Self-Employed vs Being an Employee: Is Owning your own business all it’s cracked up to be
I wish there was a cut and dry “yes or no” answer for this but alas, there is not. Owning your own business definitely does have its upside but there’s certainly some positives to being an employee.
I hear often how people are “tired of corporate” life and would like to start their own business, and ask me for advice. An eCommerce store is a popular choice for 1st timer dipping their toes into the world of becoming a business owner, and not a bad one to consider at all. eCommerce has a low barrier to entry so minimal outlay is needed, much of the time you can get away with next to no overheads like holding stock or importing and can just about operate from your kitchen table and a internet connection. However, the best advice I can give is to do something you’re good at, passionate about and that makes your bum hum day in and day out. Because you will be doing it day in and day out. So whether that be in the corporate world of fixed employment or as a freelancer or as a business owner.
Owning your own business is hard work, don’t be fooled. Things do not go smoothly at the best of times. And when there’s any small problem, like the telephone line or internet connection going down, you’ll have to drop what you’re doing to attend to such things. There’s no IT department or manager to delegate such tasks too. At least in the early stages.
You’re the decision maker
One of the biggest upsides to owning your own business is that any and all decisions made are yours. There’s no getting approval from management or the rigmarole of going through the chain of command just to get told “no, that’s not something we’d like to explore at this present time”.
The downside is that your decisions might not always serve the best interests of your business. Oftentimes you’re going in blind or without an ounce of real-world experience, and not truly prepared and knowing what to expect. Much of the early days of business building is trial and error. Sure you can read a ton of books and listen to all the best podcasts on a topic but much of it is gut feel and intuition.
Team support and company backing
Owning your own business often means that it’s just you at the helm. You might have mentors, family or friends who can give guidance but ultimately the buck stops with you. Being employed means you have access to other minds who can help you on a particular project. Being able to bounce ideas off of colleagues can yield some pretty substantial results. Sure being in the corporate world means you’ll get next to no credit for it when things right, and all the blame when it goes wrong, but the team element is there – along with company resources. Company resources at a major corporation can be enormous. Having access to a marketing department, or finance department or lawyers or IT specialists is invaluable and something you might not have access to in your own business – unless you’re paying some 3rd party for the privilege.
Time off and holiday
eCommerce business owners should have a lot more time to themselves. That’s not to say it’s free time because every moment needs to be used wisely and used to grow the business and create momentum. This in itself is a great plus of owning your own business, as you can determine the hours of work and play. Some people work better at night, others at 4am in the morning. Being able to choose your own working hours is a huge plus and if done right can result in you being far less stressed out than working a standard 40hr week. Even if your pulling a 50hr week as a business owner.
However, your business is much like a new born child and needs you just about 24/7. Time off can be tricky to coordinate in the early days (ie 1st 18 months) and don’t expect anything in the way of holidays abroad for a good few years. The odd long weekend away is what you’ll have to look forward to.
If you’re one of the lucky few to own or have started an online business that doesn’t yet employ staff or work out of premises then you’re in a good position and can work from just about anywhere.
Salary and pay
Lastly and possibly most importantly is the pay. Being a business owner means you might have to take a major pay cut in the early stages while the business gains momentum and you can draw a decent enough salary. For the 1st 2.5 years of starting the business I can remember living on a miserly R10,000 per month which didn’t exactly break the bank, but it was a salary borne from a business that just a few months earlier was a mere idea. That in itself was reward enough. If you’re looking to freelance and have a list of clients that would follow you to the ends of the earth, you may not see any reduction in salary by going at it alone.
Being employed full time means that come rain or shine you’ll be getting paid each month, and in some cases eligible for a yearly increase, car allowance, medical aid and more.
All of this could be on the backburner of your own business for a while. And try not to get too sick or pregnant – this could throw a spanner in the works.
An eCommerce business will begin from scratch so maybe work it as a sideline, in tandem with your main job until it can support 60-80% of a salary you can get by on – ie not your currently salary, but what you can just about scrape by on. You’ll find that when you give up full time employment and dedicate 100% of your time to the business it will see a nice upturn in momentum and will be able to support you fully.
Each type of employment has its ups and downs, and I’d be lying to you if I didn’t tell you how amazingly satisfying it is being in the driving seat of your own destiny. But no matter what you’re doing and whether self-employed or otherwise, if you’re not enjoying it you’ll grow despondent and tire of it. The important thing is to do something that makes you feels like you’re making a difference, and that you enjoy doing. So if that means taking an online course while at your current job so you can your change career path entirely, then do it. Life is too short to not be happy in your job. That unhappiness will spill over into everything else you do and the relationships you keep. Try everything at least once, except for maybe incest and Afrikaans music, and see what bites, what thrills you and what you feel gives you purpose. Whether that be working yourself or working for someone else.
Mark Twain once wrote: “the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why”.
So what were you born to do?