One of the great things about being self-employed is that you can pick and choose the type of work you do. When you work for someone else, if your boss asks you to do something you don’t particularly enjoy, you don’t really have much say in the matter, but when it’s your own business, you have the option of subcontracting the project, referring the client to another service provider, or simply saying no.

There can be a downside to having this much flexibility. When you’re not forced to step outside your comfort zone from time to time, you deprive yourself of valuable opportunities to grow, personally and professionally. Here’s an example.

As an introvert, I do not enjoy telephone work, and I knew that long before I even knew what an introvert was. So when Debra Perris called me a couple of years ago to ask if I’d be interested in calling local employers about participating in Face to Face – Hamilton’s Job Fair, my immediate reaction was “I don’t do that.” Of course, I didn’t say that out loud; what I actually said was that I wasn’t sure if I could fit it into my schedule. Debra realized that her offer had come right out of the blue and told me to think about it, but it was clear that she needed an answer that day.

While I agonized over my decision, I considered that:

a) I would enjoy working with Heather Sullivan, one of my clients, whom I’d first met when I worked as her secretary in the provincial government (and who had recommended me for this project)

b) It didn’t involve “sales”

c) Although I had committed to working on three other client projects, I hadn’t actually received the work for any of them

d) I could use the income

I decided to bite the bullet and join the team. The work was really challenging, and although I preferred the other parts of the job – searching the Internet and the newspapers for companies to contact, organizing information, and developing a schedule for the people who were volunteering on the day of the event – it was a great experience, and there is definitely a strong sense of satisfaction when you can successfully do something that takes you so far out of your comfort zone. So when Debra asked me to come back the following year, I didn’t hesitate to say yes, and I’m currently assisting with Face to Face 2008.

It would have been very easy to decline to work on this project, but I would never have discovered that not all telephone work is unpleasant (a perception I developed when I worked in customer service, very early in my career). Furthermore, it has kept me busy at a time of year when many other small business owners are struggling to find work.

So, the next time an opportunity arises and you say to yourself “I don’t do that,” don’t be too quick to turn it down. Step outside your comfort zone, and you just might develop some new skills and increase your self-confidence (not to mention your income)!