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The difference between self-employed people and a full-time employee

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By Oliver Harcourt, Head of UK Marketing, Vistaprint

Small business owners are passionate, ambitious and independent-minded – but they can still have business blind spots.

Recently, Vistaprint conducted a survey of full-time employees and small business owners to find out whether there are characteristics that set them apart.

As it turns out, there are quite a few.

In this article, we look at the key findings of the survey and how the unique attitudes of small business owners have a positive effect on what they do. Then we explore how they can make their businesses stronger by looking at those areas beyond the reach of their proficiencies.

Positive personalities

The survey of 1,600 working British people discovered that small business owners share many personality traits. They are passionate, confident, independent-minded, ambitious – and they happen to love their jobs.

Almost twice as many small business owners agreed strongly with the statement ‘I am passionate about my work’ as did regular full-time employees. And almost a quarter more owners than full-time employees also agreed strongly with the statement ‘I am ambitious’.

Perhaps most tellingly, more than twice as many small business owners strongly agreed with the statement ‘I love my job’ as did those who were in full-time employment.

Necessary grit

The reason so many small business owners say they love their job is irrevocably tied up with all those other core characteristics. To persevere through lean times and turn an idea into a business with customers and employees takes drive, confidence and an independent mindset.

Our survey found small business owners work fewer hours than full-time employees, have a better work-life balance and are more flexible in their approach to work. 
But they had to win the right to set their own agenda. It’s little wonder almost twice as many owners said they were passionate about their work: without it they would never have reached that position. 

Blind spots

Although they can be vital to your success, positive character traits will only get you so far. As any of our surveyed business owners are likely to say, it also takes a range of skills to run a business – and often it’s the skills you don’t possess that are as important to your prosperity as those you do.

All business owners have areas of talent, but thorough and self-aware owners also recognise those areas where they are not so great – their blind spots. An owner who can admit needing help with certain tasks is already on the way to making their organisation even more robust.

The idea of promoting a business, for example, is an area where small business owners often miss out. They may assume terms like ‘branding’ or ‘marketing’ aren’t for them. Well, that’s not so.

Branding is simply having a clear identity for your business that helps customers recognise your products. And all marketing does is tell people what’s unique about your business and how it can benefit them. 

Either through seeking outside help, or through your own endeavours, gaining knowledge about those things you don’t fully understand can demystify them and prevent them becoming barriers to growth.

Let’s take our example of ‘promotions’. Once an owner starts to understand how their brand operates, and the kind of messages or promotions they might want to talk about through their marketing, they are more able to deal with the practicalities of making those things a reality – those things like setting up a website, using social media to engage new people in their products, and designing and ordering the brochures, flyers and posters that will catch the eye of potential new customers.

So the message for business owners and potential entrepreneurs alike is to celebrate those traits that help you be good at what you do, but be aware of blind spots. Don’t kid yourselves that certain areas, like promotions, are just for bigger businesses.

Just because you are new, or small, doesn’t mean your business can’t shout loud.