It’s easy to romanticize being in business for yourself and being a one-man (or woman) show. But it’s more difficult than it sounds. To borrow from the 17th Century poet John Donne, “no man is an island.” People are just not born to work alone. Here are just a few reasons why:
1. It’s very difficult for one person to manage different aspects of being in business.
Being a freelancer means being in business for yourself. And being in business, obliges you to look after mission critical tasks that any business must deal with: production, marketing, sales and administration, to name a few. If you don’t look after all of these areas, parts of your business will invariably suffer. Each business area is usually a job unto itself.
E-myth author Michael Gerber reminds freelancers and people starting out owning their own business to work “on” their business instead of working “in” the business. Most professionals that go solo tend to like the production aspect of their work and so other tasks like marketing go undone. That’s a big mistake for obvious reasons.
2. It can get lonely at the top.
The first couple of months as the CEO of You, Inc., without your foul-smelling boss and without those annoying colleagues that irked you so much can be great. But as time goes on, most people get lonely. If business slows and you begin to face adversity, this is when you really begin to feel it. It is much easier and better to deal with this adversity as part of a team. By yourself it’s really tough. But as the old saying goes, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” But it’s easier said than done.
3. Your business grows in slow motion.
Good ideas come more slowly and most projects take longer to complete than if you were working for the man. Why is that? It has a lot to do with team work. When you work with other people, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Ideas flow more freely and develop more quickly based on the synergy that is established among members of a team. And obviously the work is gets done more quickly since more people are there to do it. Productivity also is enhanced since people tend to specialize in what they are good at and so the work gets done even more quickly.
A seminal work that deal with synergy and team work is Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
4. You might work more and get paid less than you did at your corporate job.
This stems from number three. Since you are doing all of the heavy lifting in your company, and all of the administration and all of the marketing and all of the sales, well, you end up working more. When you average your income per hour worked, that means you get paid less. The worst part is that unless you have a lot of cache, a personal brand and lots of contacts willing to pay you handsomely once you go into business for yourself, it is hard to charge the same rates that would give you a salary equivalent to your corporate job. Your potential clients have to value your services to pay you top dollar and building that brand equity is an uphill battle.
5. You may dislike your clients more than your boss.
Most people going into business for themselves have to build their client base from the ground up. One of the difficulties you may find is that you are forced to take projects from low-quality clients, i.e. ones that don’t value your services, don’t pay on time or at all, or simply are difficult to work with. This can be one of the more unsavory aspects of being in business for yourself. And you just can’t fire them because you need the income. So you grin and bear it.
If you can deal with these and other drawbacks from being on your own, then perhaps freelancing is the right choice. And there are some jobs or professions that naturally lend themselves to freelancing, such as writing.
If you do decide to go for it, make sure you try to establish some strong client relationships before doing so. A good rule of thumb is only to go in business for yourself when they have lots of contacts and one or some of them are going to pay them at least 50 percent of a salary on a monthly basis. If you have those relationships in place, then you might be ready to venture off on your own. Good luck!