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Why I have to work for myself

Updated on November 25, 2012
Pcunix profile image

I was born in 1948 and spent most of my career as a self employed computer trouble shooter for Unix systems.

There are any number of reasons that people would choose working for themselves over traditional employment. Many might think that the most common reason might be to earn more money. While earning more certainly is a possibility with self employment, I suspect that for most of us, that's not the most important reason and may not even make the top ten.


I could have made much more money working for someone else. I know that because I have been traditionally employed in my field and did make more money. Quite a bit more, in fact.

Even though I'm now 62, an age where employment can sometimes become difficult, I probably still could get offers that would exceed what I earn on my own.

I don't care one bit.


Being able to pick and choose your working hours is often possible for the self employed, and can be a major attraction. When my wife and I want to take time off, we just do it. If it's a perfect day, we can just hop in the car and go. We don't need to ask anyone, we don't have to check to see how many vacation days we have left, we just take the time.

Of course emergencies can interfere. I'm a sole proprietor, a one man shop, a lone wolf. If a customer is in desperate need, I'll have to cancel our plans. But that seldom happens and if it does, so what? There will be other beautiful days where we can skip out on work.

If you have other responsibilities like child care or a disabled spouse, if you have transportation issues or other problems that can interfere with work, traditional employers can be very unsympathetic. Your clients might get annoyed now and then, but they generally have far more acceptance of your schedule.

If you are only available a few hours a week, that's better than not being able to work at all - some income is far better than none.  If those hours vary constantly, working for yourself is far better than having to bargain with an employer who doesn't want to work around your schedule.

Doing what you love

And loving what you do.  I really enjoy my work.  Yes, I could find the same enjoyment working for someone else, but an employer is always free to change your job description.  For example, I once worked for a Sun Unix reseller.  I was hired to do tech support for Sun and SCO Unix systems, but I ended up also doing Windows support.   I can do Windows, but I don't like it.  

I still have to do a little Windows work while working for myself, but I get to control how much of it I am willing to put up with.  If I find I'm doing too much, I just drop a customer or two.  

Enjoying your customers

I sometimes pass opportunities to other people.  Maybe I'm busy, maybe it is something I just don't want to do, maybe I feel I lack the necessary skills to do the work.  

I had passed off several small jobs to a local guy and when I called him again he commented something like "Gee, all your customers are so darn NICE!".

Yeah.  They are.   Because I got rid of all the ones who were not.

The School of Hard Knocks

Traditional education doesn't matter all that much in the computer support field, so my having dropped out of school at the age of sixteen was never a particular disadvantage, but it certainly could be in other occupations.

Unless you are planning to be a doctor, lawyer or something else like that, lack of formal education may be a very good reason to work for yourself.  Your customers often don't care what degrees you have on your wall if you can solve their problems and provide reliable service.

I earned every gray hair on my head

Well, actually I don't have very many.  Not yet, anyway.   I do see them land in my lap when I get a haircut, and they do shine a bit when the sun is strong, but otherwise you might not notice.  They are there though, and yes, I earned them.

If you are of a similar age, traditional employers may see you more as a liability than an asset.  You could drive up their health insurance costs and you might just get sick of working right after they poured a lot of money into training you.  There are laws against age discrimination, but we all know they are ignored.   Older people can have a hard time getting hired.

As a self employed person, your age and experience is likely to be seen only as an asset.  You are one of the "been there, done that" guys, and that can be very attractive to potential clients.  

Pull in that belt

In lean economic times, you can be a model employee and still get laid off. You are expendable and you may be expended if times get tough.

When you work for yourself, you are quite literally the very last person who is going to lose their job.

In bad times, you can lose customers, but you are unlikely to lose them all. Half a paycheck can be a heck of a lot better than no paycheck.


I'm pretty healthy, but I have had some odd fainting episodes and I have also been told that I have a good chance of going blind someday because of severe astigmatism. These things make me really want to grab as much enjoyment out of life NOW as a possibly can. I am not interested in someday - there may never be a someday.

