I’ve read a lot about lifestyle design, following your dreams and becoming financially independent. To be honest, I really enjoy all of those topics and most of the authors that write in the field. The irony is that the end goal of almost every guru out there ends with quitting your day job and starting your own business or stopping life to pursue your passion. Everyone seems to get really excited when you talk about the mythical working for yourself. Does anyone actually talk about the enjoyment of working for someone else? For many, working for yourself may be great- and someday that may be me. But, for right now, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy life and celebrate the joy of working for someone else.
I’m an entrepreneur. I like starting things. I gain joy from fixing other people’s broken things and I am an extroverted instigator of multiple projects. Every time I take a personality test it puts me in the extreme category of someone who will be self-employed. And for many years that was my internal expected goal. But what I’ve come to realize is that a good employer can be equally as rewarding as doing everything on your own. After thinking it through, I realized there are tons of things I can appreciate about my current employment situation.
I think my big take away from working for someone else is that you show up, do your job and get paid. It is often quite consistent and makes planning easy. In most professions, you are compensated based on your time and there is a mental cut off when you finish at work. By having a job, you are often able to construct your life around all the other aspects of your existence that are not work based. For many entrepreneurs and small business owners, it is very difficult to decouple work and life and they tend to converge. The simplicity of going to work then coming home to spend time with my family every night is actually something I enjoy. The things I don’t have to worry about actually make my life easier. Working for someone else helps me sleep better at night.
I’ll be the first to admit that self-employment has plenty of perks, but working for someone else is also filled with an enjoyable, different set of perks. One of the most underrated, and under appreciated, benefits of white collar work is paid time off. For many small business owners and entrepreneurs, even in high paid industries, paid time off often means significantly less or no revenue. My job is a bit unique in its nature, but it does allow me to spend the holidays with my family every year and take multiple multi-week paid vacations during the summer. Although they can be compensated for by additional revenue, some of the non-monetary perks of my employment are: extremely inexpensive health care, 401k matching, paid payroll tax, discounted higher education, free public transportation, guaranteed life insurance and discounted access to entertainment.
As a business owner and entrepreneur, you have duel roles. Often you are employee #1 but also hold the responsibilities of a CEO. In really small businesses or individual endeavors it is likely that will you also be the primary marketer, accountant, fireman, human resource officer and technologist. Some people are built for that type of management but many of us actually enjoy doing the primary job of our work and do not enjoy actually managing the business. I think many people mistakenly plunge into self-employment without thinking through all the logistics of the business.
Doing meaningful work is often stressful but being self-employed can add an additional layer of stress for many. There is also added responsibilities from knowing that all problems must be ultimately solved by you. Secondly, large employers are often extremely consistent with their compensation. The inconsistencies in pay from self-employment can be extremely stressful for individuals, especially for those whom have dependents relying on their income.
If you have a bad job and you are reading this you are probably day dreaming about self-employment as this article immediately exits the brain. There is little worse than a life-sucking, terrible job or a horrible boss that makes your life miserable. The great news is that we have choices. We have the ability to change our surroundings. It might not be feasible to quit your job tomorrow, but by this time next year you can be in a completely different place. Write out what you hate, what you love, and what would be ideal. Then work towards that. Even if it may seem extreme, in the long run we have the ability to change almost anything we want. The worse thing you do for yourself, and your employer, is to be miserable.
The Holy Grail
So, is working for yourself the holy grail? For some yes. For me, not right now. I am enjoying my job and the contributions I can make to the shared goals of my employer. In addition, I enjoy the relative stress free environment it provides and the people I am able to work with on a daily basis. I appreciate the stability in my current stage of life and the near term future potential my employee provides. Who knows what my life will look like in ten years, but my current job provides me the opportunity to be financially independent by then, so I will have even more opportunities and options.
If you are currently working but not enjoying life, spend the time to contemplate what it would actually look like (with specifics) to have a job that fits you well. Being immediately realistic, what could you do in your current position to make it even better. What do you appreciate about your current job that you rarely think about? Take the time to design the lifestyle you want, even if it means working for someone else.
What about you? Do you think self-employment is overrated? or underrated? Does it work or not work for you?