The Realities of Being Self-Employed | Enterpreneurship

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Written for EO by Ken Boyd, a former CPA who creates accounting and personal finance content. 

“Opportunity is missed by most people, because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

This quote, attributed to Thomas Edison, captures the reality of being self-employed. Working for yourself allows you to capitalize on opportunities that may not be available to you as an employee. However, seizing the opportunity may require far more work hours and responsibility than you spend at a traditional job.


That’s the trade off.

So, before you abandon life as an employee in favor of launching your own startup or becoming your own boss, consider these top of self-employment.

The Realities

A recent study of 500 self-employed respondents conducted by QuickBooks Self-Employed reveals some interesting truths of being self employed:

  • More hours: 14% of those surveyed work 50 hours a week, and more than 10% of work more than 50 hours in a given week. The self-employed are also working weekends, with 32% of respondents working every weekend.
  • Vacation: Most of those surveyed take vacation, and 32% take a week of vacation each year. However, 30% of the respondents worked regularly or often while on vacation.
  • Concerns: This group had concerns that are common for self-employed people. 23% of respondents stated that work concerns often kept them up at night, and that cash flow ranked as the biggest concern for those surveyed.

How you would respond to these questions? How many hours are you working, and are you able to take time off? What is the quality of your vacation time? Do you have the personality, the drive, and the energy make it as self-employed person? 

What Does It Take?

So, what personality traits does it take to succeed in the self-employed world? After 19 years as a self-employed person, I’ll give you my list of must-have qualities:

  • Resilience: This is the most important word in the English language. Resilience is the ability to get back up after failure and keep moving forward. Sure, employees need resilience, but self-employed people need far more, because there are so many variables that can go wrong. After all, you’re responsible for marketing, producing the work or service, invoicing, and collecting money. 
  • Self-awareness: You need the ability to be brutally honest about your strengths and weaknesses, and find people who can help you in your areas of weakness. We all have weaknesses, so fill in the gaps.
  • The abilty to say no: You can’t please everyone, so don’t try. And, it may be counter-intuitive, but no self-employed person can succeed unless they turn away some business. If you’re going to work on your own, play to your strengths, and take on work that fits your strengths.

Ask yourself: do you have these personal traits? 

Now, you can develop some of traits over time. In my case, I think I’ve always had the first two traits, but the need to please was tough for me. It’s taken years of self-discipline to turn away work that wasn’t a fit for me.

The Payoff

While the work hours and responsibility are greater for self-employed people, the personal satisfaction of working on your own can be rewarding.

In addition, you can jump into interesting projects that you could never take on as an employee. If an opportunity comes your way, you can take on an exciting project and reduce the time spent with other clients. Last, but not least, you have the ability to earn far more income as a self-employed person.

Take Some Time

Striking out on your own is a big decision, both professionally and financially, so take some time to think. Ask the people who know you best if self-employment fits your personality and your strengths.

Most important, realize that you’ll face more challenges as a self-employed professional. If you’re resilient and adaptable to change, working on your own can be rewarding.

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