“What the hell do you want to work for somebody else for? Work for yourself!” Irving Berlin famously said to George Gershwin.
Many people hold the dream that working for themselves would solve all their problems. If you are one of those people, think about it, then think about it again, then think about it some more.
If you haven’t really thought through why you want to work for yourself and have your own business, stop right there. For the simple advice to anyone who hasn’t really examined their reasons is – DON’T DO IT!
For some, self-employment and business ownership is the best decision they ever made.
Others find that the reality is a terrible shock.
As someone who is self-employed and loves it, I can vouch for the fact that working for yourself has a lot going for it. You have freedom to work in your own way, you have scope to work creatively, you have a wide variety of tasks to complete and accountability only to yourself. You can work to your own time clock, set your own (achievable) standards and avoid the stress and politics that come with most organisations.
But working for yourself – whatever your business – is not easy!
If it were easy, everyone would do it.
If it were easy, three-fifths wouldn’t go under in the first three years.
It takes courage, hard work, and, most probably, some luck too and there are a number of factors working against it. When there’s only you, you have responsibility for everything and have to take on tasks that you once considered well beneath your status. It can be very lonely with little if any colleague interaction or friendship. Since you’re always in charge, there’s no deferring and you can often be torn between priorities and juggling the many factors beyond your control.
Unless you have the mental agility to overcome situations most individuals will fail due to the unexpected. It’s a learning curve where you make mistakes over the years and you become stronger and wiser in the future.
People who make a success of becoming self-employed and starting up a business are motivated to put up with these less favourable factors because the benefits far outweigh the downsides. They know what they really want out of life, they’ve identified that self employment will help them achieve it and they’re prepared to put in the necessary effort to make it happen.
Only you can make a success of starting up a new business. So, from the outset you need to know, deep down inside, why you want to do this.
None of the following is a good basis for going it alone:
- You have a fight with your boss and resolve never to work for them again
- You fail to get a promotion in the organisation and think you can do better on the outside
- You are made redundant, fired or something similar and think it is an easy option until another job comes along
- You go on holiday and decide you want to live in a French/Italian/Spanish/Greek village and cultivate lemons/vines/olives (delete as appropriate).
Discord, disappointment, desperation and daydreaming are not good reasons in and of themselves. That’s not to say that these elements might not be part of the mix but, like all things that are ultimately successful, going it alone takes planning and commitment to the idea. Being self-employed/running a business is great – but you need to decided to do it from a well thought out, planned position not as a knee jerk response to problems at work or a sunny day in Tuscany!
You have to have drive, knowledge and belief in what you do and pick yourself up when you’re down or worried when something goes wrong. Most of all, it takes ENTHUSIASM, a real desire to realise a life goal and the will to succeed.
If you are considering self employment you need to think about whether starting a business will really address your current dissatisfactions and whether it will really help you achieve your dreams. If you decide to “Take the Plunge”, concentrate on building up a network of supportive people – accountants/business advisors are obvious, but also seek out people in the same line of business. Yes, they are competitors of a sort but they’ll know exactly what problems you’ll face and can be some of the best business contacts you’ll make – as long as you go in with a generous spirit and do your best to be helpful and add value.