Do you ever find yourself dreaming of having your own business? I think most people do at one time or another (that is, those who aren’t already self-employed). Striking out on your own to blaze an independent career path is an integral part of the American Dream. But is being your own boss something for everyone to pursue? Should you start your own business?
You probably should be self-employed if…
Being self-employed requires, as much as anything else, a different mindset. What makes up that mindset?
You LIVE to work! Some people work to pay the bills, but others live for work itself. This is often a matter of finding the right kind of work, the kind that you truly find fulfilling, and sometimes it’s that you’re on a hot streak and making a lot of money. But what ever it is that drives you, if work is your obsession, having your own business is a natural development.
You’re flexible and creative. Obstacles and difficulties may slow you down, but they never stop you completely. You’ll do what ever you have to do to move forward, and you’re the kind who can think around problems. Most jobs today require an increasing amount of both flexibility and creativity, but when you’re running your own business, you’ll need to have both qualities in unlimited supply!
You’re a self-starter. You don’t need a supervisor setting your agenda—you know what it is you need to do and you’re fully capable of setting and executing the plans that will make it happen.
You have sales skills. No matter what kind of business you might choose to go into, you need sales skills. Having them is often the fundamental difference between an employee and a business owner. Having the right skills or products is an important part of running a business, but nothing happens in the business unless you can sell those skills and products to willing customers.
You’re security drive isn’t very high. A high security drive is to a new business owner what excess weight is to a marathon runner—too much of it will keep you from moving forward. A business owner needs to be able to function effectively in a situation where nothing is guaranteed—not cash flow, customers, supply lines or even employees.
You have “retail skills.” I’m not referring to retail experience here, but of having the type of skills that can be sold directly to the public or to a specific client base. For example, a corporate accountant would have some difficulty translating his skill set into a “product” that could be sold to the general public; a certified public accountant (CPA) would have a much easier time of it because he can prepare tax returns and conduct independent audits.
You’re a natural saver. Income can (and most typically is) a roller coaster when you have your own business. One of the best ways to deal with the income instability is to have a well-fed savings account. If you’re a saver by nature, this will come easily. If you’re not a saver, your business may fail for lack of ability to manage cash.
You probably should NOT be self-employed if…
As much as you might want to go into your own business, there are certain personal preferences that might make it the wrong path to take.
You value your free time. It’s often thought that one of the benefits of self-employment is having more free time, but nothing could be further from the truth. The self-employed typically work longer hours than those on someone else’s paycheck, especially when the business is new. If you like having your evenings and weekends free, you’re probably better off not working for yourself.
The prospect of an un-steady paycheck stresses you. If you like financial predictability, you should work for someone else. There’s much to be said for a steady paycheck, especially one with benefits and paid time off.
Outside interests take up a lot of your time. If your primary interests in life are non-work related, you should work for someone else. When you do, there’s a limit to the amount of time, energy and concern that you need to expend in the earning of your income. That frees up your time and even your mind to concentrate on your outside pastimes.
You live paycheck to paycheck. For many people this is just a way of life, even if no one ever admits to it in public. And when you’re on someone else’s payroll it’s much easier to live on the financial edge—not only will there always be another paycheck coming after the last one, but there are usually benefits in the mix as well.
You’re more comfortable working within a structured environment than working alone. Some people are self-directed—they do their best work when there’s no supervision. Others thrive on structure, order and authority. If you fall into the second category, you’re better off working for someone else.
Never assume you’ll be better off being in your own business. In the end, being self-employed or working for someone else isn’t a matter of one being better than the other—it’s mainly about what works better for you personally. For some that will mean working for someone else; for others it will mean striking out on their own. What’s most important is knowing which will work better for you.