If you’ve been feeling trapped by your job, there is a way out. By becoming self-employed, you’ll get off the corporate ladder, and gain greater control over your life. No, it’s not an easy path or even a straight one. But the payoff is more than worth the effort. And there are ways you can become self-employed while minimizing both the detours and the risks. But to get started, you need to seriously consider how starting your own business helps you and the economy.
There are very few ventures we can take on in life that will improve both our personal lives and the general state of the nation. Becoming self-employed is one.
Let’s start by talking about how starting your own business helps you, then moved to how it helps the economy and the nation.
Gaining Greater Control of Your Time
It may be possible you’ll work more hours in your own business than you will in a job. There are a lot of functions to running your own business, including marketing, invoicing, and taking on special projects – in addition to providing your main product or service. And for most of the self-employed, there’s usually no staff to hand the extra work off to.
I’ve certainly found that to be true in my own experience. I work more hours each week than I typically did on the jobs I’ve held in the past. But what I’ve found to be true is that it’s not the number of hours you work, but the amount of control you have over your time that really matters.
If I work 60 hours in a week, but I still have time for my family and to do the things I want to do, the number of hours worked becomes less significant. In most cases, self-employment creates a better blend of work and personal time.
There’s also something else I’ve noticed in recent years. Many jobs now require working more than 40 hours per week, and often many more. It’s not just overtime either. An increasing number of job holders are “on call even” even after hours. When you add that to a daily two-way commute, a large percentage of the workforce is working 50, 60 or more hours per week.
You may work that many hours when you’re self-employed, but you’ll have a lot more flexibility with your time.
Being Less Dependent on an Organization
There’s a lot of talk in organizations about decentralization and empowerment. Though I haven’t held a formal job in many years, those qualities always struck me as empty. Employers may speak the words, and some may even hang posters around the office, but it means little in actual practice.
The reality is that when you work for an organization, you’re controlled by it. Not only will they direct your basic workflow, but they also have power over your income and benefits. They can grant a raise or withhold it, promote you or pass you over and cut benefits without your consent. At the extreme, they can even terminate you.
That’s a difficult position to be in. I believe it contributes significantly to high levels of stress employees live with routinely. All those potential outcomes have always existed. But in the decades following World War II, when the economy was more predictable and employers were more beneficent, it wasn’t a serious problem.
But with cost-cutting fever dominating corporate America, and even many government agencies, everyone is under artificial pressure. Ultimately, you must do whatever your employer requires, and the threat of termination is always in the background.
When you work for yourself, that kind of artificial stress is gone. Sure, you’ll always have the stress that comes with the need to satisfy your customers and clients and get paid for your services. That’s all a natural part of economic survival, and one we can never escape. But life is a lot less stressful when a single employer doesn’t have absolute control over your income or employment.
Unfortunately, your employer’s needs and goals aren’t usually well aligned with your own. That creates the potential for future conflict, one you can’t possibly win.
No Income Ceiling
I’ll be the first to admit that this is truer in theory than it is in reality***. Each of us is limited by our time, energy, talent and opportunities – even when self-employed. But it’s undeniable that you can better leverage each of those qualities when you work for yourself. That will increase the potential for unlimited income. Or at least higher income.
In a traditional employment situation, there’s almost always an income ceiling. The only exceptions are the very slim number of people running the organization, or top salespeople. For almost everyone else working in an organization, there’s a salary level you’ll never exceed.
Virtually every job in an organization has a salary range. Even if you exceed the expectations of your job, your income will only ever be so high. A book I read on job hunting when I got out of college said that most jobs were “static positions”. Despite the many employer promises of a “bright future”, the position you’re in can only pay so much money.
But the point is very real that the self-employed person has a much greater opportunity to move beyond a specific income level. While your income from a job may top out at say, $50,000, self-employment is a way to raise it to a higher level.
(***According to Payscale.com, the average income for someone who’s self-employed is $58,000, which is why I wrote “truer in theory”.)
Doing Work You Like to Do
In most organizations, you’ll be given a certain set of responsibilities. They may not be exactly what you would prefer to do, but rather what the organization needs you to do. It’s even possible you were hired to do one job, but were given other tasks that were completely unrelated.
This is a typical situation, and one of the major reasons for job dissatisfaction. Even if you come into the organization with certain specific skill sets, you may be given disagreeable assignments. The point is, employers don’t exist to enable you to self-actualize. And in some cases, you may find yourself doing a job that’s it’s completely out-of-sync with your highest and best skills and talents.
There are certain number of disagreeable assignments that come with any income earning venture. That includes self-employment. For example, I don’t find invoicing or responding to business emails to be particularly stimulating. But it’s part of a package of what I do. In spite of that, I’m able to concentrate primarily on doing work that I like, certainly more so than in any job I’ve ever held.
In a related direction, if you’re doing work you like, you’ll find yourself getting better at it. It’s a natural process, and one you’ll approach enthusiastically. This is very unlike needing to learn skills that you find distasteful, which is common in organizations.
There’s a strong connection here between income and doing work you like. Generally speaking, the more you like your work, the higher your income will be. It’s all about being a square peg in a square hole, rather than being forced into a round hole. You’ll thrive at what you do best. That’s easier to accomplish when you’re self-employed than when you’re working for someone else.
