When Nicholas Richardson was laid off in February, he was blindsided. He quickly realized there weren't many firms looking to increase their payrolls, so he took matters into his own hands: He hired himself.
With a lot of help and support from his friends, family and his professional network, Richardson is slowly but surely making his dreams a reality. The best part of his new situation? He is his own boss.
"Opening my own [law-firm] practice was always a long-term goal, but I hadn't done any of the groundwork to make my startup feasible because it wasn't a plan for 2009 or in this economy," Richardson says. "I spent a lot of time researching what I needed to do, and then made a list that's slowly getting checked off."
Working for yourself is a huge change and decision for anyone, but it could be the best choice you ever make. Ernie Zelinski, author of "Career Success Without a Real Job: The Career Book for People Too Smart to Work in Corporations," believes that "unreal jobs" -- defined as work you perform joyfully and with plenty of flexibility -- are the key to true career nirvana.
"The problem with looking to the corporate world for work you love is that over 95 percent of corporations don't allow employees to design their own jobs and control their own work areas," Zelinski writes. "As long as you work for someone else, regardless of how much money you earn, you will never be truly free. You may think that a regular paychecks means security, but what good is the security of a paycheck without freedom?"
Richardson agrees that an inconsistent paycheck is the downside to working for yourself. But he says he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I love the fact that I can leave to play golf at 1 p.m. if I want, but the flip side is challenging: There is no paycheck every two weeks," he says. "I know in the long term I'll be more successful and earn more working for myself, but it's a huge adjustment in thinking."
While an unsteady paycheck is certainly an adjustment in thinking, the fact that you're self-employed doesn't mean you have to earn less money. According to an AARP Policy Institute report, 10.2 percent of U.S. workers are self-employed -- but 66 percent of self-employed workers are millionaires. The trick to earning such a substantial living is the business you're providing, Zelinski says.
"Providing a service or product in which you truly believe is the key to making it on your own," Zelinski writes. "Self-employment is for individuals willing to work to develop their personal creativity, willing to try out innovative products and services, and willing to enjoy the results of their work."
MaryBeth Reeves does just that. After getting laid off from her corporate position in December 2008, she changed gears. As a mother to quadruplet daughters, spending time and making memories with her family was vital, and she figured other working mothers felt the same.
"I decided to look at this development as an opportunity to be my own boss, to do something I love to do, that will also allow me to spend more time with my family," Reeves says. "I started a business making custom photo books and scrapbooks for people who like the idea, but don't have the time or desire to make one themselves. Scrapbook Mamma creates books using digital images or traditional photographs. As a bonus, I put [the images] on a CD and make a slide show set to music so they can enjoy their memories a variety of ways."
Renata Bodon never thought about being her own boss -- until she was laid off in April 2008. She became passionate about creating a place where parents could find safe, reusable lunch containers for their children. Thus, the idea of One Small Step was born.
"Let's backtrack a few years: My daughter entered a preschool that required waste-free lunches. I had the hardest time finding safe, good, reusable lunch items. After my daughter entered kindergarten I still had a hard time, but there was more information available about all of the nasty things that could be found in plastic containers and lunch boxes," Bodon says. "I had an idea for a business that would help parents by gathering the best and safest items parents would need to pack a lunch in one place."
Bodon has expanded and now also sells green school supplies and items for babies and parents. The program also gives 10 percent back to schools and nonprofits and offers a fund-raising program. Her passion for the project has paved her way to success.
"I always wanted to be a teacher and I am using One Small Step to educate today's children on little steps they can make to help our Earth," she says.
Advantages and disadvantages
Clearly, being your own boss is not all smooth sailing. Here, from Zelinski's book, are a few of the advantages and disadvantages to self-employment:
- Flexibility to set your own hours
- Opportunity to use special skills and talents
- Opportunity to be innovative and creative
- Tax benefits
- No boss to tell you what to do
- Capital usually needed to start a business
- Uncertain income makes it hard to plan financially
- Lack of paid-for benefits
- Uncertain work hours
- Pressure of having sole responsibility for your livelihood
No doubt there will be trade-offs, Zelinksi says, but for some, a lower income is an acceptable sacrifice for freedom, flexibility and following your dreams.
Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CBwriterRZ.
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