Although my self-employment experiment only lasted for about four months last summer, I can relate to a lot of the issues that self-employed people face every day: loneliness, only getting paid when you work and so forth. I like doing a mix of both but in a few years who knows where my feelings will lie. Today, PF Pro contributor, Kali Hawlk takes a look at what it’s like being self-employed and how exactly do you stay motivated on those days when you’d rather not work?
Today is one of those days where the only thing I want to do is grab a book I’m reading, make a cup of tea, and make a blanket fort to crawl into and hide from the world like I did when I was a kid.
But unfortunately, when you’re the boss of a small digital business, that’s not an option. Not if you want to keep making money, that is.
There are a lot of business-related fires to put out right now, but I’m tired and it’s cold outside, and a small part of me feels jealous of people who work as employees in someone else’s business.
Every day, I get to make a choice. I can work hard and keep hustling… or I can wander off and go play all day. I’ll be honest with you: I completely underestimated how difficult it is to stay self-motivated and self-driven when you work for yourself out of your own home. The responsibility and the pressure to perform is tiring, to say the least. Some self-employed days I feel powerful and successful. Other days I feel like I’m hanging on to a runaway freight train and it’s all I can do to keep from falling off.
To be sure, this whiny, woe-is-me confession is not my finest self-employed moment. But in making it, I’m reminded why I choose self-employment again and again.
When the Going Gets Tough…
Before I worked for myself, I would spend all day at my desk in my day job dreaming about the day I would be free from an office, from someone else’s schedule, from doing work that left me uninspired and bored. I didn’t understand when other people said things like, “I can’t imagine being self-employed!” I couldn’t understand why.
Sure, I knew about the downsides. I wasn’t totally naive, and I knew that with every pro there was a con. But I firmly believed the cons were worth dealing with.
I do still think that, but actually being self-employed has given me a new appreciation for why this path isn’t for everyone. It’s tough and it’s hard and it’s a never-ending list of to-dos that need to be to-done.
Self-employment gets tough when you think about some of the following:
- Being 100% responsible for your work; you’re the boss, which means you’re in charge of everything.. including in charge of delivering what you promise to your clients and customers!
- A lack of benefits given to you by someone else. No employer-provided health care and a lack of a shared tax burden definitely make self-employment harder, but I’d argue no such thing as paid time off can be even more difficult to deal with. If you’re not working, you’re not making money.
- Figuring out “what’s next.” There’s no one else to tell you what the next step is once you’re up and rolling, and it’s up to your own intelligence, ingenuity, goals, and drive to help you figure out what to do next to sustain your business, scale it up, or try new things within it.
There are other downsides, too. You have to make enough to cover your own expenses and savings (no employer match in your 401k here), and your take-home money too. You have to deal with difficult people from time to time. You have to figure out how to hire contractors. You might need to figure out how to fire them. You need to make sure your job is sustainable, or at least have Plan B ready to deploy at all times should things go south.
The list goes on.
And despite all of this, and despite days like today where I’m frustrated, confused, tired, and just plain over it… I know I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to do work I love every single day. To be the boss and play by my own rules. To work in an environment that makes me happy, with people I like and admire, doing tasks that both challenge me and constantly help me learn and improve.
Why I Choose Self-Employment — Every Time!
For me, the benefits of working for yourself outweigh the negatives. Undoubtedly, that opinion is colored by bad experiences in working for other people and businesses. (Many of the people I know who aren’t interested in self-employment have excellent positions as employees — whereas my jobs were always pretty crummy.)
But I know it’s also because I’m well suited for self-employment and I appreciate all the opportunities I have now that simply don’t exist when you’re a corporate minion stuck in a cubicle.
I love being able to make decisions that allow me to directly (and positively) affect my income, for example. I don’t wait around for a raise to be handed out like a favor — I get out there and I hustle if I want to earn more money. That direct correlation between how hard I work and how much money I make is fantastic.
I also feel more financially secure knowing that my income is diversified and comes from a variety of sources, not just one. No, I don’t know exactly how much I’ll make in a given month. But I know that I can lose a gig or a client and I’ll be okay. I can lose several and I’ll keep surviving.
If I lost my paycheck from my old job? That would be very much not good, because it was my single source of income. I choose self-employment because it offers me a way to diversify the way I make money.
(And, by the way, you don’t need to be full-time self-employed to enjoy these financial benefits. These are some of the reasons I believe everyone needs a side hustle!)
Self-employment also allows me to diversify my skill set. I can try something new anytime, and I’m much more motivated to learn when I get to decide A. what to learn about and B. how to put that new knowledge to work for me. Working for myself has, by necessity and by desire, allowed me to become a more rounded, versatile worker.
And it just suits my personality better, to be honest. I’m not good at following rules or directions. I question everything (especially authority). I like working by myself or a small team that I chose. I’m also introverted and shy, and need time to myself.
I’m not saying these are the world’s best personality traits, but they are characteristics that thrive in an environment where I get to work how and when I choose. Which is, of course, one of the biggest self-employment perks out there: the ability to set your own schedule work around energy levels, not office hours.
Even my toughest days as a self-employed, solo biz owner feel better to me than an average day in someone else’s office. There may be some downsides and drawbacks, but I’ll continue to choose self-employment as my preferred way to work.
What about you? Are you more comfortable working as an employee or do you prefer the freedom and flexibility of self-employment?
Track All Your Accounts With Personal CapitalPersonal Capital lets you see all of your accounts in one convenient place. Sign up now for free.
-Kali @ PF Pro
I definitely prefer the freedom and flexibility of self-employment. I don’t think I could ever go back to working for someone else, and I actually have nightmares on some nights where I am working at my old day job. AHH! 🙂
Kali Hawlk says
I definitely couldn’t work a traditional 9 to 5 again, that’s for sure!
Erin @ Journey to Saving says
I can absolutely relate to your opening! These past few weeks have been a little more difficult for me, and I caught myself wondering where I would be had I chosen to get a regular full-time job. I also gravely underestimated just how much drive and motivation one needs when working from home, and on their own business. But I’m grateful to have such a valuable experience!
Kali Hawlk says
It really does take a lot of energy to keep yourself motivated — even when it’s work you enjoy!
Another great thing about freelancing is the flexibility you have.
Kali Hawlk says
Definitely, I appreciate the freedom to set my own schedule and work around various things.
Thomas @ i need money ASAP! says
Self employment sounds great. I’d love to be self employed! But I totally understand the drawbacks. Being self motivated isn’t easy but I think it would work well for me 🙂
Um…Thomas…being self employed is often the best way to build long term wealth.
Harry Campbell says
I don’t know if I agree with that. You can build a ton of long term wealth working in STEM or a similar type field. Start off at $60k income at age 22, save 50% of your income, build multiple sources of income, invest in real estate, stocks, etc and you’ll be sitting pretty by age 30 and probably even in the top 1%. Just do the math 🙂
I like being a freelancer and I don’t dream of going back to being employed again. Being free from the boss and working any time from anywhere is the greatest freedom I enjoy. Of course you have to keep self motivation and finding new ways of earning, but I always take that as a challenge.
Kali Hawlk says
I feel the same way! 🙂
Pram Finance says
With self-employmet, you will decide which days you work and for how many hours per day and the best part is you will not have someone watching over you anymore. Since there is the potential to make a lot more money when you are self employed, you can ultimately take more time off down the line.