Do You Want to be Your Own Boss?

I've heard blind people give advice that in today's job market, starting your own business is a viable option. And, it is, but most people fail to see the reality of going at it alone. I run a freelance copywriting business outside of my day job. It keeps me afloat when our federal government shuts down, and I have to go to work without getting paid. I figure maybe one day I'll grow old and retire from catching bad people, but when that day comes, I had better be prepared to make a smart transition.

Here's a blog post I previously wrote for my freelance blog:

Self-employment looks appealing for someone who wants to quit a job they hate. Working for yourself, however, does not mean total, or instant, freedom. Being the boss will put you in direct contact with the obligations from which you were once shielded.

As a self-employed entrepreneur you will need to work twice as hard to enjoy the benefits you had as someone else's employee. You will need to pay for your own health and life insurance, account for your full share of taxes, cultivate your own retirement plan, and cover your own vacation and sick leave. We haven't even begun touching on the expense of day-to-day operations. Working for someone else generally means you will have a steady check and benefits even in slow months. If you cannot meet the obligations of maintaining a business with enough money left over to pay yourself, you are probably not ready to fly solo.

The idea that you can be your own boss is something of a mirage. Someone outside of your control will always call the shots. If your clients aren't satisfied, your clients won't buy your product or service. True, you can pick and choose the assignments you take, but you don't get a complete picture of what it is like to work for someone until you've actually started working for them. Trust me; you will eventually wind up working with people far worse than the supervisor you thought you hated.

Are you prepared to stake your reputation on resolving conflicts with difficult customers? Working for someone else means personal differences can generally be kept within a department or within the company. Working for yourself, however, means you are the company, and the negative repercussions of personal differences could taint the customer base you serve. Word of mouth is just as good at destroying as it is at promoting.

But, you say, I am a creative type whose only boss is my mind!

Can you feel me patting your head?

There is a difference between doing something as a hobby and doing something to make a living. Even authors who spend hours working on the next bestseller are beholden to their readers to keep the royalties flowing. If readers aren't buying what you have to say, it's going to be a while before you can enjoy the flexibility of writing from a balcony overlooking a sun-swept beach.

Given all my negativity, you may have gotten the impression that I am against your dream to start your own venture. On the contrary, I am squarely in your corner, but I despise marketers who make it seem as though the only key ingredient to successful self-employment is desire. You need time, talent, and the tenacity to persevere when the chips are down, because more than 90% of businesses fold in the first five years.

Tips for Preparing for the Plunge

  • Think about the kind of work you can still see yourself doing in ten years.
  • Network inside and outside of your current job to learn your trade and identify potential customers.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open for partners or contractors who can help lift your business idea.
  • Keep your day job and work for a couple clients after hours to get a taste for self-employment.
  • Start putting money aside that could sustain you for up to a year.
  • Minimize, or outright eliminate, any looming debt that could hurt your credit.
  • Familiarize yourself with the tasks you enjoy doing and those tasks you would rather outsource.
  • Do not leave your current job under negative terms; your boss could be an asset.
  • Expect the unexpected. If you’re injured and can’t work, who will pick up the slack?

Self-employment is an exciting prospect. There is something appealing about setting your own schedule, determining your own worth, and having something to show for your hard work, but that's just it. Going into business for yourself full-time means raw determination.


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