Attitude Is Everything – Jeff Keller

Wow! This is such a simple concept. Jeff takes the idea about what the mind can achieve, the man can achieve and spells it out, with some very illuminating examples. He is also very keen to point out that your attitude must be back up by action. Reading the book and thinking that you can climb Mt. Everest won’t actually get you to the top of Mt. Everest. You have to get to Nepal for a kick off!


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Why Does Self Employment Require Self Control?

If you are self employed, you manage everything. Now, this might be a bit of an over simplification, but this basically boils down to task lists and income profiles. I remember that as an employed person, the only thing that I had to remember was that my income would arrive on the 15th of the month – sometimes as early as the 13th (whenever this was a Friday funnily enough)! So I arranged my most important direct debits, mortgage, council tax, sky subscription(!) to come out before the 20th. And I did my socialising around the same time of the month – in the 2 weeks after payday. That was it, job done. Well almost, because very quickly I had to build in things like credit card payments, as I had borrowed on them to tide me over after the last batch of direct debits had gone out around the 1st of the month. Just the simple expedient of writing things down, knowing that 50% of my salary (after tax) would be gone in the week after payday, that another 25% would go out around 2 weeks before payday and that the remaining 25% to buy food and go out etc would have to be spread out over the full month. Simple? Well yes, but did I do it? Mmm, as the reference to my credit card would illustrate, no I bloody didn’t.

Progress Meetings

Work was a similar story. I remember as a project manager we had monthly team meetings which doubled as progress reports. We’d all be at there in a semi circle, with our manager in the middle at the front. We’d go through all of our projects, and would have to give updates on how things were going. Despite knowing a full month in advance of this meeting, I would have done nothing but the bare minimum until a week before this meeting. This brings another theme here, that of negative motivation, but that’s another article for you to read.

The week before this meeting would have been a whirlwind of rushing around trying to get things done – unfortunately, quite a few of these things had to be done by other people, so at our progress meeting, I’d be sat there defending myself, saying things like ‘such-and-such-a-body hasn’t been able to complete task x, so I can’t report progress here and now’, or ‘contractor z has only just started task y so I won’t have anymore news until next month’ and so on. I’d then have to spend the next week, frantically tidying all of these loose ends and then relax for a couple of weeks. And the number of times that AN Other got me out of a hole, well…

The Buck Stops Here

When you are self employed, this doesn’t work – the buck stops with you. For a kick-off, there’s not necessarily a regular monthly income – even though your bills will still go out, as regular as clockwork. So you need to manage your income and outgoings. Stagger your direct debits across the month, giving yourself space to make up any income gaps. Use the fact that there are four weeks (minimum) in any given month and have things go out on the 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd. Then schedule your income (and hence task list) around this – allowing time for cheques to clear or late payment from customers etc.

Longer Period

Then of course, you will need to play this out over the longer period. Unexpected things will happen, so you need some form of contingency fund. Also, never mind making Jack a dull boy, all work and no play is a recipe for burn out, so schedule time off. This means managing your money so that you can afford the time off. Annual events such as Christmas, your wife’s birthday(!) need to be planned and accounted for, both in terms of time and money. So do it. NOW!

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95% of People in Employment Behave Like This

I am guessing that you are one of the 95% of people in employment (as opposed to self-employment) who see themselves as having to attend their place of work for a set number of hours every day. I may be wrong on this and you may have a different take on things, but for most of you out there, you put in the hours you need and then call it quits, head for the door and go home.

Some higher ranking managers will have a task oriented view on things, rather than my narrow, time bound description of working life. In fact they, in common with any successful business man or woman, will have this task oriented view. Looking back over history any successful person, of any description, will have approached their work in the same way.

Put simply, it’s all about lists. So, if you’re self employed, you need to make a list. Before you make your list, it is essential that you know what your goals are, because I don’t mean a simple list. It needs to be a prioritised list. Knowing your goals allows you to assess your list in the light of what you need to do in order to achieve your goals. Some things will be ‘nice to do’ – they’re not important in the grand scheme of things, so they come low down. Other things will appear to need doing straight away, but don’t offer much in the way of progress towards your goals, again these come low down on your prioritised list.

