I hope you won’t mind, but this week I thought I’d shift gears a bit and talk a little business. How many times have you entertained the idea of a nomadic life working in your pajamas, having more flexible hours, spending more time with family, and the promise of unlimited financial potential? Believe me, I get it. Unfortunately, all may not be as it seems.
Recently, it seems I have met more people who’ve escaped their corporate shackles to start their own businesses. Since the pandemic, more workers have left the daily grind to venture out on their own.
I’ve worked independently in a variety of industries for most of my adult life. My goal has always been to provide for myself and my family with some freedom, and without lining the pockets of some corporate bigwig. Some people call this “self-employment,” but what I’m about to tell you may change how you see this type of professional life and how you can better succeed by adopting my vision. If you are a typical W-2 employee considering a move toward independence, let me offer a few words of encouragement … and caution.
First, the encouraging part. Yes, you can do this, but you need to have a plan. It sounds hokey, but you need to set goals and measurable milestones for going out on your own, and you need to be both realistic and idealistic at the same time. Those are tough to reconcile for some people because on the surface it seems an either/or decision. But it’s not. In fact, a good balance of idealism and reality can keep you balanced and more focused.
You also need to be prepared for the unsolicited opinions of others – good and bad. You’ll likely experience unqualified support from some, and negativity from others, usually out of jealousy that they didn’t make the same move. Ignore both. You read that right. However well-meaning, overt encouragement can potentially poison your focus, robbing you of objectivity.
Something else I need to clarify is the correlation between independent employment and the so-called, “gig economy.” They are related, but not interchangeable. The gig economy typically refers to occasional jobs used to supplement one’s income. Independent employment may include one-off or task-based jobs, sometimes referred to as “gigs.”
That doesn’t mean you can’t turn a gig-based job into something more consistent. Consider, for example, photographers, graphic designers, or (ahem) writers. Even if you were educated in these careers, you’d likely work full-time for an established
company before growing your client base enough to go out on your own. I mentioned more artistic occupations here, but it could be anything.
Now to rip off the Band-Aid. Going out on your own is not for the faint of heart. Regardless of what you’ve read or what Kool-Aid you’ve gulped down, going into business for yourself is hard. One of the most difficult realizations for most entrepreneurs is that, at the outset, they have to be everything.
If you choose to be out there selling your wares, you’re a great deal more than just the talent. Suddenly you’re also the accountant, marketing department, sales manager, and on and on. Are you ready for that? Trust me, not many will be. We’re all good at something, and that becomes the basis for our new venture. But, other skills that are needed usually have to be learned as we go. My advice is to take workshops and classes and read everything you can on whatever it is you don’t know.
Lastly, let’s correct the terminology. For all intents and purposes, there’s really no such thing as, “self-employment,” and no one is his or her own boss. These expressions are outdated because you are not the employer but instead, trade one for many. Every customer becomes another person who pays you and to whom you are accountable. They are your employer – the boss.
If you’re considering a career change to independent work, I hope I haven’t discouraged you. My goal is to pass on my 25 years of experience. Independent work offers some great opportunities for you, but it takes work. You can do it – if you put in the time.
Gery Deer is a Greene County resident and columnist. He can be reached at www.gldcommunications.com.