Gaining Greater Control of Your Life
We’ve already talked about the benefits of having control of your time and doing work that you like. Both are intimately connected to having greater control over your life. But there’s more.
An organization’s control extends beyond your work. Many employers have policies prohibiting certain extracurricular income activities, or any such activities at all. Your employer may prohibit you from driving for Uber or starting a blog in your off hours.
And the control an employer can have over your behavior at work – let’s just say it’s one of the major reasons I work for myself. I never could stand office politics, but when you work in an organization they’re inevitable. I also dislike meetings. Most are a complete waste of time, and many are routine shakedowns, or grandstanding opportunities for managers.
Then let’s talk political correctness. It’s du jour in large organizations. Not only do you not free to express your true opinions, but some can even get you fired.
Political correctness isn’t just about controlling your speech at work. By limiting what you can say on the job, employers also get into your head and affect the way you think. Eventually, the limitation can extend to your personal life and beliefs. You gradually begin to adopt the mentality of the group as a matter of surviving within it.
Being self-employed, I have none of that. I can take my business in any direction I want, there are no meetings or office politics, there are no speech police, and I’m free to do what I want, either while working or in my personal life.
I read somewhere that work itself doesn’t cause stress. It’s the lack of control at work – and by extension in your life – that’s the primary source. Speaking as an employment “outsider”, I completely agree.
How Starting Your Own Business Helps You and the Economy
So far, I’ve been focusing this discussion on how starting your own business helps you. But in the grand scheme of things, it also helps the economy. And that helps other people as well.
For starters, when you start your own business, you’re making new products and services available to other people. Those products and services may be either better than what’s currently available, less expensive, available more quickly, or simply better at meeting the consumer’s needs. The fact that someone will pay you for your product or service is conclusive evidence of the value you’re providing.
You’re also giving a boost to the economy on the employment front. By becoming self-employed, you remove yourself from the job market. That means one less person competing for the jobs that are available. The reduced competition makes it easier for someone else to get a job, and even increases the possibility of the pay being raised as a result.
And the additional income you’ll earn from your business will be recycled back into the economy, creating still more income for others. That’s because you’ll have created a new income stream that didn’t exit before. That’s the very definition of economic progress, on both an individual and national level.
The Impact of Self-Employment on Free Thought
One of the most underestimated impacts of working in an organization, particularly a large one, is the way it controls your thought process. To one degree or another, our thinking is either largely or entirely controlled by the group were surrounded by. If you think back to your days in school, this makes perfect sense.
Most everyone wants to be part of the “in crowd”, or at least not too far outside it. It’s often subtly implied that “if you want to be one of us, you have to act like us”. That can affect the way you behave, dress, eat, socialize, and use your free time.
I’ve long believed there’s an inner non-conformist in most of us, but when we’re part of a large organization, we keep that bottled up inside. It’s another major source of stress, and even keeps us at odds with our inner selves.
When you work for yourself, there is no organization. It’s your business, your rules. You can run your day the way you like, work on what’s most profitable to you, dress and eat as you choose, and select your own friends and extracurricular activities without the influence of a group.
Self-Employment Even Your Political Views
Upton Sinclair once said “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” So it is with groups. You may adopt the political leanings of your employer, since there are certain political outcomes favorable to the organization. You may even find yourself being influenced by your coworkers.
When you’re self-employed, you have more of an unfettered view of what’s going on in the big picture. You become less of a Democrat or Republican, and more of a free thinker. This is largely because you better understand the realities of the marketplace and the economy. One is that the economy isn’t just about someone handing you a regular paycheck. Another comes when you’re paying the full weight of taxes. That has a way of sobering up anyone’s political views.
Many of us – both employed and self-employed – see the gradual degradation of America. But it’s when you’re self-employed, and free from the group-think and influences of an organization, that you’re more able to act and think on an individual level.
We often forget this country was built by shopkeepers, farmers, tradespeople, and independent entrepreneurs. That’s a completely different demographic than the one we find ourselves in now. Today, the vast majority of people are dependent on a job. Which side of that line you’re on deeply affects your political leanings and your view of what’s going on in the economy and the nation.
A lot of my own political opinions would be considered out-of-the-box, and perhaps even out of bounds, for most people. When you’re self-employed, that’s how you begin to think, and eventually to be perceived.
Final Thoughts on How Starting Your Own Business Helps You and the Economy
Given that we clearly need to move onto a new path nationally, I’m in no way dissuaded from being out-of-step with the mainstream. I believe that the solutions to our biggest problems are going to be found in just that kind of thinking.
For most of us, whether individually or on a national level, same-old-same-old isn’t working anymore. Dependence on the implied security of a job, and the hope for a financially secure future, is turning into dust for millions of people. This is particularly true of those who define themselves as middle-class. We can’t change the direction of the nation, but we can change our own direction. Becoming self-employed is perhaps the most revolutionary way to do that.
Are you intimidated at the prospect of starting your own business? My next post will be How to Become Self-Employed Even if You’ve Never Been Before. I think it will help you overcome that hurdle.