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If you have a desire to leave your job and be your own boss, you are at the right place and time in history.  Never before have there been so many opportunities to go out on your own, especially as an accounting professional and working mom.

Just the thought of not having to deal with a difficult boss, having your own clients to service and being able to make your financial goals a reality can be exciting.  But, there’s also a harsh reality that you might want to consider – most of your formal education has prepared you to be an employee, not to be self-employed.

Our modern education system was initially designed to teach future factory workers how to be good employees.  Over the past 200 years it has continued to teach us to be obedient, to follow directions, to be motivated by external deadlines and to understand that there are people in charge whose rules and ideas are to be followed.

Rarely are we taught how to build the muscle of being our own boss.  Like most accounting employees, over time your job becomes your identity and when faced with creating a new identity, most working moms aren’t prepared for the challenges they’ll face.

One of the most important factors when making the transition from employee to self-employed is brain management.  Your success will depend on how well you understand how your particular brain works and how to be the boss of it.

Brain management is the key when you:

  • Are afraid to make a big leap
  • Need to quit your current job
  • Are afraid of what other people will think
  • Don’t know how to manage your time
  • Are overwhelmed with all the decisions that need to be made
  • Miss having coworkers to bounce off issues with
  • Don’t believe you can do it
  • Need to get work done and your child is home sick
  • Are suffering with imposter syndrome
  • Have an unhappy client
  • Aren’t making enough money
  • Are afraid to ask for more money
  • Want to give up

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the drift – making the transition from employee to self-employed, requires knowing how to manage your mind.  As I love to say, “When you learn how to manage your mind, you can manage everything else”.

This week I’m going to discuss what brain management is, why it’s so important if you want to be self-employed, and the best way to make the transition from employee to self-employed.  

What brain management is

If you took the “usual” path to become a CPA, going to college and then getting a job in either public or private accounting, you most likely have a lot more experience being an employee than anything else.  For most of your accounting career, you’ve probably been one of the supporting players on someone else’s team.

Now that you want to leave your current team and make the transition from being an employee to being self-employed, you might be excited and terrified all at the same time.  Let me assure you that this is completely normal because you are leaving what’s familiar, for what’s unfamiliar and challenging.

The most important step that accountant mompreneurs-in-the-making cannot escape, is brain management.  Being self-employed requires a much different mindset than going to a job and following someone else’s rules, schedules, deadlines and expectations.    

More than any other start-up tip or suggestion I can give you, managing your brain is the single most important thing that will determine your success, or not.  In reality, you are actually going into business with your brain, so it’s paramount that you understand how to manage and master it in order to make a smooth transition from employee to self-employed.

In order to understand brain management, you need to begin with the fact that you have two main operating systems going on in your brain that you need to get familiar with.  Knowing the difference between the two, and understanding how to manage them, is going to give you a much better chance for success.

In psychologist, Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, he refers to the two systems of the mind as System 1 and System 2: 

System 1 – this is your primitive brain and it runs the show more than 80% of the time.  It is motivated by three things:

  1. Seek pleasure
  2. Avoid pain
  3. Stay efficient

It’s job is to keep you safe and alive, and it takes that job very seriously.  It releases feel-good chemicals when it interprets that pleasure is present, it releases fear-based chemicals when it senses danger is present, and it likes things to be in familiar, comfortable patterns.  

The issue when you are transitioning from being an employee to self-employed, is that the opposite of what System 1 wants is true:

  1. It seeks pleasure but the beginning stages are not immediately pleasurable (sometimes not for quite awhile)
  2. It avoids pain, however, the transition from employee to self-employed brings up a lot of challenges, discomfort and negative emotions
  3. It thrives on efficiency but during this transition, everything is new and confusing

If it was up to System 1, you would stay in your familiar job and not venture out into unfamiliar territory, like becoming self-employed.  But thankfully you also have a more advanced part of your brain that, when managed properly, can override System 1 and provide a much easier transition.

System 2 – this is the prefrontal cortex and it is a higher-level part of the brain that is only present in humans.  The super power of this part of your human brain is that it allows you to think about what you think about, and it has the ability to manage the primitive brain of System 1.

Consider the following challenges that you will most likely face when transitioning from employee to self-employed:

  • New experience
  • Possible failure
  • Confusion
  • Rejection
  • Fear and doubt

System 1 sees all of these challenges as life-threatening and will typically throw up huge warning flares.  Since it’s job is to keep you safe, and none of these challenges fall into the category of pleasure or efficiency, they must be avoided, according to System 1.

Thankfully you also have System 2 which you can use to override System 1, allowing you to face and conquer any challenge that arises.  Therefore, brain management is understanding how these two systems can be managed and mastered in order to make your transition as smooth and successful as possible.

