5 Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before Becoming My Own Boss

by Erica Gordon
Columbia Pictures

Our generation may get sh*t on for being unromantic, but if there's one thing we're getting right, it's entrepreneurship. More than ever before, 20-somethings are aspiring to be self-employed. They're becoming less and less satisfied working for the man.

Are you over trying to fit in at the workplace, put up with office politics, smile politely at your bitch of a boss, abide by a strict 9-to-5 schedule and dress appropriately for work? Maybe you're realizing the traditional workplace just doesn't work for you. After giving it a good college try, you now know you'd much rather be your own boss.

For example, I love leggings and Uggs. I like wearing the same T-shirt I woke up in. I'm a night owl, so yes, I hate waking up at 7:30 am. I hate being fake nice to annoying people.

I won't be nice to my boss if she's a bitch to me, and I refuse to "check my emotions at the door." So, I apologize if I was in a bad mood at work that day. Deal with it.

Do I sound like someone who would do well working in an office? Of course not. This is why I'm a successful entrepreneur now.

I'm a freelance writer. I work my own hours, and I'm my own boss. It's 3 pm, and I'm currently writing this while still wearing the shirt I woke up in. I've already made more money today than I would've made in a full, eight-hour day at my previous "real" job.

The best part is, anyone can do this. You can be a freelance web designer, a freelance copywriter, a marketing consultant or a dating coach. The possibilities are endless for those who wish to be self-employed.

When you finally become your own boss, it's exciting. But it's also a very tough transition. To make it a little easier for you, here are a few things you need to know about being your own boss:

1. There is no limit to your earning capacity, so you need to hustle.

When you're self-employed or a freelancer, there is no limit to how much you can earn. You can double what you were making at your 9-to-5 job by doing some simple math and figuring out how many projects you need to complete per week to do that.

This is why you need to have drive when you're your own boss. You need to recognize your earning potential, and you need to hustle when it comes to networking, reaching out to potential clients and following up with previous clients for resales.

2. Neglecting your inbox is the number one way you'll lose revenue.

If you're self-employed, your livelihood is dependent on your clients. These days, prospective clients will email: They will not call.

If you don't have proper email etiquette, you'll lose a lot of clients. Therefore, you have to answer your emails in a timely manner. Gone are the days when we could get away with ignoring emails and later pretending they were hidden in the spam folder.

Now, there are free apps like Sidekick that allow the sender to see if you've opened his or her email or not. You can imagine a client's frustration if he or she sees that you keep reading his or her emails, but never respond. Now, imagine that same client busting you when you lie and say you never received them.

I used to ignore emails all the time. But it was never on purpose.

It was because I would read the email at 4 am, in typical, self-employed night owl fashion. I didn't want to be the weirdo who emails clients back at odd hours. But then, I'd forget to reply during normal business hours the following day.

If this sounds like something you would do, download Boomerang. It lets you schedule emails for the time you want them sent. Managing your inbox is less overwhelming than you think.

3. Unearned leisure time will cause more stress than it's worth.

When you're your own boss, it's tempting to take a few hours off for leisure activities whenever you feel like it and save your work for later on. But that's a slippery slope, and one you're definitely better off avoiding.

Tim Urban wrote on "Wait But Why" that undeserved leisure time “isn't actually fun because it's completely unearned, and the air is filled with guilt, anxiety, self-hatred and dread.”

Tim Urban hit the nail on the head with this statement. You might think that one of the benefits of working your own hours is you can have fun when you want to and work when you want to. You can have fun in the day and work at night.

I'll tell you why that doesn't work: A successful entrepreneur can't be too stressed all the time. But you will be if you're consistently indulging in "play time" that hasn't been earned.

Although the 9-to-5 system doesn't work for you, there are reasons this model exists. The idea is you can get your work out of the way first, and then enjoy a fun activity after the workday is over. Would happy hour really be as happy if nobody had worked yet that day? Would it still be the same if all the people attending still had a bunch of work they needed to get done later that night?

It's great that you can work your own hours. You certainly don't need to abide by a 9-to-5 schedule. But put work ahead of leisure time. Otherwise, you're just a procrastinator, and procrastinators are always incredibly unhappy and stressed out.

4. There are tricks you can use to stay self-motivated.

If you're going to be your own boss, you have to stay self-motivated in order to be productive and make a living. Nobody's going to be riding your ass, and nobody's going to remind you to do your work. It's all on you.

A great trick for staying self-motivated is setting realistic goals. If you're a writer, your goal could be to write one article per day. You can decide later who you're going to sell that article to. But by writing one article per day, you're producing something of value each day that you could potentially sell to a publication.

Another tip is to have a dedicated workspace in your home. You know that room your TV is in? Yeah, don't use that room to work in.

Set up a workstation, and you'll see how much more focused you are. It helps if you also have a routine, like having a protein shake you always drink while you work and a notebook with a to-do list for the day already written out the night before.

If you start to lose focus, pack up your laptop and head to a coffee shop. A change of surroundings can definitely re-energize your brain.

The 9-to-5 ritual didn't work for you, but that doesn't mean you can't create rituals for yourself that you do abide by because they work for you.

5. Self-education is a must.

My final tip is all about self-education. No matter what, always keep learning. Stay up-to-date with your industry. Attend Meetups, go to seminars and workshops and go for coffee with mentors who have found success in your field.

Give yourself the time to read ebooks and articles. Maybe you could even take online courses, in order to keep learning new information about the business you're in.

Once a year, treat yourself to a working vacation. Attend a conference or event that pertains to your chosen career path. Do this, and you'll achieve more success than you ever imagined.

Being your own boss means the sky is the limit for you. So, don't limit yourself. Stay motivated, put the work in and aim high.