So, you think it sounds great to run your own business. You get to sit in coffee shops working on interesting projects for people you love and you get paid well to do it. The people you meet at these coffee shops find you interesting and you have great conversations about the state of the world and your industries.

That dream, though, is an idyllic portrait that doesn’t portray the 10 years of hard work you’ll need to put in to achieve that dream. You’re not going to ‘hang your shingle’ and suddenly settle into a business that’s running smooth and generating lots of revenue.

To start, you need to plan out what your business is going to look like and how it’s going to run. That plan needs to include the number of hours you’ll need to bill each month to pay your own bills and have some profit left over.

Software and Tools

If you’re getting stuck on software and what to use for your business, the only thing you need to get started is a good invoicing and estimating software. I recommend 17Hats (read my review and why I’ve stuck with 17Hats) but it probably doesn’t matter what you use. The biggest thing that holds you back is that you keep trying different tools in a futile search for the perfect tool. All that change is dangerous for your business.

Is a project management system helpful in running your business? Yes it is, but you don’t need it to start. A piece of paper and email will work at the beginning. The important thing for winning clients is to deliver a nice estimate and provide them an easy method of sending you money.


You need a spouse/partner who supports you and will be your cheerleader. You both need to be on the same page because the business won’t always run smoothly. There will be bumps and bruises along the way to growing a business, and if it’s just one person trying to pursue their dream while the other wants stability, you’re destined for trouble.

Hard work

Once you have those few things above set up, all you need is some hard work. You need to get up every day and deliver results for clients. You need to remember that they’re not paying for your butt to sit in a seat, they’re paying you to solve problems they have.

If you’re not delivering solutions to their problems then you’re not providing any value and you’re on your way to a failed business.

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One day you might get to that place where you’re one of the most in-demand professionals, but only after you’ve spent years working hard and delivering results. Each year your projects will get better. You’ll get more picky about clients and charge more, but you don’t jump from starting out to a world renowned resource overnight.

photo credit: harrisonearl cc