Why brain management is so important if you want to be self-employed

It’s exciting to consider a shift in your career, especially when it comes to being self-employed.  If you have the desire, then there’s no reason that you can’t achieve it, especially when you know the key piece that many employees transitioning to being self-employed miss.

As previously mentioned, the natural challenges you will face when transitioning from employee to self-employed, are exactly the reasons why brain management is so important:

  • New experience – with this new direction in your career comes a lot of new experiences that System 1 is just not naturally on board with.  New experiences require a lot of extra thought and effort, all of which are inefficient and taxing to System 1.
  • Possible failure – no matter how much support you have, or how clear the plan is for your self-employment success, failure is still a possible factor.  System 1 means well, but it sees failure as threatening to your survival, therefore, it will resist anything that is out of its comfort zone and could end in failure.
  • Confusion – when you leave the comfort of a steady job for the unknown of self-employment, confusion will definitely be coming along for the ride.  There will be many moments of “I don’t know” and “I’m not sure”, all of which make your efficient-loving System 1 very weary.
  • Rejection – in order to succeed at being on your own, you will need to face rejection, whether it’s your ideas, your efforts or a host of other things.  System 1 feels safer with connection and acceptance, sensing danger when rejection is present.
  • Fear and self-doubt – transitioning from being a supporting player on a team, to going out on your own,  will naturally come with many unique challenges that you didn’t have as an employee.  Fear and self-doubt are par for the course when doing things that are so out of the norm for you.  

Although these challenges are normal, they don’t have to end your dream.  They just need to be addressed in a way that puts you in charge of making your dream a reality.

The key is understanding that System 1 doesn’t want anything to change, but System 2 sees the long-term, big picture and wants you to succeed.  Using System 2 to supervise and take charge of System 1 will make your transition from employee to self-employed much easier and much more manageable.

The best way to make the transition from employee to self-employed

To make these two systems of your brain easier to understand, I’m going to use an analogy that moms like us are familiar with – System 1 is a toddler, and System 2 is the patient, supervising mother.  By stepping in when System 1 throws a temper tantrum because it’s uncomfortable or scared, System 2 has the opportunity to take charge and achieve harmony.

When the supervising mother is in charge more often than the toddler, you will have the opportunity to make your dreams a reality and make your transition from employee to self-employment much smoother.  To achieve this, you need three things – commitment, economic responsibility and emotional maturity: 

Commitment

Since the toddler of System 1 is reactionary and gives up easily, you need to decide on your compelling reason for wanting to be self-employed.  When you are faced with all the inevitable challenges of the transition from employee to self-employed, you need to know that you are going to do this “no matter what” and you need to know why.

Ask yourself – why was this important to you in the first place?  What did you envision for yourself and your family? When you know your “Why”, and you use the supervising mother of System 2 to recommit to that reason every time System 1 wants to bail, you put yourself on the road to success.

Economic Responsibility

Making the transition from employee to self-employed means acknowledging that you are now responsible for your economic security; not your boss or even your clients.

When you become self-employed with a managed mind, you see that every result you create, especially the amount of money you make, is within your power based on how you think, feel and act.  By taking charge of your brain and utilizing System 2 to create value for your clients, you’ll wonder why you didn’t make the transition sooner!

Emotional Maturity

The toddler of System 1 likes to blame everyone and everything outside of you for how you feel.  But if you want to be successful at self-employment, you need to recognize the normal feelings of fear, confusion and doubt that System 1 offers, and manage those emotions in a way that helps you stay focused and committed.

You need to be the supervising mother of your brain and decide how you want to feel on purpose, in a way that will drive the actions you need to take to get the results you want. If you blamed your job, your boss, your situation or anything else in the past as an employee, you need to clean that up before you transition to self-employment.

Emotional maturity means knowing that the only thing that can cause your feelings are your thoughts, and those thoughts are always optional when you choose them on purpose.  There is no place for the “blame game” when you become self-employed.

If you are considering making the transition from employee to self-employed, it can be exciting and career-affirming when you set yourself up for success.  I’m excited to see you make your dreams a reality but remember – brain management is the key to that success.

Summary  

  • Just the thought of not having to deal with a difficult boss, having your own clients to service and being able to make your financial goals a reality can be exciting.  But, there’s also a harsh reality that you might want to consider – most of your formal education has prepared you to be an employee, not to be self-employed.
  • Like most accounting employees, over time your job becomes your identity and when faced with creating a new identity, most working moms aren’t prepared for the challenges they’ll face.
  • Being self-employed requires a much different mindset than going to a job and following someone else’s rules, schedules, deadlines and expectations. 
  • When the supervising mother is in charge more often than the toddler, you will have the opportunity to make your dreams a reality and make your transition from employee to self-employment much smoother.
  • To achieve this, you need three things – commitment, economic responsibility and emotional maturity.