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Is Self-Employment a Smart Career Move?
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.