Is Self-Employment for You?

I am considering self-employment. When your clients are exploring working for themselves are there steps you recommend? Why do you think self-employment works for you? What factors should I consider?

A. The factors you should consider are your work ethic, your comfort with failure, family history of self-employment, and resiliency during adversity.

There is a lot of research on what makes people successful at self-employment. Surprisingly, if someone in your family is competently self-employed you have a better chance of succeeding. Turns out observing what makes self-employment work provides a wealth of strategies.

Another factor is your comfort with feeling inadequate, failing, and not having answers. Self-employment requires constant learning, lots of failure, and a willingness to stare at problems without answers for long periods of time.

If you want other people to tell you what to do or structure your time, you’ll hate self-employment. Running your own business means you can do anything you want. The freedom that you sink or swim on your own efforts is both liberating and terrifying.

If you stay in self-employment for many years, the industry will change, and you will have to change. If change is a dirty word in your vocabulary, continue to work for others.

Turns out what doesn’t matter is a business plan or a degree in marketing or business. You will have to be a jack of all trades. You will read IRS bulletins, learn sales, accounting, and legal issues mostly by making mistakes. If you love learning you will love self-employment.

Passion and delight in what you do is a critical factor. If you adore what you do, then you get two paychecks; emotional and financial. Also, customers flock to self-employed people who truly enjoy what they do. True passion in business is always rare and provides the secret sauce to success.

Consider your own preferences in who you work with. There are lots of businesses that offer a product or service. But, wouldn’t you prefer to work with someone that truly knows, loves, and cares about providing that product or service?

The reason self-employment works for me is there was no job where I could integrate my love of writing, corporate training, public speaking, therapy, personal growth, vibrant health, and enlightenment. When I realized the want ads would never offer this job, I created my business. My business is also my favorite sandbox to play in.

At one point, after 20 years in business, I took a month sabbatical and traveled with my family through Tahiti. One of my questions was what part of my work is me and what part is what I do? I discovered as I was traveling that I interacted with people I met helping them resolve conflict, discover themselves, and improve their quality of life. For me leaving people better than I found them, in practical ways, is who I am and not just what I do.

No career is perfect. Both self-employment and working for others can be enjoyable. Start by answering the question of who you are. Then decide how to structure your work. Your best work ultimately means matching the career you do with who you are when you are simply being in the world.

The last word(s)

Q. I work with a guy who is both stupid and won’t shut up. Is there a reason the least talented people have the most to say?

A. Yes, as Elbert Hubbard, writer, observed, “Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.” People that lack humility offer little but annoyance to others.


(Article written by Daneen Skube)