15 tips for a brilliant career in self employment

Debbie Davis’s story is one of rare success amid all the gloom of recession and was one of inspiration to me when I read this article about her amazing turn around…

When Debbie, 29, was made redundant from her factory job five years ago, she became an Avon lady selling make-up door to door – and is now the company’s top saleswoman with £7million in annual sales.

She earns an amazing £250,000 a year, drives a Mercedes SL sports car and has 2,800 reps working for her from her base in Sunderland.

We couldn’t think of anyone better to give careers advice to others needing a kick-start. Here are Debbie’s tips to help you on the path to a better job, whatever your situation…

Self-employed

1. BE DISCIPLINED

If you’re working from home, you’re going to have to create some kind of structure to your life, like starting work at a specific time, making a timetable for your day, even setting the time and length of your breaks.

When I started selling Avon products there was always the temptation to stay in bed, or to clock off early. I made a point of always starting work at 8am.

2. TAKE A BREAK

Some self-employed people find it helps to leave their house and walk around the block to start their working day, and do the same at the end of the day, to mentally make the transition from being at home to being at work.

3. SET REALISTIC GOALS

There’ll be no end of setbacks and it might be months before your hard work starts to pay off.

You are your own boss, so set yourself realistic targets, give yourself timeframes and reward yourself for accomplishing them, just like a boss would.

Unemployed

1. DON’T MOPE AROUND

The more time you spend without a job the less motivated you become. And the bigger the gap on your CV, the harder it becomes to get picked for any job you might apply for.

Get out there and do something, however small it might be. If you’ve got something you’re getting up in the morning for, even if it’s delivering leaflets, it will show potential employers that you’re a self-starter.

2. USE YOUR IMAGINATION

There are lots of ways to make money even if there are no vacancies at the JobCentre. You could sell a product, a service, you could start a market stall, an online business – the possibilities are endless.

3. HAVE FAITH IN YOUR OWN ABILITIES

I didn’t have much confidence before. I never spoke to anyone in a suit because I thought they wouldn’t want to buy anything from someone like me, but I soon learned that if I wanted to be successful I had to put my inhibitions aside and have faith in my own abilities. That’s still the best advice I can give to anybody.

Small business

1. DON’T PANIC

There are always going to be upsets and hurdles. But when you come up against a problem, keep things in perspective and don’t panic. Review what you are doing and how you can do it better, then carry on believing in yourself.

2. GET FEEDBACK

If you’re wondering why your product isn’t selling as well as you hoped, talk to your last happy customer and your last dissatisfied customer to get some feedback. Find out what your competitors are doing differently.

3. DON’T QUIT

For anyone trying to build up a business from scratch there are so many potential pitfalls along the way that the temptation to decide it was all a bad idea may become overwhelming.

But if you give up so soon you’re not giving yourself a fighting chance of succeeding. And remember, winners never quit.

Back-to-work mum

1. UPDATE YOUR SKILLS

The longer the hiatus from working, the harder or more daunting it may seem to take that step back into the workplace.

 It might be a good idea to do a refresher course in whatever area you are looking to go back to. This can be a helpful way of keeping up to date with changing practices.

2. GO PART-TIME

You may want to look at part-time positions, job shares or, if your profession allows, working from home in a freelance capacity.

There are many ways to make money in your own time. That could be making birthday cakes, buying and selling on eBay, or using whatever skill or gift you may have.

3. USE YOUR PARENTING SKILLS

If you go for an interview don’t think of your time having children as a disadvantage. On the contrary, remember to play up the personal skills that you have acquired – supervising, assisting with your child’s development, multitasking, organisation, working in stressful and demanding situations are all skills that can be applied to other jobs and careers.

Young and old

1. AGE DOESN’T MATTER

It’s up to you to convince the employer that age doesn’t matter. If you’re young, you have a greater enthusiasm and capacity to learn, and if you are older, you have a wealth of experience that is invaluable.

2. MAKE A LIST

Write down all of the qualities you have, and things you have done, that would stand you in good stead for the job you’re applying for. Even if they are not directly related to the position they may say something about your character.

You don’t have to save them for the interview – put them in your application letter straight away.

3. DON’T WAIT FOR THE PERFECT JOB

Don’t be afraid to take something you might not see as your ideal job. One job often leads to another, and might reveal a hidden talent you never knew you had.

What you should never do is mope about at home, wondering when your luck is going to change.

WHERE TO GET HELP

CONNEXIONS DIRECT

Careers advice for young people aged 13-19 0808 0013 219 www.connexions-direct.com

JOB CENTRE

Thousands of online jobs as well as CV help and interview techniques. 0845 6060 234 www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk

PROSPECTS.AC.UK

Official website for graduates and students about to enter the job market. 0161 277 5200 www.prospects.ac.uk

JOBS.AC.UK

Careers advice and tips plus thousands of job ads. 024 7657 2839 www.jobs.ac.uk

CAREERS ADVICE SERVICE

Cv guidance, help with application forms and interview tips. 0800 100 900 www.careersadvice.direct.gov.uk

BUSINESS LINK

Help with all aspects of starting a new business. 0845 600 9 006 www.businesslink.gov.uk

THE PRINCE’S TRUST

Advice, training and support for those aged 18-30 looking to start their own business. 0800 842842 www.princes-trust.org.uk

WRINKLIES DIRECT

Employment agency for the over-50s. 0845 260 1117 www.wrinklies.org

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