The 5 Big Myths of Self Employment

There are plenty of things that people who DO NOT work for themselves believe about the self-employed life.

Way too many for one piece. So instead, I have chosen to focus on the ones I encounter the most, which I find the most annoying.

1) You work less

Somehow just about everyone believes that people who work for themselves are doing it because they are lazy and want to work less. The truth is you work MORE. Why? Because when you have a job, there is an accounts department, someone handles the taxes and pays the bills. There is a marketing department, there is a logistics team. When you work for yourself, all too often YOU are these departments.

So while you may well do less work on your core business (being a designer for example) because you can offer more competitive rates and make better cash, you still have to do all this other work too! As a self-employed person you really need to realise this fact as well. Because you need to allocate time and resources to getting these tasks done. Before it gets expensive and awkward.

2) You make way more money

Your business might make more money, but it also has to pay for ALL your overheads. YOU pay for every phone call, the internet connection, the stationary, the lunch, the printer paper and cartridges the office rent etc. etc. etc. et bloody cetera. This is why a freelancer or a small company bills what they do: they also have bills to pay. So while from the outside it may seem like an independent person is making way more money than you are pulling down via your salary, tally up the running costs and realise: a lot of the time, they’re just breaking even.

As the self-employed person, you also need to learn to not just count incoming cash as profit. Take overheads and taxes into account and tell yourself that 50% of what you’re making is profit. It’s a more realistic way to manage your expectations and also makes sure you keep cash aside to pay for these very necessary things.

3) It’s easy working for yourself

You just need to read points 1 and 2 to realise that working for yourself is far from easy. Yes, you can work in your pyjamas, keep whatever hours you like and charge a lot for your time. BUT you also have to worry about keeping accounts, paying taxes, somehow finding customers AND doing your actual job. It’s not easy. The first thing any aspiring entrepreneur should do, is study up on time and project management … and maybe budgeting too!

The way people assume you have an easy ride when you work for yourself is annoying and distracting. Especially when it is people in positions of power. But even more annoying is self-employed people who think this is easy. Chances are anyone who does is about to get a very rude surprise.

4) You can take time off whenever you want

No, you can’t. Those quiet days when your work is done and nothing is happening, sure you can knock off early when, if you were in an office, you’d have to sit there until the end of the day. And if you plan well, work hard and budget carefully, you can take your vacations when you want. True. But you can’t just take off whenever you want in the same way your CEO or manager can’t just take off. You have contracts, obligations, client’s bills… all of which require that you do what you promise in the time that you promised.

You might think it’s cool to get up at 11am every day, but you’ll soon realise that client’s expectations are that you’ll be at your desk by 9am and they’ll be calling, emailing and texting you… your lack of response will not make them happy.

5) It’s not real business

Somehow, employed people have a superiority complex when it comes to how IMPORTANT their work is. Just because you run your own, small business, does not mean you are morally inferior to the employed masses. Maybe your clients are small, maybe you occupy a small niche. This is no way makes you smaller than a suit-wearing MBA-d chief executive. It just means you run in different markets.

Over the years, many of my friends have taken MBA’s. Without exception I have discovered that the small, crazy little things I learned working a small business with unknown clients held up to the big, expensive theories trotted out at business school. Why? Because they come from the same place: learning by actually doing business. Small is real. Massive turnover does not legitimise any one business over another.

In the End…

This is just a small sample. But I think you can tell how annoyed just these 5 assumptions make me. However, as an entrepreneur, realising that these myths are out there is important for your emotional and psychological health. The challenges you face are many and varied. The perceptions and judgements of others are a BIG challenge and you need to know that. Without even realising it, people will belittle and denigrate you just because you don’t have a job. Even as the whole idea of jobs is going down the drain, people will still do this. Know it, accept it, take this post to heart, it’ll make you feel much better. I promise!