An employee and an entrepreneur are two different creatures. They think and act differently. They behave based on different mindsets and sets of skills.

Thus, if you have been working 9-to-5 as an employee and considering to jump over the fence to become a self-employed, you’d need to equip yourself with “new” mindsets and sets of skills.

Well, you probably already have these mindsets and skill sets. So actually, it’s not really “new” per se.

You do, however, need to internalize them even further and make sure they dominate your “other” mindsets and skill sets. By “other,” it refers to skills that have less value to running your own business.

In a nutshell, being self-employed is about amplifying your strengths and commitment to the business and entrepreneurship lifestyle.

Now, what are those mindsets and skill sets? Next, how can you actually make the shift seamlessly from being an employee to an entrepreneur? Let’s start the discussion.


Multi-millionaire entrepreneur James Altucher has some tips for developing an entrepreneur mindset. While his takes on having entrepreneurship mindset make much sense, it’s a little bit more than that.

1) Easy for me, hard for you.

This mindset would set you apart from the rest of the population. One case in point is Emily Warkentin, who is the founder of a Point Two Maps, an online store that sells framed high-quality industry-resolution satellite city maps for interior decoration. To deliver the one-of-a-kind high-quality maps, she uses architectural tools of the trade and gathers the same data that the municipalities use for urban planning.

The morale of this story is: Creating high-quality maps is Emily’s forte, so it’s easy for her, but hard for us. She has the tools and the access to those tools that setting up this kind of business is simple for her.

Now, find that one specific thing that’s easy for you, but hard for the rest of the population. It can be based on your lifelong passion, specifically-trained skill, or a tool that not many people have access to. Once you’ve found that “one special thing,” it’s the first step to shift smoothly from being an employee to an entrepreneur.

2) Money starts and stops with you.

This mindset refers to being aware of a self-employed’s finances. This means you’d need to be frugal when it comes to expenses. Don’t spend more than you truly have to.

If it’s possible to make a profit before spending money for the inventory, for instance, it would be perfect. It can be made possible with business loans, which means borrowing money from a bank.

If you sell online, there is the so-called “dropshipping” business model, where the store owner will only buy the products from the supplier, after they are purchased by the customer. This would allow you to experiment with the products to sell, without worrying about wasting startup capital. Moreover, since the products ordered will be shipped directly from the supplier to the customers, this model also allows you to save money for warehouse rental.

3) The product is your story (founder’s story)

This is an important mindset: You don’t just sell a product, but the story behind the product.

One case in point is Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computer. You probably have heard about Steve Job’s personal story. He was an adopted child. His biological mother gave him up for adoption as she was pregnant as a young college student. Jobs then went to Reed College but dropped out in 1972.

In 1976, Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple to sell Apple I personal computer. This story about his personal life is known all over the world, as people can sense something magical about this special person.

Later, to promote Mac computer, Jobs created this ad campaign: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them. Disagree with them. Glorify them. Or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may say them as the crazy ones. We see genius. Because the people who think they’re crazy enough to change the world are the ones, who do. Think different.”

What a genius way to sell computers, right? Jobs sold computers with a story about human genius and the audacity to be different, which are reflected in his own personal story and ad campaign. Find your founder’s story. The more inspiring, the better. The connection you make between your inspiring founder’s story and the product is “the soul of your product.”

4) You sell feelings (viral elements).

This is another important mindset. Your product should evoke positive feelings. (No one wants to buy things that make them feel worse.) In fact, if those good feelings can be conveyed through photos, videos, and texts that make up stories, you can create viral contents around the product.

This being said, when you sell a product, remember that it’s not just the product that you sell. You also sell the story behind the product, the story about the founder (that would be you), and the feelings evoked by the product.

But, aren’t people rational, so they make their decisions based on logic? Contrary to popular belief, human beings are emotional creatures. We decide on what to purchase mostly based on emotional considerations, while we want to believe that we think rationally.

According to psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, we humans think with “cognitive biases,” meaning that we systematically make choices that defy logic.  Thus, being “irrational” isn’t a weakness, but a natural trait that we’re born with, which is great news for marketers. Thus, make sure that your product makes customers feel good about the product design, the overall look, the functions, the brand, or other “magical” features.

Skill Sets

1) Recognize trends and opportunities.

Be aware of trends and opportunities. Learn to read data and analyze how the information can be used for your business. Even the unpaid Statista ecommerce charts, for instance, is a good place to find out what works in the online business environment. Just by glancing at the charts, you can better understand the big picture of the industry of your business.

2) Leverage your passion.

Be open-minded and explore new things. While it may sound like something you’re born with, leveraging passion is actually a skill. The key is having a heightened awareness of what your passions are and how you can make the most of them.

You can begin with experiencing things that you love the most again and again. Find why you love them and how they can be improved, changed, or delivered in other ways that add value to the experience.

Ask around to find out how others love the experience. Take note of them, compare, and use them to make decisions for the business.

3) Hack, find short cuts, delegate.

Today, most likely that when you think of a product or a type of service, it already exists somewhere. The Internet, massive data, and human knowledge depository allow us to hack, find short cuts, and delegate inexpensively and efficiently. You just need to know where to look for them.

In the past, you’d need to develop an HTML website from scratch with Notepad and find a way to FTP it to a blank domain. Now, you can simply install a WordPress CMS, which is free of charge (open source) that comes with various free templates. Next, just host your domain at a hosting company that might cost $5 per month or even less.

In the past, you must type your Twitter tweet one by one and publish it immediately. Now, you can use a scheduler, like Buffer, type the tweet long before it will be published and make sure it’s accompanied by a compelling image to illustrate. Scheduling apps are lifesavers, so you can have a social life again instead of constantly updating statuses and tweets.

Several years ago, when starting an ecommerce store, you’d need to purchase products to sell, create a website from scratch, and upload the images one by one. You also need to find a space to keep the products before they’re sold. Next, you’d need to manually fulfill and ship orders to customers’ addresses.

Today, you can simply create a turn-key ecommerce store like Shopify and install Oberlo dropshipping app, so you can launch a store in less than 30 minutes. The products will only be purchased after they are ordered by the customers, so you don’t need to spend upfront capital and warehouse rental. And it’s the supplier who will be shipping the products, so you have more time promoting the store.

4) Toot your own horn.

Tooting your own horn requires more than thick skin. Be creative when promoting your business. Often, the best promotion doesn’t involve a lot of money.

Staying active in social media is one way. If your products are photogenic, consider promoting them on Instagram by creating compelling photo stories around them. You can be as entertaining as possible without making your posts sounding cheesy or pushy.

5) Take good care of yourself.

At last, taking good care of yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially is often overlooked, but it must be done. Otherwise, your business would stagnate or, even worse, go downhill.

At last, remember that being an entrepreneur requires a triathlon athlete’s stamina. Sometimes you’ve got to swim, other times you’ve got to run and bike. Most of the times, you’ll need to take the stride one activity and one day at a time. Above all, shifting gear from being an employee to a self-employed requires determination and readiness to be your own leader and motivator.

Jennifer Xue is an award-winning author, columnist, and serial entrepreneur based in Northern California. She helps ecommerce businesses and startups in increasing their brand awareness and creating more traction. Her byline has been published in Forbes, Fortune, Cosmopolitan, Esquire,, Business2Community, Addicted2Success, MotivationGrid, and others. Her blog is Follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Download ebooks on how to smoothly shift from being an employee to an ecommerce store owner. 

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