Interview with business entrepreneur James Chartrand.
James Chartrand is the copywriting gunslinger from Men with Pens, one of the leading blogs for freelancers also offering website content and graphic design services. James also co-authored The Unlimited Freelancer a book that teaches freelancers how to work less and make more money doing what they love.
Were you always drawn to the idea of working for yourself?
I actually never contemplated working for myself before I began working for myself. I had a corporate career for many years and worked in other industries before coming to self-employment. I always knew that I had excellent business sense and was very good at almost everything I worked in (except math!), but it never occurred to me to work for myself.
Self-employment happened on a whim, actually – or rather, need. I’ve never looked back since I took the step, I love being an entrepreneur, and it was an excellent choice.
Was there a specific event that made you decide to take the plunge into entrepreneurship?
There was indeed. I had been laid off, a family to feed, and I lived in an area that had high unemployment rates and very few job offers. Winter was coming, with heating bills to match. My unemployment cheques barely made the rent and I wasn’t sure what to do.
I had welfare application forms filled out on my kitchen table – it was the last effort I could make at making ends meet. A friend of mine mentioned that maybe I could get a job writing, and that I should look online.
I did…and I never had to send in those forms after all. That was the day I began working for myself.
What personality traits do you possess that have contributed to your success?
I’m what psychologists would call a classic entrepreneur. I have drive, determination, and vision. I have great ambitions and goals I want to reach – very badly. Add to that a ton of self-confidence, a lack of fear, the ability to ask for help when I need it, and narrow-eyed observation skills.
I also have the ability to lead and delegate, and the capacity for empathy and understanding as well. Lastly, I enjoy making calculated risks – and that’s served me very well.
What are some of the myths associated with entrepreneurship?
One myth is that it’s easy and a life of luxury. It’s not. It can be hard work requiring long hours, and not everyone is cut out for it. There needs to be an inner ability to continue striving for what you want, challenges aside, and the strength to find ways to overcome obstacles. You also need to have self-control and be able to sick with it even during tough times.
Another one is that only an elite few can be an entrepreneur. Not at all. Many people have entrepreneurship within them, but they’ve simply never had a chance to explore and experiment, or they have fears that prevent them from taking the first step. As they say, if you never try, you’ll never know.
What are the drawbacks and rewards of working for yourself?
Oops, I may have already covered some of these. Ah, well…
Some of the drawbacks involve higher stress, extra worries, isolation and barriers. There are long hours and moments of frustration. Sometimes you feel very on your own and would love support, but there may be none to have. You shoulder all responsibilities and obligations, and you need to make sure your decisions are smart ones to make. Failure happens, and you’ll have disappointments, too.
But the rewards, to me, are worth it. There are moments of personal victories, and it’s a great feeling when you reach goals. You have fulfillment in your career and build businesses that you’re happy with. They also provide you with income, and you can continue building and improving as long as you want. You work your own hours, on your own terms, and you learn many life experiences you’d never find elsewhere. You also gain business knowledge that becomes invaluable for the rest of your life.
What advice do you have for people who are interested in working for themselves?
Have three to six months of money set aside before you begin. That’s hard to do, but that safety net is crucial. Also, be sure that you have the support of friends and family, and that your family understands that you may not be as available as you were. Network with professionals and build a resource net of people you can go to when you need something. Learn how to market effectively and develop a good brand from the start. Tap into markets that show promise and that have demand.
And above all – believe in yourself.