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Do you own a business or a job?

reality check

This is a guest post from our friend, James. His blog was just awarded #4 in the 2007 top ten blog for writers contest. He and his business partner Harry run a company of more than 30 writers pumping out PLR articles.

“I quit.”

I pronounced the statement firmly (or as firmly as one can get over IM). It was my company, after all. I could certainly do whatever I felt like.

“You can’t quit.” Harry’s statement was just as firm, but it held a note of panic. “You need to run the business.”

I complained. Then I ranted. I eventually lapsed into what I refuse to call whining. A lot of patience and love from my business partner and I didn’t quit that day, but I wasn’t very happy. I had too much work. Those of you who have never been there, don’t scoff and envy me. This is a sucky place to be, when you can’t keep it all together no matter how hard you try. After all, shouldn’t working for yourself be a pleasant affair?

Making a choice

I loved the act of running our business. I loved seeking out opportunity, seizing it, and making it mine. I gloried in negotiations, new contracts, and hitting the mark just right with clients. Most of all I loved writing. I could do it all.

That’s what entrepreneurs do, after all, don’t they? Freelancers, the self-employed… They “work for themselves”. They wear many hats and have hundreds of faces. They do everything…

Or so I thought.

I wasn’t really an entrepreneur; I just thought I was. I was a writer who owned his own job. “You have to choose,” Harry said quietly. “What do you want to be?”

That was the crux of the moment. I’d built myself an over-glorified job. My job created jobs for others, but without me, everything crashed and no one worked.

If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.

Unwittingly, I’d effectively squashed not only my own growth, but the growth of the business.

“I want to be an entrepreneur,” I concluded. Not a writer, not a manager… a true, full-fledged entrepreneur. Someone who takes calculated business risks. Someone who builds a business that runs on its own. The question was how to go from self-employed (ever notice how that sounds a lot like you own your own job?) to business owner.

If you want strength and room for growth, don’t renovate. Rebuild.

Changing a few aspects of the business or my day-to-day tasks didn’t achieve much. In fact, the more changes Harry and I made to turn the job into a business, the more we had to dismantle our current way of doing business. The root of the problem was not in our day to day business activities, it lay in the 6 inches between our ears.

We eventually tore down every inch of what we’d built. We had to rebuild from the bottom up. Sure, we saved some pieces, we got rid of others, but we started over. When we began putting the structure of our business back together, we built it to accommodate what we wanted right now and we made sure that our business was flexible enough to accommodate change in the future.

If you’re a one-person show, a lone freelancer or individual entrepreneur, be cautious of getting stuck in the rut of what you do. We label ourselves – writer, designer, programmer, manager, self-employed… whatever suits our fancy. Most of us have built ourselves a job – not a business.

In The Technician and the Entrepreneur, Shane wrote: Your job as the owner is to prepare yourself and your business for growth. To educate yourself sufficiently so that, as your business grows, the business’ foundation and structure can carry the additional weight. To make it survive you.

Rethink who you are and what you are. Allow for the possibility that you may want to grow. Prepare for it. Plan for it. Strategize long before it happens – and trust me, that moment of truth will happen.

If you were like me, you own your job and want to make the change. Now what? Check out Amanda’s post on the 5Ws and pick up a copy of the E-Myth Revised. Another good post is Christine’s How I choose a business model.

Your first step is a shift of focus. What is your plan? Shane interviewed a number of business owners recently, and almost none of us had clear exit strategies. That’s not the end of the world, but most successful entrepreneurs we meet have a long-term plan for their business. It sure isn’t, “Get old and maybe retire.” (Sound familiar?).

Take some time out and ask yourself those questions. Otherwise, like I was, you might end up stuck in a job you don’t like. And guess what? You built it for yourself.