having a financial safety net gives you a huge edge over new entrepreneurs who have already quit.

For instance, I built my business up to six figures in sales before I left my job.

Yes, balancing both was a challenge. But thanks to that financial security I could make decisions from a place of strategy — not desperation.

So, when is a good time to quit?

Follow the “321 rule” and have AT LEAST one of the following things in place:

  • 3: Three months of consistent sales in your business
  • 2: 2X your current salary to cover unexpected costs and lost benefits
  • 1: You’ve saved up a year’s worth of living expenses

If you want to learn more about applying the “321 rule”, then check out this video I put together for you:

Next up? Finding your business idea.

Choose a business idea

Now, onto step two: Picking your business idea.

Good news: You don’t need to come up with a revolutionizing idea like the next Amazon.

In fact, the best business ideas for new entrepreneurs are simple to start.

Use these criteria:

  • Choose a business you can start right away: Go for a business that doesn’t need much to get going. This way, you can start making progress quicker.
  • Pick a business model with a high profit margin: Aim for a business that makes good money from just a few sales. This means less work for more pay – something that will help you quit your job faster. 

Coaching, consulting, or freelancing work all fulfill both of these criteria.

With these types of businesses, you leverage what you’re already good at to offer a high-value service.

You can:

  • Use your existing skills
  • Start without taking on a lot of risk
  • Increase your revenue relatively quickly

For example, I used my skills in my day job to start a digital advertising consulting business.

To figure out your skills, think about what friends or colleagues come to you for help with.

Here are some examples:

  • Help people find jobs they love or start new careers
  • Transform people’s lifestyles with personalized nutrition and fitness plans
  • Improve relationships with better communication skills
  • Teach entrepreneurs how to build a better work-life-balance

Finding your business idea is the start. 

But you also need to see how it fits within a niche.

Find a niche

Combining what you’re good at with a specific market need sets you up for success.

You see, a well-defined niche lets you focus on a particular audience who wants what you offer.

And this makes your business a go-to solution.

Here are some other benefits of having a niche:

  • Targeted marketing: Because you know exactly who you’re talking to, your marketing speaks directly to those who need to hear it – and people who are looking for your services see the benefits of your offer. 
  • Less competition: A niche market means there aren’t as many people offering the same thing as you.
  • Higher profits: People are willing to pay more for something that’s just right for them.

To figure out if your business idea and niche are profitable, you need to do market research.

That’s because market research shows you how your idea fits into the market. But reading about your market isn’t enough.

You actually need to TALK to your target audience.

You want to find out:

  • Who they are
  • What problems they have
  • How you can make things better for them

Luckily, market research doesn’t need to be complicated.

You can:

  • Talk with people you know
  • Join online forums and groups
  • Connect on social platforms

After your market analysis, it’s time to set up your business goals.

Set goals in your business

Moving on to step four: Setting business goals

But why should you set goals?

Goals help you:

  • Measure progress: You can see how far you’ve come and what’s left to do.
  • Adjust plans: If things aren’t working, goals help you figure out what changes to make.
  • Stay focused: Knowing what you’re working toward keeps you on track.

To get real results, you need clear targets.

Because without knowing exactly what you’re aiming for, it’s hard to move forward.

Now, how do you set up your business goals?

Let’s break it down into three simple steps:

  1. Start with the big picture: What’s the ultimate thing you want to achieve? This is your big goal.
  2. Create milestones: Milestones are major steps towards your big goal. They’re like checkpoints along the way.
  3. Divide into subgoals: Break those milestones down into even smaller, more manageable pieces. Each call with your client can be dedicated to one of these specific mini-goals.

Ultimately, your goals should be ambitious AND realistic.

For example, if you’re not making sales yet, don’t set a goal for $100,000 in sales right away.

Instead, your initial big goal could be getting your first client.

I’ll talk more about how to get clients in step seven. But first, let’s look at why it’s so important to focus on the right things.

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Focus on the right things

This step helps you avoid a common mistake many new business owners make: 

Wasting time and energy by focusing on the wrong things.

And yes, I was once one of those new business owners. I:

  • Had a beautiful website that nobody visited
  • Wrote many articles without promoting them
  • Set up a fancy email funnel that went unnoticed

Luckily, I’ve always worked with goals, and I love tracking my progress.

