I think a lot of people have the dream of someday owning their own business. However, I think it’s also fair to say that most people don’t necessarily want to own their own business, but instead want to be their own boss. The difference, and what I mean by this is that most people don’t really say “I have always just wanted to own my own car shop”, or maybe they do but what they really mean is “I like working on cars, and would rather spend my time doing that instead of going into my job everyday working for someone else.” They want to be able to do the things they like and have the freedom to work when they want and make their own hours. Now this is a perfectly valid dream to have, I mean who wouldn’t want that. But that is exactly what that is, a dream. As someone who has both worked for a major corporation and owned their own business, I wanted to take some time and describe what it was like from both sides, The pros and cons, and when I think it is a good idea to go for it.
Work Life Balance
I think the biggest misconception about owning your own business is the freedom you have in your life to do what you want. As I said, I have worked a corporate job, both white and blue collar, and I have never worked as many hours as when I owned my own business. Honestly, especially when I was just starting out, it felt like I was working constantly.
Which brings me to my next point, that a specified amount of working hours is severely underrated. When you are working for a company and you are either done with your hours or tasks for the day, you are effectively done. Even if you still answer email or something, it’s still not the same, you have time to “check out”. In my experience that is not what working for yourself is like.
With a company you are essentially guaranteed a paycheck, but on your own, you are the one making your own hours and if you don’t work you don’t make any money. So, you feel compelled to keep working. And if you aren’t working you feel like you should be. There are no paid days off or vacation time. You’re either working or you’re not, and that makes it hard to turn it off and just relax.
All of this is to say, if you want to quit your job and work for yourself because you think you’ll have some much more free time, don’t do it. You’ll most likely end up working more than you ever did.
Doing What You Like
This is more a cautionary tale, hopefully shedding some light on the realities of working for yourself. Let’s keep the same example I used above with the car shop, because you just love working on cars. Well, I hate to break it to you, but most of your time won’t be spent working on cars.
When you’re starting out, you can expect for every hour you spend doing your “service” you will be putting in three to market and find clients to actually provide that service for. Add to that now you have to know about Taxes, finances, the internet and everything that entails, deal with pissed off people all the time, and probably battle some legal issues. Now I’m not saying don’t pursue what you love, especially if you hate what you currently do. I firmly believe that everyone should pursue what they are passionate about and life is all about taking risks. However, unless you are passionate about actually owning a business, you are probably better becoming a mechanic for someone else. Maybe in doing this you take a big pay cut and it isn’t worth it to you and you just keep it as a hobby. I don’t know, you’re your own person and have to make your own decisions based on what’s best for you.
The money is a tricky one because it generally depends on what you are doing. If it is something very specialized then you will obviously make more than something that is not, but at the same time that could make contracts harder to come by as well. As a general rule though you can expect to make more as a freelancer/contractor than you would just working for the company, at least when you boil it down to an hourly rate. This is because the company doesn’t have to pay you any benefits or health insurance. However, as I mentioned you still have to account for all the extra work outside of the service you are providing, and all those benefits that the company would have been providing, well you have to pick up that tab now.
In my experience, once/if you don’t have to worry so much about finding clients, and you have a solid, consistent, portfolio – the money is better working for yourself. The key is getting to that stage, and those beginning years where you are constantly trying to find more clients can be pretty lean.
The stress can also be tricky, because some people work very stressful jobs. However, I think the stress is different when working for yourself because it really isn’t so much stress about the job, but making your little business successful. It’s just different. I can’t really say if this is better or not, but what I can say is that it is a stress that, until you have become reasonable successful, doesn’t ever really stop. Again, you aren’t on the clock so you worry about things, with the knowledge that you have to be the one to find the solution and implement it. And if you aren’t working on it, it isn’t going away. That can be hard to turn off.
When You Should Go For It
Now that all the morbidity is out of the way, I wanted to give my perspective on when I think someone should take the risk and go out on their own. And what it really boils down to is what do you really want to do, and how worth it is it to you? And what I mean by this is do you want to do the “service” or do you want to own a business that provides the service, because they are two very separate things. If you really want to not just do the job, but instead think you have a better way to do it or want it be uniquely yours, then I think you should go for it.
Let’s take our car example again. Say you like working on cars and even work as a mechanic, but what you really like doing is working on older cars. You see that the people coming into the shop with older cars can’t always get service, and the older cars aren’t getting the treatment they deserve when they are in there. It’s something you are passionate about, and you are passionate about showing the people who own older cars what they could be getting and what they deserve to have. I would say take the risk and go for it. Life is too short not to follow your passion.
However, there is a proper way to go about it. You wouldn’t want to just up and quite your job and start your own thing out of the blue. That’s what I did and I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead I would recommend starting to build a client base. Start working on older cars on the side while continuing to work in the shop. Once you feel confident you can survive, then branch out on your own. There are obviously a lot of variables to this depending on what you want to do, but it’s an analogy so cut me some slack. The premise still stays the same. Make sure you can support yourself at least a little before you cut all ties to financial stability.
So, if you are truly passionate about being independent and owning something that is uniquely yours. You have the skill set and at least a little bit of a start in the industry. Then go for it. Some risks are worth taking.