So You Want to Be Self-Employed?

I have been “blissfully” self-employed for more than eight years now, having left corporate boardrooms and office politics behind in favor of writing, editing and Web development. I am routinely asked by friends, colleagues, clients, and mere acquaintances about taking the leap to self-employment: “Would I do it again?” “What about job security?” “Isn’t it a lot of work?” and “Do I ever think I’ll go back?”Below I share my answers, hoping you’ll find value in the responses–or at least a little food for thought.Q: “DO I EVER THINK I’LL GO BACK?”A: This is the easiest to answer. No. I have no intention of ever going back to corporate America, of ever being someone else’s employee. I value my independence and “freedom” too much. In fact, having tasted the fruits of self-employment, I don’t think I could go back even if I wanted to.Q: “ISN’T IT A LOT OF WORK?”A: Anyone out there who is now or has been self-employed knows that being “your own boss” is hard work and that being successful takes tremendous self-discipline. After all, you decide when you get up in the morning just how productive and motivated you are going to be. And if you’re like me, you are the toughest boss you’ve ever had! When you’re self-employed, there is no escaping the boss’s “wrath” . . . ever!If I had tried my hand at self-employment 10 or 15 years ago, I doubt I would have been as successful. Back then I lacked the self-discipline and self-confidence that comes with maturity–the self-discipline and confidence I now have–and that’s so necessary for even moderate success. So while it is a lot of work, it’s a good, healthy kind of work.That said, you still need to know when to reward yourself with a late morning wake-up or an early afternoon break. These are all energizing activities that clear the mind and reinvigorate the spirit–unlike all those former energy drains that came from office politics, working to “please the boss,” and figuring out how you could leave 15 minutes early to make your son’s little league game.Q: “WHAT ABOUT JOB SECURITY?”A: I’ve never felt more financially secure than I do now. I rely on my skills, my abilities, and my desire to do good work and provide value to clients–all things totally within my control–to sustain my success. Back in the corporate world I may have “felt” secure, but looking back I now realize my vulnerability. My security depended on the company’s profit margin, period. Granted, I could positively affect that margin by doing good work, but at the end of the day the board and investors ultimately controlled my destiny. On a daily basis–whether I knew it or not–I was always only one downsizing or reorganization away from the unemployment line. Security was an illusion.Try looking at it another way: who are you more at ease with controlling your destiny–you or an employer who doesn’t always have your best interests in mind? Q: “WOULD I DO IT AGAIN?”A: You bet. Becoming self-employed has been extremely invigorating and liberating for me, personally and professionally. My time is more flexible. Working at home, I get to spend more time with my family and be more a part of my children’s lives. Professionally, I am able to “sculpt” the perfect job for me in terms of what projects I take on, with whom I work, and under what terms. This leads to a more varied and interesting work life and the opportunity to meet and work with lots of interesting people–all of which are important to me. Self employment even gave me the time and energy to write my first novel!MY TWO CENTSShould you find yourself at a career crossroads, sit down and think hard and long about your skills and your personal goals and values. Most likely, there’s a way you can apply this “package” to a self-employment opportunity and become part of one of the largest growing segments of the American economy.Granted, it’s not for everybody, but it can be that simple!

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