Captain of your fate

For me, this is the primary reason I work for myself. I do not like taking orders from other people.

Yeah, sure, part of it is that I'm one of those "resisting authority" types. I tend to bristle up if you try to tell me what to do. But that's only part of it.

I want to make the decisions.

It's not that I think I'm better at it. I know full well that there are plenty of people who could do a far better job at just about anything I do. I don't think my decisions are going to be better than theirs; I know that in many cases my decisions will not be as good.

It's just that if we're going to founder on the rocks, I want to be the one steering the ship.

Yes, someone else might not have steered the ship onto the rocks at all, but that's not the point. Anyone can screw up, anyone can make a mistake. If I'm going to end up in a big financial mess, I don't want to be cursing anyone but myself.

Do you know what stress is? It is being in a situation where you don't have control. The most unhappy people are those who get to make no decisions. That's why we hear so much about "empowerment" for happier and more productive employees. The more of your life you can control, the happier you are.

Of course, trying to take control of a big oil tanker is a little bit different than taking control of a sailboat on a pond. You can bite off much more than you can chew, right? But that is one of the great things about self employment: if you think you can handle that tanker, go for it. If paddling around the duck pond is more your thing, do that. You have the power to make your own choices.

You did what?

By the way, I get a real kick when I'm with a group of people and that "I did it my way" song comes on the radio or TV. A lot of people, especially men, will sing along with that, and they always seem to get real enthusiastic with the chorus: "I did it my-y-y-y- way!"

The heck they did. Most of them took orders from someone else their entire lives. They might have got to go out in a little dinghy now and then, but the Captain was back at the ship telling them which whales to go after. They most certainly did NOT do it their way.

But I have. Because that's the way I am wired: I NEED to do it my way.

So that's it. Money, flexibility, nice, but not really important. Control of my fate, critical. That is why I work for myself.

If you work for yourself, what is the most important reason for you?

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Submit a Comment

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    6 years ago from SE MA

    Heck, the comments are the best part..

  • Karen Hellier profile image

    Karen Hellier 

    6 years ago from Georgia

    Loved this hub, and the comments on it.

  • GmaGoldie profile image

    Kelly Kline Burnett 

    7 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

    Dear Pcunix,

    I have been trying to explain this to my husband for months! Hurray! Great article! Thank you so much!

    I simply love your work and have learned so much from you. You are my number one source for technical info. Please keep hubbing!

  • Writerly Yours profile image

    Writerly Yours 

    7 years ago

    Your hub is exactly what I'm talking about. I love it when you said "I don't care one bit." Classic!

    I bookmarked your hub because I want to make sure i read it every time the naysayers tell me I'm crazy to want to be in business for myself.

    Kudos to you!

    Your words inspire me.

    Thank you. I am now following you as well.

    Voting up!

    Thank you.

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA

    Ayup. BTW, did you find and did it help?

  • snakebaby profile image

    Sabrina Yuquan Chen (陈玉泉) 

    8 years ago from Boston, MA, USA

    Totally agree, feeling the same, though have just started looking, in case I could find a telecommute internet marketing related job, it's all because the bread winner lost his job suddenly. No matter what happens, I won't quit working for myself, writing hubs included :)

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA

    One of my deepest regrets is that I had a "job" as my oldest daughter grew up. I was home much more for our second, seven years later.

    Good luck for you and I am happy that you have found happiness and enrichment.

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA

    Good for you and best of luck!

  • ChrisLincoln profile image


    8 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California

    Good article. After 30 years of working in the system, (and getting discarded with utter disdain) I am not anxious to get back in. My skill set is perhaps harder to market, but the advantages you outline are ones I've already noticed.

    Reassuring read,


  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA

    It has only been since 1983, so it might not work ou.

  • Tim_511 profile image


    8 years ago from Huntington, WV

    Nice article! I have a very small business, but it is more of a sideline, so I still have to do something else. It is always interesting to read about people who work for themselves like you do.

