When I became self-employed—which was more of a process than an event—I slowly began to realize that it wasn’t just my work that was changing. Everything in my life was changing! While I was focused on finding a new way to earn a living (my primary conscious goal) the rest of my life was transforming with it.
Does that sound like an exaggeration? It isn’t. Becoming self-employed can change nearly every aspect of your life. Here are some of the areas of my life that changed.
This isn’t just about doing different work. When you work for someone else, you’re not always doing what it is that you think is most important. Often, you’re doing what pleases your superiors at the moment, which can also change from one minute to the next. You’re also subject to organizational goals—whether or not you agree with those goals is irrelevant.
When you’re self-employed work priorities are completely different. You work on what’s most critical and/or what is most likely to bring in the most income. You don’t have time for much else. And routine? Typically, there is none!
Use of time
When you’re self-employed, nine-to-five goes away—hooray, right??? Well, it’s usually replaced by something closer to 7 am to midnight! When you’re working for someone else, you measure the time; when you work for yourself that goes away. You’ll work as long as you need to get the job done.
Discouraged? Don’t be. When you’re running the shop and you like what it is you do, the time won’t matter. And since it’s your business, you can determine how many hours you work and when. You may start at seven in the morning, have lunch with your spouse or a friend from noon to two, go work out at the gym until three, then go back to work until six. You might go out for dinner and a little shopping, then be back at your desk at eight working until midnight. That’s 12 hours working out of a 17 hours day.
More hours—definitely! But you have more control over those hours and you’ll be doing what you like so it’ll still feel better than nine-to-five. The line separating work and the rest of your life kind of goes away.
When you’re in a job situation, you have co-workers and an “employer culture” that you need to blend with. That means you’ll dress a certain way, use or avoid certain language or conversations, drive a certain car, frequent certain merchants and restaurants and even participate in certain activities and past-times. You’re a part of an organization and your behaviors and preferences are influenced by the rules, norms and people within it.
When you’re self-employed you become more self-contained. Most self-employed people I know (myself included) tend to dress down, to drive used cars, to speak our minds and to be blatant about eating or shopping only where we can find bargains. Having been on both sides of the employment divide, I can tell you that the way you live your life changes radically in a non-organizational environment.
Where you live
One of the advantages of being self-employed is that there’s no need to live in a certain community or neighborhood because of proximity to work. This is especially true if, like me, your business is run from your home.
At the extreme are portable businesses. As a professional blogger, I can live anywhere that has electricity and an internet connection, which describes most of the civilized world. My friend Dave, a professional speaker, adds proximity to an airport to that short list. My friend Jay, who runs a waste disposal business from his computer and cell phone, can live anywhere in the metropolitan area, and probably out of state as well. The point is, where you live is less of an issue when you’re self-employed.
One of the most basic elements of friendship is the ability to “talk shop” with your friends. This is why so many people count co-workers among their closest friends. And so it is when you’re self-employed. We don’t have direct co-workers in the sense that employed people do, but we tend to seek out friendships with others who are self-employed. Even if they aren’t in the same business, they tend to understand the work part of our lives.
As a general rule, I think most people who are self-employed are more conservative with their money. The unpredictability of income can force this on you. You become debt adverse and saving money becomes a requirement.
I think it also affects how you invest your money. Since you’re taking chances in your business, you become more conservative with investments. Risks are taken with your business, and since money is seen as a form of insulation (from business risks) your investment philosophy becomes more risk-adverse.
Much of our spending patterns are determined by stress levels and the need to relieve them. And if you work at a job that you really don’t like, or one that bores you into oblivion, you’ll probably spend money trying to create some excitement. I think this is where a lot of over-spending comes from.
Conversely, if you run a business that you truly enjoy, you won’t need to spend money fighting off stress and boredom. You’re satisfaction with your life will also come from your work. This is an under-appreciated benefit to being self-employed. You may not have to earn as much money because you won’t need to spend as much.
And even politics
It’s often easy to support higher taxes and greater regulation when you work for someone else—your employer will bare the brunt of those. But when you’re self-employed, higher taxes and greater regulation often have a direct impact on your business. To say that such an awareness can reshape your political attitude is an understatement.
That isn’t to necessarily say that you’ll switch political affiliations, but you’ll start listening more closely when politicians speak, and you’ll most definitely become aware of tax and regulatory issues that affect your business. You may not even like politics, but you won’t be able to ignore them either.
If you’re planning to become self-employed, prepare yourself for a complete life transformation. It’ll be nothing less!
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