So, it quickly became clear to me that my efforts weren’t leading to the results I wanted.

That’s when I turned things around.

You see, in the beginning, your main goal should be to land your first clients.

Rather than trying to do it all, find one strategy that works for you and leverage it.

For me, that strategy was using Facebook groups.

My market research had shown me that that’s where my target audience hung out.

So, I pivoted all my efforts to that.

Once I mastered this platform, I expanded to other platforms and strategies.

The lesson here is to become really good at one thing before moving on to the next. 

This focused approach leads to better results AND is less overwhelming.

By focusing on the right activities, you paradoxically get more done by doing less.

I talk more about the key activities to grow your business here:

Next up is setting up your business.

Set up a business

If you’re unsure how to officially get your business off the ground, this checklist will make the process easier.

Here are three important steps:

  • Choose your business structure: Decide if you’ll operate as a sole proprietorship or form a limited liability company (LLC). A sole proprietorship is the easiest with very little paperwork. An LLC takes more work to set up but it comes with perks like legal protection and tax benefits.
  • Register your business: Registering your business can be straightforward. Sometimes, it’s as simple as telling your local or state government your business name. If you just use your own name for the business, you might not even need to register at all. But, if you don’t register, you’ll miss out on some protections and tax breaks.
  • Look into licenses and certifications: Before you offer your services or products, check if you need any licenses or certifications. This often isn’t necessary for online businesses — unless you’re in fields like medicine, accounting, or law. Even if you think you don’t need anything, always double-check for local requirements. Some examples are a home business license, an occupational permit, or a DBA (“doing business as”) registration.

Once these foundational elements are in place, you can move on to the next step:

Getting your first clients/customers.

Get clients

Finding your first clients can seem tough — but it doesn’t have to be.

Here’s what works:

  • Focus on one client at a time.
  • Use market research to know where your potential clients are. Then go there and offer them real value. This could be answering questions on Reddit, Instagram, or any platform where they hang out.
  • Build trust. This is crucial when you’re new. Show potential clients that choosing your business is a smart move.

Now, how can you show clients that investing in your business is the right choice?

By leveraging your testimonials.

After working with a few clients or making some sales, you’ll have testimonials and reviews.

Share them!

This strategy taps into the power of a psychological phenomenon called social proof.

Testimonials show potential clients that others had positive results by working with you.

They build your credibility. And it’s an indirect way of saying:

“Hey, I helped this person achieve what you’d like to achieve. And you could get similar results by working with me.”

Attracting clients is one (big) part of running a business.

But to maintain your success, you also need effective systems…

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for building a
6-Figure Coaching Business so you can achieve more freedom!

Set up a system

To have a successful business, you need the right systems.

That’s how you get to a point where your business can run well without you having to work 24/7 — a true FREEDOM business.

Another big plus is that systems make your business more predictable.

You’ll be able to guess how things will go because you know your numbers and how things will get done in your business. This makes everything more stable and less stressful.

The different types of systems you need are: 

  • Getting new leads
  • Making sales
  • Delivering what you sell
  • Collecting payments
  • Tracking finances

And to create a business that doesn’t rely on you, you need to create a system for hiring a team. 

Sure, this doesn’t happen on day one. But ultimately, you’ll want to start hiring out different tasks so that you can focus on growing your business.

Here’s how to start: 

  • Know your business’s core tasks. You don’t need a complex plan right now. Just figure out the five main things you do all the time and write them down. This could be answering customer questions, posting on social media, sending a newsletter, and so on.
  • Document these tasks. This way, you can start outsourcing those tasks. Later on, if you or someone on your team is away, the business can keep going smoothly.

Check out this short video, to learn more about these key business systems:

That’s everything on HOW to work for yourself.

But WHY should you work for yourself?

Let’s cover that next – without a purpose bigger than more money, you probably won’t have a lot of fun building your business. 

Why should you work for yourself?

Working for yourself is rewarding.

