Being an independent agent means being your own boss. That’s awesome – and it’s also a huge responsibility. If you aren’t productive, you won’t get paid. There is no steady paycheck anymore and you owe it to yourself to take your dual role as boss/employee seriously.

Think about what it means to be a boss versus an employee in today’s economy. As an employee, you’re constantly trying to increase the value you bring to the table in order to further your career. If you fall short, your boss won’t have any trouble finding someone looking for a job to take your place. Unemployment is high and there are plenty of hungry job-seekers out there – if you’re not willing to put in 100%, someone else is.

As an independent agent, you’re your own boss – and your own employee. It’s a tough gig, but you’ve got to wear both hats. As an employee, you’ve got to work hard and bring value to your personal agency. And as a boss, you’ve got to objectively and firmly evaluate that work. Sit down every day after the phone’s done ringing and give yourself a “performance review” – and I mean literally get in front of the mirror and do it. Role play being the boss, browbeating the employee for not getting X done. Role play responding as the employee – can you justify not doing X?

Be brutal with yourself. Understand what the job market is like right now. If you’re making a genuine effort, trying to learn and doing your best then that’s one thing – but no decent employer today is going to put up with an employee giving less than 100% when there’s a line around the block for their job. When you’re the boss given the performance review at the end of each and every day, you need to look at your employee very critically: did they try their hardest? Or did they underperform?

And if you as the employee underperformed, then congratulations, you failed your performance review. It’s hard, but setting consequences for yourself isn’t a bad idea in order to help keep your motivated. Maybe for you that means you can’t have a cigarette until you pass your next review, or you can’t go out to eat, or you can’t watch TV, go on Facebook or Reddit, or whatever. The point is, you need to feel the sting when you fail your performance review. Because when it really matters, the penalties for failure are going to be far worse. “I can’t pay my rent!” is pretty much the worse spot to be in when you’re independent – and an infinitely harder one to climb back out of.

Humor us and try it. Honestly, brutally, role-play an evaluation of yourself at the end of each and every day for a week. Probably half of the people we recommend this to think it’ll help at the start; they all do at the end.

Eventually, you’ll realize that when you fail to live up to your potential, it’s not that you’re worried about losing out on some little thing like eating out or missing a favorite show. You’re scared to look yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and honestly admit that your efforts were far short of what they could have been.

Having a strong work ethic is nothing more than understanding your own potential and feeling rightly disappointed in yourself when you fail to live up to it. Once you’re honest with yourself about what you can achieve, and once you train yourself to give a full effort every day, you’ll see the results on your bottom line.