Do you describe yourself as self-employed or freelance? Maybe you refer to what you do as a side hustle, or say you’re a contractor or consultant. But this needs to change.

If you’ve been self-employed for a while and you’re not quite getting the growth you’d like, it’s time to start thinking like a business owner.

The meaningful mindset shift
You might ask ‘what’s the difference?’ And the answer is simply your mindset. The way you see things through the lens of being a business owner will be completely different from the way you see yourself as a self-employed person.

You may be the one running your business, but you are not your business. You are the owner, and your tax status has no bearing. Being a limited company may mean you have set up a separate legal entity compared to being registered individually with HMRC as self-employed and although this affects your tax and limited liability, it doesn’t mean you should ‘run’ the business any differently. Change your mindset and say it out loud ‘I am a business owner’.

Yes, you may deliver the service, you may even be the IT, marketing, sales and financing department, but you are still the business owner. Imagine physically stepping back from being inside your business so that you are on the outside looking in. Describe your business as a third party. Write it down. Be the observer, what do you recognise? You may find it refreshing to look at your business externally.

Make time to work on your business
You may have heard the phrase ‘spend time working on your business and not just in your business’ and this is so important. I’ve been running a business for over 10 years and I still make time every single week to work on my business. Could you put aside two hours a week to start working on your business in a way that is different from your day-to-day work? What are the three key things you could spend your time working on? Where are the holes, where are the challenges and what are the needs of the business? What needs to happen for you to make improvements? Ask these questions while you are standing outside of the business looking in as business owner.

Once you set this routine you will start to see things with a new perspective, and it will feel like you have your own business consultant. If you’re not sure what to work on in the business and just find yourself sitting there with pen and paper and nothing gets written down, step away from the work environment and get your creative juices flowing.

Other benefits of making the shift to business owner:

• The impression you give when you talk about your business

• Having the confidence to own your expertise and charge your worth

• Finding the natural assertiveness to negotiate

• Creating a formidable brand to get taken seriously

• Putting the building blocks in place to create the momentum to stay motivated

• Setting up the internal processes that keep you efficient

What changes need to be made in your business for it to grow?
I’m a big fan of the achievements of the British cycling team under the leadership of Dave Braseford and his belief in making tiny marginal changes for excellence. The accumulation of those tiny marginal gains is what drove huge change and growth for the struggling team, bringing them plenty of gold medals! On working on the business and making those tiny changes from the outside looking in, imagine how you can go for gold too.

The alternative is stagnation
When you’re stuck in the middle of your business it’s not always easy to see what is right in front of you. You may be so overwhelmed by all the tasks you need to do, so by changing that dynamic and thinking from a new perspective as business owner it will allow you to think of the business as a separate entity rather than just yourself and your struggles. If you’re doing everything yourself, ask yourself where does the business need help and what could you outsource or delegate to others? If you haven’t got the budget yet, what does the business need to do to make sure it does have the budget to commit to using external resources?

What can you do today?
Set aside two hours in the diary this week to work on your business. And if you run out of ideas, spend that time researching to broaden your horizons. Be curious and playful and see what comes to mind. Giving yourself time to focus on what your business needs, as business owner, can reap rewards.

1. Start using ‘we’
When you talk about the business, refer to ‘our policy’ and ‘how we can do that for you’. Use ‘we’ in all your marketing. Make this sense of collectivity part of your sales strategy. Think, as a business owner, ‘What do we need to do to help this business grow’?

2. Act as if
Start behaving like a business owner. What would the CEO of a larger organisation that has the same type of business as you do? Why should it be any different from running your own small business? Turn up to work as your best self. Even if you work from home, make a transition between your personal time and when you are ‘at work’ running the business. If you were a global leader, how would you show up? What would your leadership style be? Bring that to your own business. Act as if you already run a successful business. Whatever success means to you, act like it’s already happening and you’ll boost your own morale and self-esteem and morph into the person you would like to employ to run your business.

Words: Faye Watts, Audrey Business Coach

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