So many books hold being your own boss or running your own business out as the holy grail that I sometimes think it can be misleading. Because I have stressed the role that side incomes can play in scalable financial magic, and because I now work for myself, I worry about over-idealizing the entrepreneur as the only path to wealth and stability.
Don’t get me wrong, I love working for myself. When I get to start a work day by jumping in the ocean, then heading back to my backyard and doing consults or writing under a beach umbrella it feels awesome. When money comes in from putting something new into the world that I loved making and think is really great, there is nothing better.
But it is not for everyone. There is a serious downside.
As more and more books seem to be pushing people into self-employment as the key to freedom and wealth, and as the economy makes regular jobs harder to come by and hold, I think that there are some things that people may overlook:
- Regular salary is a thing of the past. Every penny you make is directly tied to something you did. Have a bad week and that reflects itself in your bottom line. There are also fluctuations on your customer side as well. Some weeks will not be as busy as others. Screwing around or losing focus has a very real cost.
- You are never not at work, especially if you work from home. It bleeds into everything. You try to separate time, but when you know that responding to something “real quick” on a Sunday afternoon can mean an extra $500, it feels idiotic to chance it and wait till Monday. The advent of smartphones makes this even worse and enables you to check in on everything at any time. I just recently disabled my notifications to stop myself from doing this.
- Because you are maybe doing something you love and maybe work from home people sometimes do not see you as actually working. Whether its the wife asking for things to be done while I am working, because I am after all at home, or family thinking I can just be called upon to do whatever whenever, sometimes people act like I sit on the couch and play video games all day. I am in fact far busier and working every minute of my work day than I ever was in a wage job.
- Your identity is hard to separate from your work. Especially if you are doing something you love. As Jay-Z said “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man. ”
Failures in business feel like personal failures and thus you work and work. Criticisms of your work feel like personal criticisms. There is a deep psychological cost to this that is just now starting to be discussed.
- There is a haunting fear that at any moment the jig will be up. Some call it Entrepreneurial Terror. It is a fear of failure that almost everyone I know who works for themselves share. I know that I can have a week where I double my sales goals, but if that Sunday – a day I don’t even work – comes and goes without e-mails asking about the course or money appearing in the account I can freak out if I don’t catch myself. Thankfully I know meditation, and other entrepreneurs are borrowing techniques from Buddhism to special forces training to combat it.
- You risk turning a great passion into a bad job. Some people simply do not like what money does to something that they love. You may love doing readings and magic, but hate doing it professionally. It happens.
Please don’t read me as saying that you should not start your own business. For me, the rewards FAR outweigh the risks and I have never been a very good employee anyway. It is not a path for everyone though. It takes drive and sacrifice and a willingness to take risks.
Of course, in today’s economy the risks of getting downsized from your steady job are actually running as high as the risks of entrepreneurship. You are not likely to fire yourself after all. But anyone who does take the plunge into working for themselves should know that beyond the hype that they read in the books, there is a cost that not everyone talks about.