It sounds ideal, doesn’t it. Being your own boss. Waking up whenever you like. Living in your pj’s.
Entrepreneurship is glamorized in society today. The concept of staying with a large corporation and climbing the career ladder has been uprooted by the rising popularity of small business ownership, freelancing, and startups. And while there is an undeniable thrill to launching out on one’s own and building something from scratch, entrepreneurship is not all sunshine and roses. Or endless days of vacation. “Overnight success” stories and 19-year-old multi-millionaire startup founders make the news because they’re the exception – that’s not the way entrepreneurial efforts always go.
According to Fundera, “20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 30% of small business fail in their second year, and 50% of small businesses fail after five years in business. Finally, 70% of small business owners fail in their 10th year in business.” In other words, the rate of long-term success is pretty low.
In my years as a freelancer, having tried a number of small business ventures and entrepreneurial gigs, I’ve had a lot of things said to me that reveal just how great the misconception surrounding “being your own boss” is. While everyone’s story and journey is different – not all businesses or business models are the same – I’m sure most small business owners, especially freelancers, would agree that they’ve heard one or more of the remarks that I’ve listed below and had similar thoughts about how they’d like to respond!
1. You have no boss telling you what to do – you are your own boss! (#sheboss, #girlboss, #betheboss)
Everyone has a “boss” – they just may not use that title. As a freelance graphic designer, your boss is the client who is expecting that their brochure be designed and delivered by the agreed upon date. As a wedding photographer, you work with the schedule laid out by the bride and groom, doing photos before or after the ceremony and as late into the evening as they decide. As a software developer, the corporation that contracted your services also gets to choose what you build and how it needs to function. You aren’t just willy-nilly running your own world. It’s true that you can set your own rates and work schedule (to an extent) but you have clients to please, project deadlines to meet, and others’ visions to bring to life – if you want to get a paycheck, anyway.
2. You must be able to take holidays all the time and work whenever (if) you want!
Anyone who runs a small business, especially If they work from home, will tell you that they are working 24/7. Your business never leaves you; you are your business! Even when you aren’t actively designing, photographing, coding, consulting, or doing whatever you do, there is always a little part of your brain that is running through upcoming projects, planning the next meeting, creating a new product…it never really ends. And, forget about holidays! There’s no time-and-a-half, no checking out for a long weekend, no paid month-long trips to Bali. Life becomes a never-ending workday, day in and day out.
3. It must be nice to live in your pj’s…
To be fair, in some cases this is true! But it is also dependent on your line of work and personal preferences. Some freelancers have to get dressed for the office (tie included) while others work best in their yoga pants and sweats. Just remember that what you wear says a lot about you – and your business!
4. You must love what you do!
Yes… and, no. As a freelancer, you’re doing everything. The accounting, the cold calling, the marketing, the invoicing…every, single, thing. Most small business owners will tell you that they do a lot of things they don’t like. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like you get any time to do what you actually enjoy. It’s true that you can hire out some of these tasks, and as work picks up that becomes a necessity, but a lot of the dirty tasks still land on your plate and just come with the job.
5. You own a business – you must be successful and have lots of money
Ha! I suppose success is dependent on how you define it, but it takes a long time for your bank account to match your work hours. Getting a business of any type off the ground takes a whole lot more hustle than most people expect. And then there are all the expenses that come with owning your own business. New computer software, printers, ink, postage, shipping boxes, labels, referral fees, subscription… By the time you’ve deducted your expenses from your income, you aren’t left with much! Not to mention that without a regular job there are no benefits, no medical coverage, no company-provided insurance. You’re on the hook for every non-business-related expense that life throws at you.
It seems so exciting, and it really is, to get into business for yourself. However, there’s a lot more to it than kicking back and sleeping in every morning. This kind of freedom comes with a few price tags that are worth taking into consideration before making the leap into full-time freelance-ship or small business ownership!