What you should aim for then is a list of tasks that will deliver the results that you have identified in order to get you where you want to be. Achieving them is then a matter of application.

This article, written by me, has previously been published on my former on-line incarnation,

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Why Be Self Employed?

Please accept this bit of wallowing (c) Paul McGee. It won’t last long – just the first paragraph. You can skip to the next one if you want to. That way you don’t have to read my whinging. But, it may strike a chord, it may help you to make the decision?

Fact is, I worked for the same company for twelve years. At first, I though that they were great – after all said and done, they were the only company that had ever offered me a job and they still are! However, once my skills and knowledge started to develop and I acquired specialities I soon realised that this was a company where you didn’t necessarily get on just because you were good at your job. In fact, quite the opposite was true. It was the gobby ones, those with self-confidence and a high profile, those people with the ability to get up and speak to a crowd, to portray knowledge of their subject under pressure who got on. I’ve also got a few words for so-called positive discrimination. Basically, this is a myth, and a dangerous one. This is because for every instance of positive discrimination, there is always someone affected in a negative way. Coupled with my lack of self-confidence, lack of profile and a lack of the, ahem, attributes required to have positive discrimination work in my favour, I was holed beneath the water, waiting to sink to the bottom of the ocean. Of course this might just be paranoid nonsense, and in fact I should have been looking a little closer to home in order to find out why I wasn’t cutting it. But hey, I did say that I was going to spend a few moments wallowing (thanks Paul).

What to do as a self-employed person?

Ok, you can start reading again… There are many jobs that you could do as a self employed person, and it’s not for me to tell you what you should do. Choose an occupation that you are comfortable with. You need to be able to make you living from it, so don’t do anything that you don’t feel at home with. HOWEVER, please remember that self-development is only possible by placing yourself in a series of situations of which each one challenges you to move on and improve on the previous one. You can stay in your comfort bubble for the rest of your life, e.g. by remaining in employment, having your training organised, your tax and NI paid by PAYE and ultimately your salary and other rewards decided by someone else. Or, you can set yourself a series of goals, each one building upon the previous one, by putting yourself in ever more challenging situations. Once you are comfortable with a task, it’s time to move on and take on another challenge. This is called EXPANDING YOUR COMFORT ZONE.


No daily grind.

M62, M25, M6, M40, M whatever. A1, A14, A5, A-now-hang-on-a-minute. I hear about these roads and many others on the radio in the morning as my wife and I are preparing the kids for school. We hear them all again in the afternoon when the kids are having their after-school snack. It can’t be right can it? All this stress, this sitting in a queue of traffic just to get to your place of work, and more importantly to get back home again when your day’s labours are done.

Now I’m not advocating that we all give up our well-paid job just to avoid sitting in traffic. Think about Lynne Bowles and Sally Boazman. If you all give up our jobs they’d lose theirs. But my point is, why do it, if you don’t have to? There are plenty of people with vocations to be engineers, lawyers, bankers, teachers, journalists etc, but if you’re not one of them, than why on earth are you joining them day after day in all of this traffic. Just think, if the really driven, career minded people were left to get on with going out to work and keeping the country running, there would be so much less traffic on the roads that their drive to work would be so much more pleasurable, and Lynne and Sally would be able to offer a much more positive message to their listeners. Well it’s just a thought.

You choose your hours.

Just to go back to my previous point for a minute, there are many responsible employers out there who do encourage their employees to stagger their working hours in order to help with their childcare commitments or to avoid the really ugly traffic queues. To be fair, when the going got tough for us for a while, mine was one of these employers. But there are just as many who demand that their employees arrive at nine on the dot and don’t leave until five, with a half an hour break for lunch. Ask yourself, what hours would you keep if you were your own boss? Obviously, you will have to fit them in around your clients, but this can be done by negotiation. If you are say, a plumber, you can discuss with your client, when you are going to arrive and when you are going to leave their premises. You may have to pick up tools and equipment, parts and the like. This can all be fitted in around your actual time commitment to complete the work for which you’re being paid.

