In the last couple of weeks, I’ve written about the difficulties and drawbacks of being self-employed, including dealing with health insurance and getting payment from clients. But I don’t want you to think that owning a business is all bad. If it were, we wouldn’t be doing it. So in this post, I wanted to talk about the things that are great about being self-employed.
1. Being your own boss. This is one of the biggest reasons that Chef wanted to have his own business. He’s a hard worker, but he doesn’t do so well when someone else is telling him what to do. He’s headstrong and stubborn sometimes, and those qualities sometimes don’t mesh well with a corporate environment where sometimes staff members don’t have the liberty to act on what they think is best. I know that in my own job, I sometimes disagree with the way the bosses are managing the company, but I can’t often do anything about it, which is frustrating.
2. Flexibility of schedule. To some degree, this one depends on what kind of industry you’re in. Some businesses need to be open from 8am to 5pm, five or six days a week. Restaurants and retail might be more limited in what their hours are. Even in those instances, though, the owner could choose to be closed on Mondays, or to open later or close earlier on certain days. There used to be a toy store in my town, and the owner would go to a merchandising conference every February. She’d make it into a vacation, and be closed for one week each February. It was a slow month for her anyway, so closing the store and taking some time off worked out okay for her. With Chef’s business, he has to be available to deliver sculptures when the events are taking place (usually weekends and some weekday evenings), but since almost all of his communication with clients is done via telephone or email, he can do that any time of day, from any location (thanks to internet access on his phone). If he wants, he can go to the shop late at night to get the designing and carving done. A friend of ours is a photographer (and she’s really good, by the way), and while she has to shoot her photos at the client’s requested times, she can do all her editing at home while the kids are at preschool or late at night after everyone else is asleep.
3. Doing what you really love. I’m sure that there are people who work for large companies who love their jobs. Teachers and nurses and accountants and architects and mechanics and sales reps — I’m sure there are lots of people who are perfectly happy with their positions and don’t mind one bit working for someone else who will take the responsibility of paying the corporate taxes and dealing with profit and loss statements and managing staff and inventory. But in other cases, having a small business might be the only way to really do what your heart calls you to do. For example, it’s not easy to be an ice carver and work for someone else, because ice carving isn’t typically a corporate-type industry. There aren’t too many ice carving companies in the U.S. that hire more than a couple of people. So if you want to do that, it’s probably best to have your own business. I don’t know many photographers who work for someone else, unless they are doing something rather un-artistic like school photos, which I would think would be less fulfilling than wedding photography, for instance. Even in industries where it’s easier to find a job for another company (like accounting or hospitality or construction, for example), going out on your own allows you to specialize in a way that you might not be able to do working for someone else.
4. Having something that is your own. Sure, there are lots of ways to accomplish that. There are lots of hobbies you can have that allow you to create, and you can say, “I did this!” But having a business is a big deal, and being able to make it successful is an amazing accomplishment. There’s a lot of pride in saying, “I built this company from the bottom up, and it is successful and financially sound.”
Making a decision to start your own business is something that should be carefully considered. People like to spout statistics about how many small businesses fail each year. And it’s true — lots of them do fail. But lots of them succeed, too. It’s not a venture to tackle lightly or without lots of forethought. But it’s something great for people who like adventure and want all the benefits listed above.
Small business owners, what things do you love about having your own business? Do any readers have ideas for a business that they just haven’t had to nerve (or capital) to start up yet? Anybody out there working for The Man who just can’t wait to get out? Or do you love working for someone else?