You’ve been a sales pro for quite a while. You’re good at it, and you enjoy solving problems and closing business.
Maybe now it’s time to be more in charge of the products you represent, the sales process, and your income. Maybe it’s time to consider going independent.
Here’s a quick look at 5 of the biggest gotchas in becoming an independent sales rep:
#1 Financial security
This is far and away the scariest element of going independent for most people. You lose the safety net that comes with being a direct employee. Most people I know who switched to independent sales rep spent some sleepless nights and very anxious first months. This is normal. If the anxiety is too much, then you know that being an independent sales rep may impose a stress level beyond your tolerance. The trick is to learn to take the ups and downs in stride.
#2 No team support
When you’re independent, there is no team. You work for yourself. You’re your own customer service, HR, accounting, and marketing departments. The products you represent may provide some support in some of these areas, but you will be ultimately responsible for all aspects of your business and your job. And that can be overwhelming. It can also be freeing!
Find yourself a good support team (maybe a part time service helper, a bookkeeper, someone to help with marketing, etc). You don’t need to be able to hire a staff to have great support. There are plenty of people in other disciplines who, like you, want the freedom to work independently. Maybe you can find a mom with kids in school who’d love to help you with customer service while her kids are gone during the day. She works from home and supports your customers by answering their questions and taking phone orders. Maybe she does your pack and ship too; you can work out all sorts of arrangements. When you’re a non-traditional worker, you’ll find lots of other disciplines that also have non-traditional workers . It’s easy to put together a strong team that thinks out of the box!
Being independent sales rep means that you won’t have regular sales meetings or ‘get pumped up’ sessions. You probably won’t have a manager and certainly not a ‘boss’ who directs your activities and helps you when you get down. You won’t have a ready-made selling team. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t need support and a sympathetic ear or someone to help you solve daily challenges.
Successful sales people, whether direct employee or independent sales rep, need that sort of reinforcement. Since it doesn’t come standard with most products you’ll probably represent (note: the really really good product lines that have extensive experience working with independent sales rep will probably provide true sales support; someone to help you become and stay successful with their product). But in most cases, this doesn’t exit. So build it yourself. Set aside training time each quarter. Find a group of non-competitive sales reps and hold a weekly breakfast where you hold each other accountable. Make yourself a plan vs actual goals list – and maintain it to be a successful independent sales rep.
#4 “Yes, I am at home, but I am working…”
This is a trap that happens for many home-based workers. Lots of days, you’ll be on the road. Some days though, you will probably work from home. The temptation for your friends, neighbors, family, etc is to think that ‘since he’s home, he can do whatever he wants.’ You’ll need to separate yourself from personal interruptions. The beauty of working from home is that you can set up your own schedule and mold it around your personal needs and it is the real beauty of being independent sales rep. But be careful not to allow working from home to be an excuse not to get your work done.
#5 Turning it off
Conversely, it can be tough to turn off the day when you work from home. But you have to do it. You have to decide when you’re done working and then be done. Mindfulness is a really important skill when you’re self -employed. When you’re at work, be all-in at work. When you’re done, be done. When you’re done, be with your spouse, your kids, your dog, your gym buddies; whoever is in your life. When that work/personal line becomes too blurry, you will find yourself worrying about work when you’re not working and worrying about family and friends when you are working. Draw reasonable lines that work in your life and your situation. The beauty of being independent is that you can draw your own lines!
Being an independent sales rep can be incredibly rewarding – both personally and professionally. But making the move does require forethought and planning so you don’t fall into a common trip. Good luck! for becoming the person you really want to be, an independent sales rep.