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When asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Self-employed is not necessarily considered the conventional answer. (For the purpose of brevity, we’ll also skip the issue of defining “grown-up.”) If, as it turns out, through creativity or serendipity, you’ve found yourself self-employed, there are three things you should do right from the start:

1. Consider yourself a solopreneur.

Entrepreneurial advocate and enthusiast, Neil Patel defines a solopreneur as, “The proverbial chief cook and bottle washer, who started the business, owns the business, runs the business and is responsible for the business’ failure or success.”

Think about it. You may not be building a tech empire like Steve Jobs, but you’re still defining your destiny. For instance, if your form of self-employment is that you’re working in someone’s home as a nanny, au pair, housekeeper, tutor or any similar role, you’ve definitely chosen a different path than clocking into a cubicle from 9 to 5.

In an article for Nanny Magazine, Brooke Baker states, “When people tell me I should get a real job, I like to remind them that I do I have a real job.”

The lesson to take from this is to take yourself seriously. You’re offering a specialized, professional service. You’re supporting yourself and helping others — all at the same time. Take pride in who you are and what you do. Know it, own it and live it.

2. Be an individual and a business.

Being true to yourself and your values is a universal principle to which we all aspire — and a journey we take throughout our lives. However, no matter where you are or what you do — even if you’re working in someone’s home — you need to think of yourself as a business.

Why? We’re sure you’ve heard the expression that there’s nothing more certain in life than death and taxes. Cheerful, right? But, the truth is: If this is how you’re earning your income you need to be aware of the financial implications. The good news is that this isn’t as scary as it may seem. First, there’s a zillion (or roughly that amount) of tools you can use, plus these are life skills that you use to build success throughout your life.

Here are a few helpful tools you can use as a solopreneur:

  • Contract templates — Outlining your work agreement with a contract is a smart idea that protects both you and your employer. And you don’t have to start from scratch because you can download basic templates from sites like PandaDoc and TidyForms.
  • Payroll software — Yes, you heard us right. Whether you’re working full time for one family or contracting your services to several employers, payroll software can be a valuable tool. Here’s why:
    • In the United States, if you earn more than $2,000 as a nanny, tutor, personal assistant, etc., you (the employee) are required to pay income taxes. If you employer is willing to use a payroll tool, your income tax withholding and other required deductions (also known as the nanny tax or nanny taxes) can be processed automatically.
      • Update: Apparently the IRS is becoming more concerned with auditing employers who do not pay their nanny taxes. By doing things the right way you’re protecting yourself and your employer.
    • Or, if you’re running your own business, contracting your services to others, using payroll software to issue yourself a regular paycheck will help you accommodate for peaks and valleys in your income and keep you prepared for tax time. (If you’re paying yourself,  you may claim the cost of the payroll software as a business expense on your taxes.)
    • Remember, this doesn’t have to be intimidating. In fact, it can be quite simple and affordable. At Wagepoint, our Customer Support Team has plenty of experience with “nanny payroll” and we’re more than happy to help.
  • Expense-recording, time-tracking and mileage apps — Free tools like Expentory (iOS) and Toggl (iOS/Android) make it easy to keep track of the hours you worked and any work-related expenses. There are even tools like TripLog (iOS/Android) to help you track your mileage if you’re using your personal vehicle as part of your job.
  • Accounting software — This may sound formal, but believe it or not there are a growing number of accounting apps, including free apps like Slick Pie and ZipBooks, designed specifically for self-employed individuals (or micro-businesses if you prefer).
  • The internet — It’s true. You really can search almost anything. Just make sure you seek credible sources. If you’re looking for apps or software, check for reviews. If you’re looking at blogs, check the dates on the posts, who has commented and the quality of the sources they cite. In other words, in an era of information overload, it’s important to ensure that you’re getting the facts.

3. Find your joy and your tribe.

Even if networking isn’t your favorite things to do, it’s something you need to do. Although you may be working solo, you can still learn about the things you love and connect with others that share the same passion and experiences.

In an article for the Harvard Business Review, business professor Andy Molinsky writes, “As we grow and learn in our jobs and in our careers, we’re constantly faced with situations where we need to adapt our behavior. It’s simply a reality of the world we work in today. And without the skill and courage to take the leap, we can miss out on important opportunities for advancement.”

When you connect with other people in the same field, you benefit from the ability to trade tips and advice and you also benefit from the connection itself. Imagine if you suddenly found yourself in a situation where you needed urgent help or advice. Having a network in place is much better than starting from scratch.

There’s also a lot to be said about the simple act of trading ideas. For example, if you’ve found a great way to entertain kids on a rainy day or dislodge a Lego brick from a vacuum cleaner, you can share that idea with others to get their feedback. (The “likes” and compliments aren’t bad either.) The support of others will help increase your confidence and overall happiness.

Where can you find these kinds of resources?

Using nannies or au pairs as an example, you could look for the following:

There’s also a lot to be said about social media like Twitter and Facebook. But you get the gist. Being self-employed can be exhilarating, confusing, empowering or a mix of all of the above and more. Once you commit your mind, spirit and skills to the cause, you can make great strides. It just takes a leap of faith, an open mind and the right tools.

Disclaimer: The advice we share on our blog is intended to be informational. It does not replace the expertise of accredited business professionals.