10/17/2012 03:23 pm ET Updated Dec 17, 2012

Self-Employed? Give Yourself an Annual Review

For Women & Co. by Heather Spohr,

When people find out I'm self-employed, they almost always say something like, "Lucky you! You don't have to deal with a boss!" I won't lie -- that's definitely a perk -- but what most people don't realize is that in order to be successful while self-employed, you have to push yourself harder than even the toughest boss would. One way I do this is by giving myself an annual review where I take a hard look at my performance, just like my former tough-as-nails boss would do.

Here are some questions I ask myself, and I recommend these to other self-employed people as well:

How can I be more productive?
Without a set time to punch in and out (or a boss to look over your shoulder), it can be all too easy to slack off now and again. This is why disciplining yourself to use your time well is key if you want to earn your living through self-employment. To best answer this question during my annual review, I go over my daily schedule hour by hour, then make an honest analysis of whether I've been as productive as possible. If I haven't, I make a change.

Have I harnessed important relationships?
I may no longer work in an office full of people and the resulting social politics, but I still have contacts and clients who play an important role in my self-employed work, even if I don't see them every day like I would see coworkers in previous jobs. In order to keep these relationships intact now and in the future, I make a list of my most important relationships and strategize how I can strengthen them.

Am I continuing to develop my skills?
Regardless of how you're self-employed, you must continue to develop your skills if you want to outpace your competitors and best perform your job. When I worked in an office my employer organized educational seminars and classes for us, but now that I'm self-employed it's up to me. To ensure I continue to develop my skills, I take a serious look at whether I've been furthering myself in this way, and if I haven't, I devise a plan to do so.

Am I neglecting any parts of the job?
One of the nice things about being self-employed is that no one can nag you to do the parts of the job you don't like. Unfortunately, you can't neglect these parts too long without it negatively affecting your performance. I examine what aspects of my job I may be neglecting -- like organizing my workspace -- and figure out how to deal with the problem.

What are my goals?
One problem with being self-employed is that you can get caught up with completing short-term tasks and forget about the long-term goals. To stop my business from growing stagnant, I ask myself what I want to achieve in the next year, and then I set goals that are both attainable and an expansion of where I am now.

The good news about giving yourself an annual review? No matter how you do, there's no risk of losing your job!

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