The month of May has special meaning for me. This month three years ago I turned in my resignation and left behind everything that represented the security of a safe and stable job at that time. I became self-employed and in doing so I, to my surprise, gained more work satisfaction and enjoyment from life than I would ever have imagined. It’s been a non-stop adventure with ups and downs. Three years later, here’s what I’ve learned:

1) There is no such thing as security. Stable jobs and large organisations present us with the illusion of security. Pension funds. Regular paychecks. A parking space. It’s all crap. If your reason for choosing a job with a company is the “security” they provide, then you believe a lie. Your pension fund can turn out to be worth nothing the day you retire, the organisation or your department can fail financially and close in which case your pay slip will be worth as little as your failed pension fund, and your parking space will get bulldozed for a new office complex. Sure your business venture can fail, but it can also be wildly successful. Company life will have very little variation while self-employment can go any way you steer it. You’ll never know until you’ve taken the risk.

2)  I should have had a lot more faith in my own abilities in the beginning. Rigid organisations will suppress your independence and sense of self-reliance. Simply because obedient people are easier to control. And to the tribe elders it will always make sense because you won't have a tribe if everyone just does their own thing. Everyone has unique skills and those skills are usually essential to the functioning of the organisation, but they’ll never really let you believe that. Don’t leave the safety of the tribe, it’s dangerous out there and you’ll never be able to look after yourself. Do what we tell you and everything will be okay - the tribe provides everything you’ll ever need. Rubbish. Since I started working for myself I’ve discovered abilities I’ve always had but that would never have developed in the rigid, pseudo-military environment that I had to live in for the first ten years of my working life.

3) You’re only as good as the last project you’ve completed. Never stop pushing the limits of your abilities. Constantly improve on what you’ve done previously, even if it is not expected from you. Why? Because the guy next to you is doing exactly that and customers go for the best, most reliable and shiniest item in the shop window. Relax, become complacent and you’ll die. Harsh? Well welcome to the free market. If you can’t come up with a new idea every day then this is not for you.

4) Look after your suppliers and they’ll look after you. You have customers, but you’re also someone else’s customer. Your suppliers’ customer. They also run businesses, just like you. Be the sort of customer that you would like to have. Pay your suppliers on time, every time.  There is no greater insult than withholding payment from someone who has rendered a service. Don’t be that client. Harsh reality #2: even if you treat your guys right, you are guaranteed to not be afforded the same respect from someone else. Deal with it. You’re supposed to be stronger than those around you. That’s why you can risk life on your own.

5) Don’t just sell a product, provide a service. It’s about more than just money exchanged for a product. Take an interest in your customer’s cause. A genuine interest. Because anybody can spot a fake. The business that I’m in is all about portraying a positive image. And you can’t do that if you don’t believe in your customer’s cause. Make their priorities your priorities. But remember that it is still their cause. You may suggest things that may help the cause, but it is their decision to implement or not.

6) Know friends from enemies. Since leaving a safe job I’ve discovered one thing – everything in the world of self-employment is a step higher, riskier and more intense than the safety of company life. And I love it. For the first time in my life I’m alive. I’m free. Like-minded people will automatically gravitate towards you. Treat the genuine ones with genuine respect and be genuinely supportive when support is required. They in turn will support you when you need it. Yes, it is actually possible to have allies in the same market that you are operating in. I do. But be careful of the insincere ones. When dealing with large organisations you will encounter resistance and animosity at some stage. Remember that you’re an outsider who earns an income from their resources. In some cases your freedom will provide a reason to hate you. The boss may want you there, but quietly the accountant hates processing your invoices because she’s not earning what you are and her own business venture failed in a previous life. She’ll undermine you and ultimately she’ll succeed because the company protects their own whether it is right or wrong. It happens. It happened to me and to some of my friends. Step away from abusive customers. They’re not worth having and they take time and energy away from your loyal customers. Build relationships. Relationships will bring in business.