How to be your own boss when the going gets tough


While you may not always like or agree with them, bosses do have their advantages – not least in ensuring that you stay productive and committed to your work goals. But what do you do when YOU are your boss?

Coach Emma Gwillim explains why she was initially delighted when she left full time employment to work for herself. But she soon realised that she needed someone to hold her accountable and make sure she delivered on time – she needed to become her own boss.

Why self-employment is great when your baby is sick

My least favourite ‘list’ on my iPhone is a reminder of all the times my little boy has been poorly since last summer. I’ve listed it as otherwise I’d lose track. It’s at least monthly. There have been the usual coughs, colds and viruses, regular bouts of croup, an ear infection and (one I’m particularly glad to see the back of) chicken pox.

Nurturing him back to wellness is my main priority but I dread to think how many sick days I’ve notched up in the last six months.

When my maternity leave neared an end, I decided not to return to my previous corporate role, and instead take the leap into running my business full-time. Its obvious benefits mean that I can work flexibly and, when I need to nurse my poorly baby, I can choose to do that. But it also has its drawbacks.

In my pre-baby corporate days if I ever took a day off from illness I would feel so guilty. I didn’t like letting my team down, I worried about losing momentum in my projects and I felt like I should make up the time on my return. I often wonder now if I had returned to work after maternity leave, how wracked with guilt I’d have been about my monthly absence.

But why too many sick days ultimately hurt you

But, the problem now is I don’t have a team that I’m letting down, and I don’t have a senior manager to hold me accountable. In fact, the only person who knows if timescales have slipped on projects is me.

And as it’s easier for me to ‘call in absent’ than my husband who has a manager to report into, it’s always my work that gets put second (not that I would change this – that was our choice).

As a business owner you, and you alone, are responsible for your success. So, when it comes to taking sick days, procrastinating over projects that are out of your comfort zone, or spending your time on the things that will have the biggest impact on the business’ growth rather than the trivial, the only person you answer to is you. And that means you sometimes need to get tough with yourself – you need to step up and become your own boss.

How to become your own boss

Everyone needs a boss. And if you work for yourself, the only candidate for that vacancy is you. So here are a few tips on being your own great boss.

Be supportive  

Sick days, getting in late, delayed deadlines – these things happen. An understanding boss would recognise that some things are out of your control and be supportive in making some allowances for you. Don’t give yourself a hard time: recognise the challenge and show yourself a little compassion that you’re doing your best.

Show your commitment 

It would be near impossible to make up the time I’ve lost because, as most working mums would acknowledge, time is my rarest resource. If I was handling my absence as an employee though, I’d want to demonstrate my continued commitment to the company and to prove that my poorly days at home are just that – and not a poor attitude.

Think about what you can do in the time you have available to honour commitments or to keep the pace of your biggest business priorities. Create and commit to a rough plan to get you back on track when you return.

Be accountable  

Don’t let being your own boss allow you to let yourself off the hook. Be accountable. If you’re working towards a specific launch date for a product or marketing campaign, or you know that giving that presentation will be uncomfortable but the right step towards your next big business goal, don’t make excuses for yourself. Set stretching objectives and deadlines and commit to making them happen despite whatever challenges come your way.

Raise your profile

So you might not be seeking a promotion, but keep in mind your longer-term goals and ambitions. How do you want to take your business to the next level?  Think of how you want to ‘get promoted’ in your business. What attitude do you want to display?  How do you want to raise your business’ profile?

Where a boss might motivate you with a pathway to promotion, think about how you can create a roadmap to your own next level of success to keep you pushing on when it might be easier to give yourself an early finish.

Show your appreciation

Great bosses make the time and effort to show their appreciation for a job well done. When you’ve worked hard or hit a milestone in your work, take some time to treat yourself. Could you arrange ‘after-work drinks’ with friends? How about buying yourself a little token of appreciation? Make sure you celebrate your successes.

‘Hire’ yourself today

So if you’ve been feeling a bit lost lately, hire yourself as a boss today! Set yourself clear objectives, give yourself plenty of encouragement, and next time you fancy a coffee with your friends, or decide to put off tackling a tricky work project for now, have a word with your boss first – and give yourself a firm talking to. After all, if you put in the effort, you both win!

Emma Gwillim is a clarity coach and confidante for ambitious mums. You can find out more about her work on her website

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