You choose your salary.

This is closely allied to choosing your own hours. Seems strange I know, but when I was going out to work, I knew that for every hour extra I put in, my financial reward was negligible. Now I accept that putting in the extra time to do the job quicker is a good thing in the grand scheme of things, in order to get yourself noticed by your employer and move your career on. But think on this, if your employer is a large company with a large workforce, the only person likely to notice is your immediate boss.

This then begs the following question:

Q. In how many large companies does this person have the power to give you a pay-rise?

A. Not very many.

If this person were indeed highly enamoured with your performance, how many hoops would they have to jump through in order for you to be recognised with more pay? From my own experience the likely upshot of such a request would be that personnel would respond saying that you already get paid as much as your current job is worth under the Hayes scale, so if you want to earn any more money, then you need to apply for a new job. So, you apply for a new job possibly upsetting your current manager and spoiling a good working relationship.

My message here is that the career structures in large companies are not tailored to get the best out of the workforce in order that the company can grow. Whatever the intent in such organisations, what happens is the stars of the organisation are generally, not technically capable. They are good at getting up on their feet and speaking with authority on any subject on a superficial level. Question them further, and if the question is not on the area of their original expertise then the stock answer is given, “I’ll get back to you on that one.” The vast bulk of the work done in organisations such as this is done so by an army of technically gifted people who do not receive the financial reward that they deserve.

As a self-employed person, however, you do stand or fall upon you own abilities and the effort that you are prepared to expend in carrying out your chosen job. In my chosen self-employment spheres, I know that my reward is directly proportional to my training, aptitude and effort.

Being in control.

If you are employed, you are not able to set your own acceptability parameters. Setting aside the concept of having clients for a moment, being self-employed means that you are the final arbiter of what is or isn’t acceptable. In doing work for a manager, you could spend many hours finishing and refinishing the same piece of work in order to make it satisfactory to them. They may then take it to their own manager who will no doubt require you to do yet more polishing. As a self-employed person, even working for a client, it matters not what anybody else thinks of your finished work. You may shout, that this sounds odd, and it probably does, but let me explain. If the standard of your work is not up to scratch then your client is perfectly at liberty to withhold payment. So, you’ll soon learn that you need to get things right or you won’t make a brass bean. If you get a picky client, complete the job, get it right and move on. Choose a new client. This is much preferable to constantly having your work criticised, and you having to re-hash it in order to please your manager’s-manager’s-manager.

This article, written by me, has previously been published on my former on-line incarnation,

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Being Self Employed

Before you make the leap and plunge in headfirst to the world of self-employment, you need to remember one thing. This is more of a semantic point than anything, but I believe that it requires some careful consideration.

Of the two words ‘self’ and ‘employment’ one is more important than the other. It’s not necessarily the one that you’d imagine. For me, the key word is self. Through years of agonising about giving up working for ‘the man’ to go self-employed, I worried about what I would be able to do to facilitate the leap. This is a perfectly rational, understandable set of concerns. But looking back from where I am now, I’d say that I was missing the point somewhat. So long as you recognise and understand that it’s all down to you it perhaps doesn’t matter so much what you actually do. Now of course it’s much preferable to be doing something that you like and enjoy doing – else why leave employment? – but ultimately it’s about understanding that you are in charge now. You are the boss. You stand or fall purely on your own abilities and competences and ultimately your own actions, or lack thereof.

It’s interesting to think a bit more deeply on the employer/employee relationship. Once you become self-employed, you take on both roles. You may have staff, or you may be working on your own. For a while, let’s ignore the situation where you have employees and just consider the situation when employer and employee are the same person, i.e. you.

