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Is Self-Employment a Smart Career Move?

Updated on September 9, 2008
Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom is a keen observer of life. She shares her personal experiences and opinions in helpful and often amusing ways.

Believe In Your Skills & Yourself!

I've been in business for myself since 2002. Before that, running my own business seemed overwhelming, impossible. Trust me. If I can do it, YOU can do it!

I have never been one of those people who knew what she wanted out of life and swashed through any obstacle to obtain it. I was a slow learner with a ridiculously high pain tolerance. It took me 20+ years of working to figure out that:

a) Working for other people makes me crazy, and

b) I didn't have to work for someone else. I could make money and have a saner, much more balanced life working for myself.

The good news is, once I finally figured it out, I jumped into my new work life with total abandon. Much like skinny dipping in an icy lake, it's a huge shock to the system, but once you get used to it, it's exhilerating.

Looking back on my career working for other people, it's clear to me (finally!) that I never was cut out for the corporate world. I tried my best to to sing along with the beat, but I was tone deaf to the workplace around me. I knew what I liked to do and wanted to do was write. I just needed the courage to believe in myself.

Your motivation for starting your own business might be totally different. You may have a unique concept that you can't wait to share with the world (and make a lot of money from!). You may have a skill that's easily transferred to a home office. And/or, you may be at a time in your life where taking control of your work life just makes sense. If you're thinking about taking the plunge yourself, here are some things to consider.

What I Gained, Lost and Found From Going Out On My Own

As in all Mighty Mom hubs, I use my own experience as the example. I left behind a high profile job as marketing director for a major law firm.

As I see it, the major gains I received:

Flexibility -- I can work when I want, where I want, wearing what I want. It's not uncommon for me to compose at 11 pm in my pajamas or spend the afternoon working wireless from a coffee shop. I don't have to be at work at 8 or stay until 5. There is no such thing as "face time" to put in!

This flexibility has really come in handy dealing with family emergencies. If something comes up, I can simply close the office and not cost myself a sick or vacation day. (Of course, there is no such thing as paid vacation of sick time, but I try not to think of it that way!)

Control of My Pricing -- Being my own boss, I set my own "salary" and give myself frequent raises. Actually, that's not true at all:-). I set my fees, but my bids have to be accepted by the client. And it's up to me to stay within the quoted price with my hours.

The major tradeoffs:

Benefits -- Today, from my desk on the other side of the fence, I have a better perspective on my years as an employee. I truly never appreciated the value of employee benefits like health and dental insurance until I had to pay them 100% out of pocket. Ouch!

Perks -- My employers paid my associaton dues and attendance at luncheons, conferences, etc. Now that those things come directly out of my bottom line, I think hard before signing up. Other perks I miss include box seats at sporting events, Christmas parties and summer BBQs and of course, those nice end--of-year bonuses.

Instant Comeraderie -- There is no water cooler at my house to exchange the latest gossip. I don't have colleauges dropping by my office at 11 am suggesting lunch or drinks after work. On the other side of the coin, I don't have any office politics to deal with, either!

What I've learned:

Working for yourself takes self-discipline. It's easy to become distracted with household chores, hobbies, even TV or Internet surfing. It's essential to stay focused. If you don't, you won't make money.

Working for yourself can be lonely. If your work is solitary (like mine), you have to plan for and make a real effort to stay connected with clients and colleagues.

Working for yourself expands your skill set. As a writer, words come easily (well, most of the time!). But the administrative and financial aspects of running my business take work. I've learned to live with the concept of "cashflow" instead of "salary" and paying my taxes quarterly instead of having them magically taken out of my paycheck. If you have a hard time dealing with uncertainty (especially financial uncertainty), self-employment can be challenging.

Working for yourself spoils you for ever going back to work for someone else! I am truly grateful to all the employers who helped me along my career path. Without them, I would never have built up the skills, contacts and experience to be where I am now.

To be honest, there are days I fantasize about the "perks" I gave up and months when I crave the regularity of a paycheck. But I just pull on my PJs, turn on my laptop, and get to work, knowing that 100% of my efforts are benefitting me and my family. And any thoughts of working for someone else soon disappear.

