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?
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-Kali @ PF Pro