Are you a professional or an amateur?

As I have journeyed through this financial “clean up” project of mine, I have had to make a lot of sacrifices and change many of my habits. I have had to wake up much earlier, meet strict deadlines and maintain positive and open communication with everyone around me (even when I’m in the 10th hour of the work day, with my eighth group of discontent, hyperactive students).

No matter how tired I get, though, I have noticed that I feel better about myself. I feel competent and professional about what I do and how I do it. This has even started transferring to my work at Five Seed. I’m continuing to realize how essential it is to treat my business as seriously as I treat my jobs.


In the past, I have had so little confidence in myself as a businesswoman. Those feelings of insecurity and incompetence dictated my actions. For a long time, I worked in a messy, ill-designed office space because I didn’t think I deserved a beautiful, functional workspace. I never kept regular hours*, and in fact, often rolled out of bed whenever I felt like it (though never later than 9). I usually worked in pajamas or sweatpants. When business took the normal downturns, I’d lose my confidence and abandon the projects I had begun (like my poor e-book that is awaiting my attention!). And when it came to business deals, like consignment accounts, I was extremely unreliable about keeping my eye on things. I would bring in items and leave them for months at a time, without checking in. If I didn’t receive payment for a while, I would make an appointment to go to the shop and check on the merchandise, but really, I look back now and see that checking on consignment accounts any less than once a month is just unprofessional.

There is a definite attitude that comes from acting like a professional. And the awesome thing is: You don’t have to literally be a professional to act like one, to become one. This works both ways. For instance, I am a licensed teacher in the state of Oregon – I’m considered a professional in my field. However, in the four years since I acquired my license, I had not felt like a professional. What changed? My jobs demanded more and more from me and I stepped up to the task. It’s as simple as that. Conversely, while I have no professional/official qualifications in the herbal healing world (or the blogging world, or the small business world, etc.), I can choose to become a professional by acting like one.

What would it take for you to become a professional? Here are some ideas:

1. Dress for the job. Don’t wear your pajamas. No matter where you work or what you do, when you are working, you should feel polished enough to greet your boss – if you don’t have a boss, pretend you do!


2. Set your alarm and create your schedule. It is super tempting to fit in work for your small business in any pocket of time you have, but I’ve found it to be so helpful to get up earlier and designate a couple hours of the morning (and sometimes evening) to my business.


3. Support yourself. Get a life coach or business mentor and broaden your horizons. Always be on the lookout for educational opportunities. Take business classes from your local college, or those offered online (there are so many!). Go to seminars and conferences in your area of expertise. Network. Learn. Grow.


4. Make the best of your space. You deserve to have a beautiful, functional workspace. Make this an ongoing project that you work on each month.

5. Take the leap. Act as if. Be tireless. Do not quit.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you own a small business and work from home, mostly by yourself, then it’s time to step it up, ladies. Whatever you did to maintain your professionalism at your former or current job, it’s time to apply that to your home business, as well. Says author Steven Pressfield, “What we get when we turn pro is we find our power. We find our will and our voice and we find our self-respect. We become who we always were but had, until then, been afraid to embrace and live out.”

What are you going to do to become a professional?

*I do not believe that small business owners who work primarily over the internet necessarily need to keep regular business hours, but I do think it’s wise to have clear expectations for ourselves about when and how long we work, even if the actual hours change from day to day.

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8 thoughts on “Are you a professional or an amateur?

  1. Ha, unless you came from working in a startup where schedules were flexible and you didn’t change clothes after riding your bike into work :) Adding such structure does work for a lot of people but for me, the new flexibility of working in my PJs (I’m typing in them as we speak) or getting out of bed later than I did before? Well that’s one of the perks of working for myself, to be honest. I do have an office but prefer most of my meetings to be at cafes where my clients can be comfortable, and it’s good for me to be out amongst people. Perhaps it’s because I’ve already got the organizational thing down because of what I do (I manage five email accounts and calendars, enter in my expenses daily on my spreadsheet, and am an obsessive listmaker, to name a few…). Haven’t set my alarm in over a year, but of course that comes from working with clients who don’t usually go to work at 8am or if they do, certainly wouldn’t have meetings then. Working for myself means I usually get my mornings to myself, then kick in the work later in the day, or on eves or weekends to accommodate them, which can be hectic if I don’t schedule in enough “me” time. I do agree with having a pretty work space – it’s like the concept of making your bed every day. Boy does it feel nice to come in and see a pretty bed rather than pushing away the laundry and curling up in a corner, haha :)

    • @EcoGrrl: I knew I’d get lots of arguments about my pajamas and schedules comments! LOL. But yeah, I think it really comes down to what you do, what your life is like and what your personality is like. (P.S. I’m in my pj’s right now, I must confess.)

  2. Great post, Yancy! I just reorganized my office yesterday! Things had gotten a little out of hand, but my Spirit Guides said to clean it up (seriously!), so I did. I added a new shelf, reorganized my bookshelf, and now I love entering my office each day. Even though my clients don’t literally step into my office each day, their energy comes into my office (and their family members in Spirit) during a psychic reading, so I feel I am honoring their energy by keeping it neat and organized. And best of all, it feels more manageable to me as well.

    Marie Forleo ( is big on recommending a set schedule to get everything done. She gave a great example – if we had an early flight to catch, we wouldn’t sleep in because the plane won’t wait. She suggests thinking of your to-do list items for your business as planes that won’t wait as well. I found that mindset to be really helpful. I do tend to veer on and off a set schedule at times, but I’ve found that I usually get a lot more done when I have a schedule. I always allow breaks each hour to move around and do something completely different (like 50 min work, 10 minute something different). This keeps my brain fresh. I like variety :)

    Marie Forleo did an interview with Steven Pressfield about this book that you might enjoy watching –

    • @Melanie: OMG, I’ve been obsessed with Marie, lately! I was waiting for B School to start, but so sad that it was more than I expected. I totally think it is worth the price, but I just don’t have it right now. Maybe next year! :) I did see that interview, too – it’s kinda sneakily hidden in the post as a link, LOL. That’s part of what inspired this post. There’s so much good stuff there…I have her YouTube channel playing on my computer whenever I’m in my office! :)

  3. I have full confidence that I could have a thriving photography business if I really wanted it. But I don’t, really. Not now. But occasionally I think about what I would do if I wanted to step things up. I really believe I could do it if I was willing.

    I wonder if you could add to this list “think like a professional”? Or in your case, think like a small business owner. I think mentality has so much to do with success.

    • @Lisa C: That is awesome. I think it’s definitely a challenge to make a choice (so many people feel pressured to make a business out of something). And YES, you are so right about the thinking part. That’s brilliant!

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