Whatever you can get away with not doing in your current employment (and let’s face it, we all tried to get away with something when we were working for the man), you are answerable to yourself now, so any ickle white lies you tell are lies told to yourself, and tasks not carried out with 100% effort, concentration, commitment, or whatever will end up costing you reputation, goodwill and eventually money. Sagging off at 3.30 – 4 o’clock on a Friday afternoon is a well and good when you’re working for somebody else, but when you are your own boss, you cannot afford to do this unless you have planned it. By this, I mean that as a self-employed person, your working hours are significantly altered. Perhaps not to the extent of being 24/7, but certainly, you will need to make time sacrifices. I quite often find myself out and about in my line of business in the evenings. But then, I’ve been able to do the school run at both ends of the day, and stop EVERYTHING (except Radio 2) to make pizza (from scratch, with fat and flour in a bowl) on Friday afternoon, so it’s quid pro quo.

This article, written by me, has previously been published on my former on-line incarnation,

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4 Top Strategies for Time Management

What do you imagine to be the biggest obstacle to setting up and running your own home based business?  I’d imagine that most respondents would say time.  Be honest now, are you one of those people who think that they just don’t have the time to devote to starting up a home business? You’re not alone. The vast majority of people would probably claim they have too much to do and not enough time to do it. So instead of focussing on what they want to do and where they want to be they get bogged down with the time issue before they even get started.

Your day job, family, keeping fit, the garden, watching TV and so on – ultimately these are just excuses, nothing more.  But, there is hope!  Believe it or not, it is possible to find and, what is more, to maximize your time in order to build momentum for your venture. What you must do is analyse your time and seek out the slack, then commit to using that time for your home business only. Here are some strategies for doing just that.

What are you doing at any given time of the day?

Write down your schedule. It may sound silly, but you should start at the beginning and write it all down until you go to bed.  Be honest and include everything.  So there’s getting ready for work, taking the kids to school, going to work (travel and attendance), exercise time and any other time commitments.  Do the same for weekends, and most especially, don’t forget your family.

This exercise is the bedrock of finding a better way to organise your time to devote some of it to working from home.  It will give you a great view of what your schedule looks like.  No matter how busy you think you are, you will see openings in your week.  Don’t beat yourself up now, look to find two hours you can commit to spend on your business.  There must be some slack in there that you can use.

Stay with your new schedule and reassess

So, you’ve found yourself some time, stick with it for a trial period. This may well be tough, after all, you are creating a new habit.  Once you’ve tried it for a week say, reassess your schedule.  You may well find more time to spend on your business.

I believe that discipline is the most important element in working from home.  So, you have to find a way after work, after eating, after putting the kids to bed and so on.  Remember this is why you analysed your schedule.

Don’t Forget Your Family

We all have different commitments, my family is my tope priority. If you have young children, like me, I’d imagine that your main time to focus on your business will be when they’ve gone to bed.  I find that the evening is best time for me to spend on my home business.  If nothing else, it’s the most quite part of the day.

If you do have to use family time to spend on your business, communication and managing their expectations are paramount.   There has to be give and take on both sides.  It is vital that you set a time aside for spending with your family.  Balance is the key here.

Embrace Distractions

Life goes on and distractions will arise.  I’d suggest that you embrace this instead of fighting it.  If your child stays up late, focus on helping him calm down and go back to bed.  Don’t dwell on what you could otherwise be doing.  Your work will still be there when you are ready.

If you are required to stay late at your day job, then do that.  Just focus on one thing at a time as getting yourself hyped up about things outside of your control is counterproductive. You’ll be less efficient and effective.  Having a clear and guilt free mind while working on your business is essential.

If you’re really excited about your new project, it’s likely that the ideas will be whizzing.  Keep something handy to record these new ideas.  You can always analyse and prioritise at a later date.  This will help you use less energy dealing with distractions, which in turn you can devote to growing your business.

So as we can see, there IS good news when it comes to finding the time to devote to developing your home business.  Forget despair and frustration, focus instead on this fact:

You and you alone have total control of your time and your ability to change your habits in order to build momentum in your businesses.

Good Luck!

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