Why You're Not Cut Out To Work For Yourself

self employed man working at...

I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was June 2012 and I had just told my boss that I was quitting my job. I wasn't leaving for another company. I wasn't retiring. I was leaving to run my own business.

The feeling was like none other I've ever felt. It was a combination of relief, like having an elephant lifted off my chest, mixed with great excitement. I was in a morally compromising job and had given much thought to leaving. I had wanted to work for myself for years and I now had the opportunity. The business my wife had started almost three years prior was at the point where I could take the plunge to help run it.

I remember the very moment I decided to pull the trigger and fire myself from my desk job. I had applied for job after job without any appealing offers. My wife told me one day, 'if no one is going to give you a chance, maybe it's time to give yourself one.' That was all it took to convince me to take the plunge and I haven't looked back since.

I'm not alone, as there are roughly 10 million self-employed individuals in the U.S. While the life of being self-employed, running your own business, being an entrepreneur or whatever you want to call it might seem like it's an enviable one and it is exhilarating at times, it's not for everyone.

The One Thing They Don't Tell You About

I do love being self-employed. There are perks I enjoy that my cubicle career can't touch. If I want to take a near month long vacation, which I did earlier this year, there is no one I have to clear it with. If I want to take a three hour lunch so I can take my son out to lunch for his birthday I can. Those are things I wouldn't give up for anything.

However, there is one small, yet salient point that many who dream of taking the plunge completely overlook.

It's ALL up to you!

I know it might be difficult to wrap your mind around that, but everything is up to you! Don't believe me? Just take a look at a few of the things you will be responsible for if you go into business for yourself:
  • Bringing in business
  • Healthcare coverage
  • Professional growth and development
  • Invoicing and bookkeeping
  • Hiring and firing any potential staff
That lists only scratches the surface and doesn't include things like the up and down income and loss of benefits like paid vacation or a 401(k) match.

I knew, in my mind at least, that these would be realities I'd have to face before I took the leap, but it's completely different when you see it play out in your life. It's for that reason I've questioned myself as to what the hell I've done numerous times since taking the plunge as the trade-off just doesn't seem worth it at times.

The Late Night Infomercials Lie To You

If you watch late night TV you'll notice a few common themes. One of those themes is the riches you can make through running your own business.

They tell you that you only have to work several hours a week.

They tell you that you'll be jet-setting and drinking mai-tais every other weekend.

They tell you that it can all be automated removing any need to watch over things on your part.

In essence, they glamorize the life of a self-employed individual and in so doing, out and out lie to you. If running your own business were that simple everyone would be doing it and we'd all be rich. What they leave out is the blood, sweat and tears it takes to run a business. They leave out the fact you're at the whim of your clients and that any semblance of a work-life balance is a challenge to maintain.

It's Not A Solution For Being Unhappy At Work

When I talk to others who are looking to possibly make the switch to self-employment I hear a common theme. They are unhappy with their job. They're not happy with their role, they don't like their boss or they feel like there is nowhere in the company for them to grow. Those are all understandable circumstances and ones we can all relate with on one level.

However, quitting your job for self-employment isn't the answer to unhappiness at work. It can be an understandable temptation, though you need to seriously think through the repercussions of such a decision. You may be unhappy with your current situation, but you need to ask yourself if you're willing to take on all the things your employer is providing for you now.

Instead of jumping because you're unhappy in your role, look for ways you can grow yourself. Maybe that means moving to a different company. Maybe that means taking advantage of professional development options your employer provides. Maybe you just need to have a talk with your boss and get on the same page. Those are all options that could improve your situation without requiring the risk and dramatic change of working for yourself. If after pursuing other options at your day job, you still have the entrepreneurial itch, consider starting a side gig. If that takes off, it may offer you a less risky yet equally rewarding path into self employment.

If you're thinking of jumping into self employment, take it from someone who's walked the path before you and think long and hard about your decision, as it very well could not be the right move for you.
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