You are at the crossroads. When the job market becomes tough, a lot of people may find themselves re-evaluating their entire professional path. Many departments in big corporations are getting slashed, putting a lot of previously employed people back into the precarious job market. Or, maybe your job is just not giving you a lot of satisfaction anymore, not leaving a lot of room for career progression. Whatever the reason, sometimes you find yourself standing at the crossroads, wondering if you should set out to start your own business.
After all, isn’t the internet littered with stories of self-made tech entrepreneurs?
Before you throw in the towel at your 9-5 job however, let us examine the various pros and cons of working for yourself.
The Pioneer Dream of Working for Yourself
Pro: Ah, the sweet freedom. You can work when you want. Want to take two weeks off to visit your sister on the West Coast? Well, who’s stopping you? You can roll out of bed and make coffee and get right to your desk, without worrying about early-morning, time-sucking meetings.
Con: The cost. Even with the popular option of starting an internet business, working for yourself always starts out being a huge financial gamble. How are you going to pay yourself during the months when you’re waiting for your cafe/green consultancy business/internet business to take off?
When you work for an organization however, you do not have to knock your head into walls to figure out how you’re going to make next month’s mortgage.
Pro: It is nice to make decisions for yourself. Should you spend more on your advertising budget next year? Should you hire a full-time web developer instead of a part-time one? It’s nice to have the final say.
Con: But being a “boss” can also mean being a one-man show, especially at the beginning. It will be rejuvenating to be your own boss for the first few months, but after a while, there will be times when “your own business” will feel like a job, like any other job, except one that is (possibly) not making much money at all.
One of the nice things about working for others is that a team exists for a reason, so that people do different jobs according to their abilities. This kind of setup is not something that you can afford right away when you are starting your own business.
Pro: If you make money, you get to keep every dime yourself. It is going to you; your blood and sweat is not going towards some organization’s profit, out of which you draw a miserable salary.
Con: But what about health benefits? Can you afford a good health insurance package for your entire family should you be the main breadwinner and self-employed? What about your retirement fund? People often underestimate just how much you’re putting on the line when you start your own business. Working for a corporation has a lot of drawbacks, but it also places you in a more or less stable, future-oriented context where things like health benefits and retirement savings are already mostly figured out for you,
Pro: You get to be on trial, test yourself on things you’re not necessarily good at, fail, get up again.
Con: It is always nice to be challenged. But there are days when you will encounter some challenge of being a small business owner that might overwhelm you. For instance, filing taxes for a small business can be complicated and you’ll have to do it even if you’re not a paperwork person. And then, there’s also your accounting and budget. If you’re not a numbers person, you will still have to get into things like “net profit margin” (that is what a business is). So yes, it is a path full of learning at every turn. But remember, sometimes what we call “learning” can also be euphemism for “so-frustrated-I-so-often-want-to-quit” or “did I really choose to do this?!!”
This is the kind of frustration that you evade when you work for a corporation. Your responsibility is carved out for you; you are usually responsible for the area of work you specialize in, the work you’re good at, and nothing else. It can be boring, but it can also result in a good night’s sleep. Sometimes a challenge is good, but sometimes don’t you want a job to just be a job and to let your mind be able to concentrate on the rest of your life after work?
Pro: You have a deep connection to something you started yourself. So far, it may seem that I have been arguing in favor of working for the man, but when a good idea has been baking in your head for a long while, when you truly believe in something, when starting your business is not just what seems to be the “more fun option” after too many instances of the Monday Blues, but an actual conviction, then you should give yourself a chance to take that risk. When you have a vision, seeing it unfold into reality can be one of the most deeply rewarding experiences that you can have in your life.
Con: But realize that vision is nothing without hard work. For a lot of people. Working for yourself is a fall-back option in the face of a rough job market or a stagnant career, in which case, I would say, think again. Working for yourself, 90% of the time, is the hard way; it is not the easy way out.
If you’re not a risk-taker, if you’re afraid of hard work, then working for an organization might actually be the way to go. Being self-employed will always test your mettle more than working for someone does.
You don’t have to know exactly what you’re doing before you take the leap, and this article is just a preview of the benefits and drawbacks of being self-employed in contrast to being employed in an organization. But working for yourself is a big responsibility, if you’re going to do it, give it 100%. Although you should understand that unless you have a good viable idea that you’ve been working on for a while, it might be just as hard to give that 100% to yourself (as it is to give to a boss). Whatever you do, never mistake being self-employed as the easy option–everyone who has ever done it will tell you that it is the precise opposite!
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