You are a business and you should be thinking like a business. The idea that you’re a business isn’t new in the world of ideas. It, however, may be new to you and has the potential to change your approach towards life if you take it to heart.
Lesson 1: Accept that you are a business. You are a business because you are selling your time (and with it your skills, experiences, and opinions) and in return a company is paying you a wage. Whether you’re freelance or on payroll, you are still selling your time (it’s just clearer when you’re a freelancer). If you had all the money in the world and didn’t need to sell your time, what would you be doing instead? You’d probably be playing with your kids, or playing with your pet, or traveling the world, or pursuing any number of hobbies – other than working. You work because you want to earn money. You might enjoy the work more because it’s in line with what you see as your greater purpose in life but ultimately you work for the money and not something nobler (there’s nothing wrong with that).
Lesson 2a: Maximize earnings… There are two sides to this lesson, the first of which is to maximize your earnings. You are allowed to date other jobs!  The quickest way to increase your earnings is to put your time up for auction. How do you do this? Interview with other companies and see who will pay you the most. If you love your current employer more, return to them and give them the opportunity to make you an offer. The worst thing that can happen is that you find out you are fairly compensated for your time. The best thing is that you find a better job with a better wage.
Lesson 2b: … and minimize expenses. Part two of this lesson is to minimize expenses. Your car is an expense, your home is an expense, your food is an expense, all of which are in support of your business. How is a car in support of your business? You need it to get to work, some look to the type of car as a status symbol (would you buy stock from a broker that drove a Ford Focus or a Bentley Continental?), and some actually drive a car in support of their work (salespersons, real estate agents, etc.) The majority of the time you’re in your car isn’t recreational, it’s work. Your home is also an expense, but the analogy works the best with a home you rent. Minimize rent! At least with ownership you have a bit of the investment angle, with renting you have none of that. Minimize all of these expenses so you can spend money on the things that matter more to you.
Lesson 3: Take Care of Yourself. This lesson speaks to work-life balance and to making sure that you’re taking care of yourself in all aspects of life. How many times have you seen a “successful” person at your work and he or she is significantly overweight? How many times have you seen a “successful” person at your work and he or she works 12 hour days and never sees their family? Do you look up to these people? Probably on a professional level but not much more. You are selling your time here folks, you’re a hired gun, you have to make sure that you don’t sacrifice yourself for your job.
Lesson 4: It’s Just Business. If you’ve never been fired before, let me give you a tip. When you are fired, you will not see it coming. You’ll feel hurt that you sacrificed for your job, you’ll feel betrayed by your company, and you’ll feel lost because you thought that you and the firm had a relationship. You do have a relationship, they will pay you for your time if you can earn profit for them. As soon as that is no longer the case, they will end the relationship. It’s just part of the business, so don’t get attached.
Lesson 5: You Decide Your Fate. Don’t like your raise? Discuss it with your boss and prove why you deserve more. Don’t like the answer? See if you can get more. Unwilling to do all of that? Stop complaining and DO something about your situation. My friend told me a story about how someone was unhappy with their raise, tried unsuccessfully to discuss it with his boss, and then started hunting around for another offer. My angle on the story is that the boss was lucky to have his subordinate ask in the first place, most employees just find another job and leave (that’s what I did).
If you run your own business, you’ve learned all these things. You realize that no one (professionally) will take care of you when you fall because there is no one else. The only difference with wage earners is that there’s an illusion that the organization will support you even in lean times, which simply isn’t the case. You are a business, a one-man (or one-woman) show, remember that and you’ll go far.
Some caveats to this… when I say you’re “alone”, I mean strictly in the income sense. Of course you’ll have a social infrastructure in place of friends and family to support you in difficult times; I just mean that no one will start paying you money on a regular basis just because. A friend may offer you a job but ultimately you are on your own. And I don’t mean to sound like everyone is a hired gun or mercenary but a job is very much like that, with a little less movement. Lastly, I don’t think you should hold your employer over the barrel, but you need to take care of numero uno.
(Photo by virtualsugar )