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    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley Marks 

      8 years ago from California

      These days, working for oneself is definitely the way to go, providing, of course, that you can make enough money to pay for things such as health insurance. Talk about - OUCH! I'm still hoping to go in that direction at some point, perhaps blogging. Is that what you do? Anyway, I like that you change your picture often. Your style is exemplary, babe. Later!

    • wsp2469 profile image

      wsp2469 

      8 years ago from Alta Loma, Ca

      The trouble with working for yourself is some people STILL end up working for an @sshole!

      Sorry.

      I just couldn't resist.

      (Why do you think I'M not my own boss, huh?)

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hooray for your courage! I hope you prove your husband wrong. I wish you all the best with your life post-mid-life-change. Know you'll do great here on HP. Welcome! MM

    • profile image

      terrimak 

      9 years ago

      Love it, Might Mom. Experiencing what I so affectionately refer to as my "mid-life change", I quit my job (against my husband's wishes) and am pursuing two avenues of love - working from home with my own business and, writing.

      I find it encouraging and can relate to the ambvilent feeling when cash is an issue. So I have a part-time job I just started a few weeks ago to keep something coming in.

      Love the blog.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hello MPM, Thanks for visiting! This was one of the first hubs I wrote when I joined HP. These days, I am not sure if being self-employed is a good thing or a bad thing. I guess there are ALWAYS pluses and minuses to any situation.

      Glad you are here in our virtual writers' community. You will thrive here, I know. See where the muse takes you. And thanks for your comment. MM

    • manlypoetryman profile image

      manlypoetryman 

      9 years ago from (Texas !) Boldly Writing Poems Where No Man Has Gone Before...

      Really, Really Liked this hub...and hope that I could too...someday be self-employed! I have the drive...just blank on ideas. Writing would be great! I can see where the "Instant Comeraderie" found at the workplace...could be a big loss. Otherwise...I've never had fantastic benefits. Though...any help on a group health insurance plan...is a benefit. That...and a regular paycheck. I'll push on with the idea though...with this Hub as good guide...Thanks, MM!

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 

      9 years ago from malang-indonesia

      As a self employment, we have to focus.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      I hear ya! But usually by the time our parents start shrinking, they're losing all kinds of other physical abilities, too. They'll be the first to point it out. Meantime, I agree. Mum's the word on Mum's height:-)!!

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 

      9 years ago from London

      "LondonGirl. That's neat. Just wait till your Mom gets a little older and she starts shrinking, tho. LOL."

      The wise woman would keep quiet about that around my darling Mama (-:

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Yeah, that is a real concern in being self-employed. Your boss could be wonderful, tolerant, understanding and supportive -- or could turn out to be even worse than your last boss. LOL.

    • rockinjoe profile image

      Joseph Addams 

      9 years ago from Standing right behind you!

      You brought up a good point about benefits and perks. It seems like every dime I pull in now goes to the healthcare, but at least I haven't got some idiot breathing down the back of my neck or calling me with nonsense all day long.

      Now I'm that idiot-and I love it.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      St. James, your new business sounds wonderful. I believe anything that comes from the heart and is altruistic in nature is worth doing. I wish you much success. I also hope that where you live there is an equivalent of our 'Nonprofit Resource Center" which is a godsend of a resource for our community. Best of luck. Keep us posted through hubs on your progress!

      LondonGirl. That's neat. Just wait till your Mom gets a little older and she starts shrinking, tho. LOL.

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 

      9 years ago from London

      My mother's proud of the fact that, at 5 ft 8, she's taller than all three of her daughters.

    • St.James profile image

      St.James 

      9 years ago from Lurking Around Florida

      Thanks for the Hub. I've always been on the crest of hierarchy in business. But lately I've been working on a business that would be a non-profit organization that would include art, and creativity in a healing environment. I think it just may work.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      That makes perfect sense! As mothers (the most importent "self-employed" job in the universe) our babies will always be our babies. Still, it's pretty unsettling the day someone who popped out of you stands a head taller and looks DOWN into Mom's eyes!