And the reasons why many people take the leap include:

  • Freedom: You have the freedom to organize your life exactly how you want. You also get to make all the critical decisions about your own business.
  • Flexibility/work-life balance: You set your schedule. This means you can work at times that fit you best.
  • Higher income: There’s no cap on how much you can earn. Plus, your efforts directly impact your income.
  • Work for yourself: You’re working for your dreams and goals, not someone else’s. Every day, you’re growing something that’s 100% yours.

That said, entrepreneurship also comes with challenges:

  • It’s not easy — even if you manage to simplify your business operations.
  • You need to make real sacrifices to spend time on your business.
  • There’s a lot to learn, which can feel overwhelming.

But working on the right things makes a BIG difference.

It makes everything much smoother and easier.

And there are so many things I learned through trial and error that would have been handy to know when I first started.

I’ll share three of those insights with you below.

What should you consider before becoming self-employed?

When figuring out how to work for yourself, these are some key things to consider:

  • Don’t rely on motivation: When it comes to your business, motivation is overrated. Instead, approach your business like a job. To reap rewards, you need to put in the work consistently — not just when you’re feeling 100% motivated. Plan for the unmotivated moments by mapping out exactly what you need to do and scheduling it in.
  • Be patient with your progress: Success doesn’t happen overnight; it builds up over time. I know from experience that growth feels slow at first — until the day it doesn’t. For instance, I started my business over a decade before my “overnight” success. As long as you learn from each action you take, you’re adding to your compound growth. And one day, all of that will add up to your own “overnight” success.
  • Be willing to work hard: While you should treat your business like a job, being an entrepreneur is very different from a regular 9-to-5. You need to wear many hats and often make adjustments. But don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be. Working hard isn’t the only way to succeed. Instead, cut out any unnecessary tasks and make the work you do count more.

The 10 highest-paying self-employed jobs

1. Coaching: You use your existing skills to sell a high-value service. And you help people improve their lives in the process. Here’s how to start your own coaching business.

2. Consulting: As a consultant, you help individuals or businesses achieve their goals. For example, my student Mara helps people get accepted into top law schools. Here’s how to start a consulting business.

3. Freelancing: You’ll perform similar tasks as an employee, but instead of working for someone else, you work for yourself. And that means more flexibility and, potentially, a higher income. There are various freelancing niches you can get into – for example: writing, coding, and graphic design.

4. Selling online courses: Online course businesses are some of the most profitable businesses. Why? You create your product once and then sell it without any extra costs. Plus, you can get started with the skills you already have. Read more about creating an online course here.

5. Affiliate marketing: Many products offer affiliate commissions to people who send new customers to them. Often, these affiliates are bloggers or YouTubers. While it’s a profitable niche, you also need a sizeable audience to get enough commission.

6. Blogging: Bloggers make money through affiliate links and potentially having their own products. It does take time to build traffic to your blog, though.

7. Content creation: As a content creator, you might have a newsletter, YouTube channel, or similar. As your audience grows, you can sell brand deals and your own products.

8. Virtual assistant: If you’re highly organized, you can become a virtual assistant and help business owners manage their business. Your hourly rate will be around $30-$40. VAs with specialized skills can ask for more.

9. Podcasting: Podcasting is another profitable idea. With an engaged audience, you can sell sponsorships and brand deals.

10. Service business: Think services like event planning, photography, or stylist services.

Get more business ideas here!

Next steps 

There you have it! You now know exactly how to work for yourself.

Being your own boss comes with many benefits.

But of course, becoming a GREAT business owner involves a lot more.

If you want to dive deeper, then have a look at my Employee to Entrepreneur (ETE) program.

It’s my simple but proven step-by-step system that shows you how to turn what you know into a successful online business.

Want to Build a 6-Figure Coaching Business So You Can Achieve More Freedom?

Get Instant Access To My FREE Ultimate Guide Below!

When you sign up, you’ll also receive regular updates on building a successful online business.

Read more:

Finally Go from Employee to Entrepreneur

Overcome Your Fear of Starting a Business

How to Leave Corporate America

About Luisa Zhou

Luisa Zhou has helped thousands of students build and scale their own profitable online Freedom Business. Fun Fact: She used to work as an engineer for the Space Station and holds a B.S.E. from Princeton. Click here to learn more about Luisa.

Hope you enjoy this blog post.

Want to know how to build a profitable, meaningful business to replace your 9-5?

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