5 reasons self-employment works for me and might work for you

An interesting thing has started to happen as a result of the work I’ve done on this blog over the past two+ years. This spring, a few journalists began asking me if they could interview me for stories they’re writing. After three decades of being the one asking the questions in interviews, now suddenly I’m the one having to supply answers instead. Time to put to use the advice I provided in this post, “Media relations: 10 tips for handling media interviews.”

The topic of an interview I did this week might be worth delving into here. I was asked the top reasons why it makes sense to quit a job and become self-employed. While the motivation to sing a chorus of Johnny Paycheck’s classic #1 country hit, “Take This Job and Shove It,” to an employer is different for each person, I think there are some reasons a lot of people have in common. However, instead of looking at these reasons through a negative lens, I’m flipping them around and proposing that they are five good reasons to be self-employed instead of good reasons to quit a job.

1. You can reap the full financial reward of your skills and experience, instead of sharing it with an employer. If your skills lend themselves to self-employment and you have gained enough experience to run a business, it makes sense to go out on your own. Wouldn’t you prefer to get the full value from your skills rather than having to share that with an employer?

Of course, it will take time to grow your business and there are some financial downsides, such as having to pay the full FICA tax and the loss of benefits, but if you’ve thought these things through and feel you’d be happier out on your own, then do it.

2. Being self-employed can offer greater financial stability than being a wage slave. I have survived three recessions and while my income did dip during those times, I never had anyone pull the rug totally out from under me, as has happened with friends in the corporate world, some of whom have lost not only their jobs but their pensions as their employers went bankrupt. Each time I hear of another friend who has been told to hit the bricks, I have thanked my lucky stars this wasn’t going to happen to me.

3. You get to choose your clients. In a prior life at a Boston PR firm, I had some clients I loved but others who I thought were either just not very nice people or whose business practices were a little shady. Spending my time and skills helping such people get their names plastered all over the media didn’t sit well with me. But, of course, telling my boss, “Hey, that client is sleazy; I don’t want to work with him,” was not an option. Based on this experience, the freedom to pick and choose my clients has been one of the biggest upsides of self-employment for me.

4. Ethical issues are not a problem. In my very first job at what was then one of the big eight accounting firms, I witnessed a huge ethical lapse by one of the management consultants I worked for. He was charging for hours that he had not worked on a project our firm was doing for the Massachusetts Department of Employment Security. As the keeper of the timesheets, I was the one who first became aware of this fraud. I was the lowest person on the totem pole, so I agonized over what to do. The guy had a family and I didn’t want him to lose his job but what he was doing just wasn’t right. Finally I spoke to one of the other consultants and, in the end, the guy did end up being fired. When you’re self-employed, you don’t have to grapple with such ethical lapses because you are in charge of everything, including the ethics practiced by your firm.

5. You can be your own control freak instead of being controlled by someone else. My last boss was a control freak. Her way was the only way anything should be done. I’ve never dealt well with authority, so this didn’t sit well with me and it was at the top of the list of reasons I left. But flip this around: if you want to be a control freak yourself, then self-employment is for you! Aside from client deadlines (which sometimes can be in conflict), I control just about everything about my business. I decide who to work for, what types of projects I will pursue, my hours, my billing rates, etc., etc., etc. Color me happy.

2 comments

  1. Mike Russell says:

    Love your list, and totally agree with all of them. Especially the choosing your clients. Not all customers are created equal. Some are not worth the investment.

  2. jamie says:

    great work

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