When I started my business on a Friday the 13th nearly 15 years ago, I spent the first weekend alternately thinking I’d be the most successful consultant in the history of communications — and with my head in the toilet, puking my guts out, thinking I’d never work again.

While I haven’t completely given up stressing out about business, over the years I’ve been happily surprised to make a nice income doing exciting work for lovely people, often while wearing yoga pants and hosting a cat on my desk.Here are three things I’ve done to build my business. I hope they might work for you, too:

  1. Diversify your business. Look for businesses that thrive at different points in the economic cycle. For example, during boom markets, when companies are staffing, my training business prospers. In the midst of layoffs, my writing business flourishes as organizations try to get by with fewer staff members.
  2. Drop your hourly rate. “People who charge by the hour are either poor or tired,” says one of my self-employed friends. If you’re charging by the hour, consider shifting your fee to a project basis. It’s easier on your clients, because they know what to expect and don’t feel nickled-and-dimed for every second you spend changing “whiches” to “thats.” And if you’re efficient, you may find that you earn more by the project than by the hour. About 75 percent of independents charge by the project instead of by the hour or day, according to Advertising Age.

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