Working for Yourself: The Parachute Book’s Tips

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "What Color Is Your Parachute?" by Richard N. Bolles. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you thinking about working for yourself? Do you know how to work for yourself?

If you want to know what to do and hate your job, you might be considering working for yourself. It isn’t always easy, but you can do it with these tips from What Color Is Your Parachute.

Read on for some tips on working for yourself.

Working for Yourself

Another option for a career change is working for yourself, an option 80% of people consider at some point. Some people want to start a business because they have a dream⁠—for example, they want to write music. Others simply want to be their own boss and don’t care what they do as long as they do it for themselves. 

There are some things to know about starting your own business and how to work for yourself:

  • You don’t need a lot of money.
  • You do need to research.
  • You market yourself online.
  • You don’t have to franchise or hook up with any traditional methods for being self-employed.

If you don’t know what kind of business you want to start, follow these four steps if you want to know how to work for yourself:

Step #1: Brainstorm

There are a few options for brainstorming:

  • Review your flower diagram and see if it sparks any ideas that mean you’d be working for yourself.
  • Write down any general ideas on a sheet of paper and keep this sheet of paper for making further notes on.
  • Review your resume for ideas. Perhaps you want to do something you’ve already done before, but for yourself instead of an employer.
  • Try Daniel Pink’s method:
    • List five things that you excel at.
    • List five things you enjoy.
    • Look for overlap between the first two lists.
    • Assess at the overlap and ask yourself if you can see a way to get paid for doing any of those things.
  • Consult O*NET’s resources for ideas.

Step #2: Research

Research how to start and run your own business, which is essential to working for yourself successfully. There are many online resources such as Free Agent Nation and federal small business tips.

Step #3: Assess Your Skills

Find out what skills you need to run a business, which of those skills you currently possess, and how to acquire the skills you’re missing.

  • To find out what skills you’re going to need, write out everything you know about the business you want to start and conduct informational interviews with small business owners. Ideally, do this face-to-face, because people are more likely to talk about challenges and mistakes in person than in writing.
    • For example, a harp-maker who’s currently employed wants to start her own harp business. She interviews other small business owners. She discovers that she needs harp-making skills, accounting skills, and marketing skills.
  • To find out what skills you already have, review your flower diagram.
    • For example, the harp-maker already knows how to make harps.
  • Subtract the skills you have from the skills you need and see what’s leftover. To get the skills you need, you can learn them yourself by taking courses, hire someone, or find a volunteer.
    • For example, the harp-maker can study accounting, or hire a part-time bookkeeper.

Step #4: Solicit Feedback 

Seriously consider everything you learned during your informational interviews and consult your partner. Starting a business and working for yourself will affect their life too. Once you’ve considered all feedback, if you still want to start a business, do so, even if you encounter naysayers. There is risk, but you can manage it by creating a backup plan⁠—if your business doesn’t work out, what will you do next?

Working for Yourself: The Parachute Book’s Tips

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Here's what you'll find in our full What Color Is Your Parachute? summary:

  • How to not just find a job, but find a job you love
  • Why traditional resumes don’t find you the right job
  • The 7 steps to identifying your ideal career

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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