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The Habits of the Successfully Self-Employed

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Small businesses generate 44% of the U.S. economy and are responsible for two-thirds of new jobs. One of the most often-overlooked sectors of the small business community is the 16 million people who are self-employed.


Keith Hall, CPA

President and CEO, National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE)

“The state of mind of the typical self-employed person is by definition not typical,” says Keith Hall, chief operating officer and president of the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE). “Most people have a regular steady job — almost 75% of Americans work for somebody else. The self-employed state of mind starts with a center of self-competence, of wanting to be in control of your own destiny.”

Self-employed self-confidence

Hall points out that the fundamental requirement for success as a self-employed person is self-confidence. “It starts with asking ‘if not me, then who?’” he says. “The best way to build self-confidence in something is by doing it.”

The other keys to a successful self-employed business are consistency and curiosity. “You have to wake up every day with a consistent commitment to your business and thinking about your success, whether that’s contacting one more customer or making one more cold call,” Hall explains. “That is universal, no matter what industry you’re in. A second universal point is you can never stop learning, regardless of what industry you’re in.”


Another crucial component of success in the self-employed world is connection. Hall points out that part of the lifelong learning that helps keep your skills and offerings current comes from interactions with peers and competitors who will clue you into new ideas, new tools, and new markets. Hall recommends looking into local chambers of commerce, networking groups, and professional associations in order to make and maintain those connections.

Hall also stresses the importance of connecting to the many resources that exist for the self-employed, including the Small Business Administration, which maintains thousands of local centers tied to local universities where counselors are available to answer questions, and NASE, where members have access to a wide range of benefits.

“We provide one-on-one consultations with small business owners,” Hall notes. “These are conversations about specific individual business needs — we have tax experts, general business people, real estate professionals, lawyers, IT professionals, and marketing specialists. Any question that a new small business owner is going to have about any area of their company, we have an expert that’s available.”

The importance of an organization like NASE goes beyond the practical benefits, though. “When you’re self-employed, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and feel like you’re in this all alone,” Hall says. “But if you have an internet connection, you’re not alone.”

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