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 

      9 years ago from London

      My son's only 3, still a baby (-:

      Mind you, my mother calls her youngest, my bruv, her baby, and he's a 6 ft 3 23 year old!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks, LondonGirl! I see we think alike in terms of avatars with our young boys (although that photo is ancient -- mine's now almost 17). I cannot imagine going back to work for someone else -- I'm so spoiled!

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 

      9 years ago from London

      Interesting hub!As a barrister at the independent Bar, I'm self-employed, we all are. It's a way of life you get used to, and has definite benefits!

    • profile image

      pgrundy 

      9 years ago

      Amen!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Fear is debilitating and paralyzing. And yes, for us, very dangerous. Faith is a choice I have to make like every five minutes. It's good to have one hour a day where fear is not creeping into my head and I can be reminded how to live in faith. The people of western Pennsylvania may have their guns and church, I have my meetings and readings. Any port in an economic storm!

    • profile image

      pgrundy 

      9 years ago

      Thanks MM! I actually need to get back around to see Bill again--it's been awhile, and even though it's going on eight years now, this one really knocked me on my ass and I don't want to take any chances. What scares me is that things are getting so dicey for me and my other Bill (the one who actually lives here) that I really am very afraid. I realized that yesterday, I'm scared. The economy is a mess, there are very few jobs, and I'm not exactly Norma Rae even on my best day, and this isn't my best day. Scared is not really a good place to be for people like us, so now that I have some time on my hands maybe I should cough up that dollar on a more regular basis. Thanks for your encouragement and Happy New Year to you!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Oh PGrundy, I guess God brings us to the hubs we need to see when we need to see them. This was actually one of the first ones I wrote (possibly the first). I read (and commented on) your LAW hub earlier. And I forget exactly which of our brilliant hubber friends said it, but I have absolute faith that your book will be a HUGE hit and will launch you into the career you are meant to be in -- acclaimed author!

      Yes, "fake it till you make it" is a good mantra. I employ it often, when confronted with situations I have no clue how to handle. Faith is not just for personal lives, is it?

      I'm here and happy to share what little I know anytime. 2009 WILL be better. MM

    • profile image

      pgrundy 

      9 years ago

      This is great and so perfectly timed. I just finished writing a job horror hub this morning and I'm still in a state of emotional hangover from it, and seriously considering letting go of outside employment and stepping up to the plate a little more vigorously with the freelancing. I checked out your Mighty Pen website quite a long while ago and was so impressed and intimidated. Your site is so professional my first thought was, God, I suck. But then I realized I don't suck, not really, I'm just approaching freelancing as if it were a hobby instead of a career, and that maybe I could learn from you. Believe it or not I was thinking about you today, as I recover from my last sh*t job, and then here this hub appears.

      Thank you so much. You are such an inspiring example of professionalism in what can be a very weird field. I will be watching you MM and fakin' it til I make it.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi Ed, Thanks for visiting. I wrote this hub when I first started on HP. Economic conditions were not yet what they are now. These days, everyone needs to get a little more creative in their thinking about how to earn a living. I also feel strongly that now is the time for people to pull together and help each other -- that is what made America originally and we have gotten too far away from it.

      I appreciate your comment and will take a look at your stuff when I get a chance. I wish you every success in 2009. MM

    • profile image

      Ed Clements 

      9 years ago

      Hi Mighty Mom I enjoyed your article about self employed, I wish i could make it happen again, I failed at the first attempt, in trucking, well it started out great for a about 6 months and then died on me like an under feed frog in a cage--lol you know what I mean, right? Well I'm not a writer by any means but I try hard to keep the attention of my scoped visitors of my web pages, i offer a self help for people that had some hard times with credit, real estate and mortgage brokers, and I offer my articles free to read about no charge to the readers. well maybe you will go to my link and reply about my web site as to how I wrote it, that would be nice, I need a good pointer or so from someone who knows more than I. thank you and have a great day.

      Ed Clements

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      10 years ago from New Zealand

      Benefits: you don't have to get dressed until midday! You can work until middnight and take the morning off. You never have to deal with an idiot boss ever again! Why did it take me 20 years too to figure it out?

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      10 years ago from California Gold Country

      You did a good job of covering the pros and cons. In most cases I would think you can count savings on clothes and gasoline to also be a plus.

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