Every October 31, while many in the U.S. are celebrating Halloween, I’m celebrating my personal Independence Day. On that day, I turned in my badge and keys and left my corporate training job to start Learningtogo, 11 years ago. I didn’t know where my first clients would come from but somehow I had the confidence to go out on my own and I’ve never regretted it, not even for a minute. As my business grew, I kept learning and I’m still learning.

My experience may not be typical. I understand that leaving the corporate nest isn’t for everyone. But if you think you could do as well as the consultant that you’re hiring, you might be right. Before you jump though, you might want to take this quiz from Entreprenuer.com.

In the spirit of U.S. Independence Day, here are the top 10 things I learned about being my own boss. (And thanks to David Letterman for this now ubiquitous format idea.)

  1. Being your own boss doesn’t mean you get to work fewer hours – but it may feel like that, if you love what you do.
  2. If you’re not comfortable with networking, making sales calls and collecting on past due bills, don’t quit your day job. You’ll have to do all of these yourself, at least at first.
  3. Make sure that your family has your back. If you don’t feel supported at home, you’ll give up when things get tough – and they will get tough from time to time.
  4. Have at least three month’s expenses in a saving account. It may take three months or more to land your first account. (You might want to start looking for your first account before you hand in your notice, but don’t tell anyone I told you this.)
  5. Find great people to help you, but you don’t have to hire them. I work with a small team of folks who are also independent. I use them when I need them and I pay them for what they do. It’s a lot simpler for me than managing employees and making sure I bring in enough work to cover payroll every month.
  6. Learn from people who’ve been there before. I didn’t realize it at the time, but for the last five years of my tenure in corporate training, I was observing the consultants I hired and learned from their best practices and mistakes.
  7. Never, ever burn a bridge. You never know when that contact will prove valuable. (Besides, it’s not a nice thing to do.)
  8. Be generous and help others. They will return the favor when they are on top.
  9. Stay focused. There is no one watching over you to be sure you’re getting your work done. You have to be accountable to yourself.
  10. Be sure you love what you do – you are going to eat it, breathe it and see it in your sleep. And if that is something you love, your long days and nights will be dances with joy.

Still think you want to go it on your own? This might just be your personal Independence Day. Good luck!

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