What’s it really like to strike out on your own as a one-person business? It can be empowering, exhilarating, liberating--and terrifying. How do you survive those first few doubt-ridden days?
For answers, we talked to Josh Shayne and James Darling, co-creators of the new comedy Web series Home/Office, premiering today. Each three-to-four-minute episode tackles a different aspect of working from home, from how to handle unreasonable deadlines to how to balance your love life and work life when both take place in the same one-room apartment.
The series is based on Shayne and Darling’s own experiences. Both have spent years working as solopreneurs. Shayne was a solo web designer–like the series’ unnamed and unspeaking protagonist. Darling still works as a solopreneur video editor.
Here are some of the lessons they’ve learned along the way:
1. Get yourself an impressive business card.
Your job title is now up to you. CEO, founder, president, emperor--you might as well give yourself a title you want and that will impress potential clients. After all, you and your skills are the only things you now have to sell.
2. Pretend to be your own assistant.
“We’ve both observed and even been guilty of that,” Darling says. It’s a matter of self-defense, Shayne explains. Rather than have to listen to every marketer that calls or else hang up rudely mid-spiel, it’s much more graceful to explain with regret that you’re not in right now.
3. Create a comfortable workspace.
You might as well--you’re going to be spending many hours there. While you may not be able to afford the top-of-the-line office equipment that would really make working a pleasure, create as welcoming and ergonomic a setup as you can.
And don’t forget about temperature control. Many apartment buildings turn heating or cooling way down during the workday, on the assumption that most people are out. “In my last apartment in Brooklyn, the heat was so inconsistent I’d have a space heater under my desk with my feet on it, and I’d be wearing all the clothes I could,” Shayne recalls.
4. Learn to focus despite distractions.
You thought the open-plan office or cubicle farm at your last job was full of distractions? Perhaps it was, but working at home might be even worse. In Shayne’s home office, where the pair work together, there are “leaf blower Tuesdays.” And in a previous apartment, Shayne recalls, the children upstairs were constantly disrupting his concentration. “They were the sweetest kids,” he says. “But little feet would run across the ceiling … and then stop … and then run again.”
5. Make sure to go outside once in a while.
When you’re a solopreneur--especially if you’re nice and busy--it’s easy to get sucked into a rhythm in which you spend all your time at home. “I’ve gotten up and walked to the computer,” Shayne says. “My wife would leave for work and then come home. And the next day I’d wake up and go to the computer, and she would leave and then come home. And pretty soon I would realize I hadn’t left the apartment in four or five days.”
6. Don’t let working solo get you down.
Knowing you’re dependent only on yourself for your income, not to mention things like health insurance, can be frightening, especially at first. If everyone around you is rushing off to their jobs while you sit still alone at home, you can also wind up feeling isolated.
But you’re here because you have developed the skills, or come up with a business model, that can bring you lasting, satisfying success. And there’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur. So don’t be afraid of getting out there on your own.