  • Cobrafan profile image


    8 years ago from Nowhere

    Working on your own is amazing. I'm trying to get my own internet marketing thing going but I'm still traditionally employed to pay the bills. When I go home in the evening to work on my own stuff I enjoy it so much more. I can turn on a movie or take a walk if I feel like I'm working too much or I can work harder if I've got nothing else to do. It's nothing like sitting here in a chair all day long, expected to continue working until lunch or quitting time.

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA

    Good luck to you either way.

  • LeanMan profile image


    8 years ago from At the Gemba

    Been in both camps at some time or another trying to support the kids and so on... Everyone just needs the new nintendobox or some such crap and my ex wife spent the money the same way that she used toilet paper....

    Ended up working a day job and running my own bar in the evenings and at the weekend, twice a year I slept...

    All came to nothing, for me anyway, the ex wife very happy in her six bedroom house etc...

    Now working in Saudi Arabia, worst place to be as an employee in my experience but the earnings are good and no tax... The plan - three more years and I will not have to work for anyone else, ever... as long as nothing terrible happens - damn, just lost my job, so that's that plan looking dodgy, either another job in next month or I will be going out there on my own....

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA

    Someone else with the right to sing that song!

  • Allan Douglas profile image

    Allan Douglas 

    8 years ago from Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

    I've been full-time self-employed for almost 12 years. Quite recently I seem to have become self-unemployed, but that's beside the point. The point is that I really don't think I could go back to The Grind again. I'm working at backing the sails to pull back from the rocks and hope she ain't holed below the water line. As you say, I'd rather be at the tiller even if I'm the only one to blame for running aground.


  • Sunnyglitter profile image


    8 years ago from Cyberspace

    Great article! I completely agree.

  • 5institutes profile image


    8 years ago from Nampa, ID

    Great hub! ITA with most of what you said. Glad I found it!

  • happylady profile image


    8 years ago from China

    good hub, we need you tell us why :)

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA

    Well, I hope you get your dream.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    I live every day trying to figure out how to work for myself. I ran through many of the thoughts you have posted above.

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA

    Exactly. Best of luck to you!

  • profile image


    8 years ago from Omaha, NE

    Great hub. In May of '09 I graduated from college and had absolutely no clue what I was going to do. Luckily at that time my dad was starting a new business and needed someone to take charge--me! While that's not completely self-employed, I consider it to be considering he's an entrepreneur and I have absolutely no inclinations to leave the small business world. During the last year+ working, I've realized one critical element of my personality: I want to be in control of my own future ("captain of my fate"). Only got one chance at life, why put others in control of your future?

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA

    I can't argue with that :-)

  • MakeMoneyGoal profile image

    James Flynn 

    8 years ago from Edinburgh

    Great hub and good advice. Voted up! This is why we all do it and what we should all be doing.

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA

    Pretty much. Not always, but pretty much.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    self employment is pretty much living a free life. Great Hub Pcunix

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA

    Good for all of you! I think self employment is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Hello Pc, another great read... and I work for myself because I was laid off 4 months ago and looking for work is the worst kind of work there is... I'm checking out the potential of working for myself as a writer and I love political volunteering, which is another form of looking for work because you aren't getting paid to network through that maize.

    But am I happier than when I worked under tremendous pressure and stress... yes!

  • Denise Roberts profile image

    Denise Roberts 

    8 years ago from Mercer Island, WA

    I completely agree with everything you have written! If I can help it, I will never work for anyone else ever. Love your hub.

  • profile image

    Justin Dupre 

    8 years ago

    Well said.. Control of my fate! Working for yourself is more rewarding in life, you can do what make you happy and enjoy more of what the world has to offer.

  • dawnM profile image

    Dawn Michael 

    8 years ago from THOUSAND OAKS

    yes I would agree, that working for oneself is for me the only way to go but it takes alot of hard work, vision, creativity and so much more, but it yours and you built it yourself....

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA

    Most days :-)

  • Jen's Solitude profile image

    Jen's Solitude 

    8 years ago from Delaware

    I'm glad you were able to do it your way. I find myself enjoying this trip I've taken to the land of freelance writing. I can be sick and not worry about a tight schedule that must be kept.

    My husband will retire soon, having him around when I'm sick is so great. I don't care about the money, I just like having him near. I suspect your wife feels the same about you! :-)

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA

    Ok, that makes more sense :-)

  • Research Analyst profile image

    Research Analyst 

    8 years ago

    Pcunix, Setting a goal to work for yourself and achieving that goal is a good idea for all to learn from and by you sharing your experiences as a business owner it motivate and inspires all us hubbers.

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA

    Good idea??? Story?

    You lost me.

  • Research Analyst profile image

    Research Analyst 

    8 years ago

    Good idea, thanks for sharing your story with us hubbers.

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA


    I'm incredibly normal. Nothing strange or unusual about me!

  • jimmo42 profile image


    8 years ago from Rohr, Germany

    I think the reason you have to work for yourself is simple: you're just too strange to have co-workers!

  • lorlie6 profile image

    Laurel Rogers 

    8 years ago from Bishop, Ca

    Hey Hey! In 2002 I quit a job at a nursery-plants, not kids-and found clearly that the job market had slammed the door on me. I tried and tried, and absolutely NO GO! Lord, I'd worked in the bookselling business most of my life and couldn't get my foot in the door. Really, what better job is there for an old lady?

    Oh, well. I'd still like to work outside the home just to GO somewhere, but for now I'm enjoying the HP thing as if it were a real job...and sometimes it IS!!! :)

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA

    I know - the security of the paycheck keeps people from realizing their dreams. It's real and it is very hard to get out.

    I got lucky. Most of my income was commission from other people. When they all stopped making money, so did I. I wasn't giving up much of anything.

  • ThreeFootHat profile image


    8 years ago from Chicago

    LOL The hat is not very aerodynamic - it could slow me down. ;)

    I think my biggest problem now is time. My schedule changes constantly and I really do work 50+ hours a week. I'm wiped out! And there are too many bills around for me to be able to just quit my job and hope for the best.

    For now, I just keep picking away at this idea and money is slowly starting to come in from other sources, including hubpages! I have a goal in mind and when I reach it I will quit and start working on my own full-time. By then I should (hopefully) know what I'm doing and it won't be such a shock to our finances!

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA

    Not with that hat :-)

    Seriously, why wouldn't you? You are smart, capable - why wouldn't you get there?

  • ThreeFootHat profile image


    8 years ago from Chicago

    I have finally reached a point in my life where I just want to work for myself. I'm tired of all the workplace politics and working on some other person's schedule. Maybe someday I will actually get there!

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA

    I hope you do make it.

    Most actually do. You may have heard statistics about startup failure rates, but they don't tell the whole story. Eventually I will get to that in a hub - maybe this wee!

  • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

    Susan Hazelton 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Working for yourself is a dream that I am working towards making come true. I am so glad you made it. I can totally agree with your reasons. Great hub - great job

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA

    Good for you!

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Pcunix, I can relate to all of this.

    Except for a two-year period, I spent the last 15 years working for myself, as a lone-wolf independent contractor. The perfect scenario for me. No employer, no employees. I'm neither a slave nor a slave driver.

    That two-year period of working for an employer was an eye opener. What is that funny-looking thing on the wall that I'm supposed to shove a card into twice a day? Why must I put up with all this ... uhh, Bravo Sierra ... in the office? Why is my patience totally shot? Should I double up on my medication?

    Got laid off from that gig; the best thing that ever happened to me. Back to running my own operation, being the lone wolf, calling my own shots. At 52 I'm just too cantankerous to operate any other way.

  • Pcunix profile imageAUTHOR

    Tony Lawrence 

    8 years ago from SE MA

    My hair dresser hasn't seen that wig :-)

    She freaks enough about my habit of running my fingers through my hair just after she finishes making it all "perfect" :-)

  • Tony Flanigan profile image

    Tony Flanigan 

    8 years ago from East London, South Africa

    Cool! I'm also doing it my y yy wa a ay, and should have started years ago. BTW, what gray hair? I admire your hairdressers patience and tenacity...


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