When I first started designing and developing websites in 2009, I knew there was an abundance of studio jobs out there when I graduated from my University program. It was very exciting to know that when I graduated, the possibilities were almost endless; there were great gigs in Vancouver, Calgary, Los Angeles, New York City, and even London! But there was always one thought I kept in the back of my mind, and I often fantasized about it…
Self employment. The idea of working for myself.
Sure, the studio gigs sounded great and “secure”, with dental plans, investment opportunities, and other bells & whistles, but the thought that I could determine my own path, work from anywhere, and build something great made me really excited.
But I knew that there was no way I could just jump right in to working for myself, and build my own business from the get-go; I had no experience, one freelance client, and I really wanted to see what working at a studio was like. Maybe I would truly love it, and the job security and benefits would be good enough for me. So, I started my career, and between 2010 and 2012 I landed myself a few gigs — a small tech startup, a large corporation, and a boutique development studio — and the truth was they were actually pretty awesome. The work was great, the foosball tables and arcade games were fun, beer fridays were a bonus, and the camaraderie made me feel like a contributing member of a team. Many people would consider these gigs “dream jobs”, and in some ways, they really were.
But there it was, that fantasy of mine, quietly reminding me of the possibilities of going it alone.
Along the way, I would let some close work colleagues in on my fantasy of working for myself, and more often than not I would be met with hesitation:
“Do you have the discipline?”
“I’d get distracted too easily.”
“I couldn’t handle not knowing when I’d get paid.”
“There are no medical benefits.”
“You need more experience.”
“I’d get lonely.”
The list goes on and on. People weren’t afraid to let me know the risks involved with working for myself.
But what about the benefits? Surely, it wasn’t all bad.
That’s when I was reminded of a friend of mine, who has worked for herself her entire life. She decided to try her hand at “working for somebody else” and to “be an employee”. She was very excited about the idea, because it was something she had never really done before.
Four weeks of working for somebody else was all she needed. She went back to working for herself. When I asked her why, she told me she was reminded why she decided to work for herself in the first place.
She told me she simply wasn’t cut out to work for somebody.
So, I thought…Maybe I’m not cut out to work for somebody? I seem to fantasize about the benefits of working for myself, and the risks don’t seem to scare me.
At that point in time, I realized I had a handful of freelance clients, and enough gumption to decide it was time for me to jump in with two feet. I put a basic plan in place, acknowledged the risks involved, and decided “what’s the worst that could happen?”.
So, I quit my studio job, and set sail.
Here I am, years in, and I haven’t looked back. And I certainly don’t plan to. Why? Because I’ve realized something…
The benefits far outweigh the risks.
Yes, there certainly are risks involved. A few notable risks include:
But what about the benefits?
When you work for yourself, there is no cap on your income potential. When you work for somebody else, there is a well-defined cap on your income potential, and you can essentially predict what you will make in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, etc.
For example, an entry level web developer in Calgary can expect $37,000 per year. Within 5 – 10 years of working in this field, a web developer can expect his/her salary to increase about $3,000 per year but then cap out at $67,000 with not much room for growth after that.
As a self employed professional, you don’t necessarily know what your income will be that year, and while that might seem scary, it’s what gives you unlimited potential. Perhaps this year you’ll gross $40k, but maybe next year will be $80k, and 5 years from now it’s $200k. What about 10 years from now? The thought of making a million dollars doesn’t seem like a wild idea after all, when you look at it that way. It’s the entrepreneurs, business owners, and self-employed individuals who build wealth and become “rich”. An employee cannot build wealth and become rich with a maximum salary of $67k per year.
Entrepreneurs live with the fact that they can fail. But guess what? Employees aren’t immune to failure. Having a “stable” job does not mean you won’t be fired or laid off.
Look at it this way:
Entrepreneurs can fail, but have no cap on income.
Employees can fail (be fired / laid off), but have a cap on income.
So, is a “stable” job really that safe a choice?
Here in Canada, we’re required to get a minimum of 10 days paid vacation per year. When that’s all you’re used to, it might seem fine, but when you compare it to countries like Finland with 41 – 65 days of paid vacation, 10 days is kind of a bummer. When you’re self employed, there are no set paid “vacation days”, you just get to vacation whenever works for you, for however long you want, as many times as you need. Obviously, you can’t just jet off and never focus on work, it doesn’t really work that way, but if there’s a good deal on a flight to California next week, and you’ve got some time (and money) to spare, why not?
For the most part, self employed folk can create a schedule that works best for them. Maybe you like working Monday to Thursday, and take Fridays off so you can have regular long weekends.
I like to say “my output directly affects my income”. If I’m not making enough money this month, it’s because I’m not doing something right. If I’m having a particularly successful month, I’m doing something right. The harder, better and smarter I work, the bigger my income. I’m not relying on somebody else in order to succeed, I’m relying on myself. As an entrepreneur, if I put in 200% more effort, I can see quantifiable results and growth — almost every time. As an employee, if I put in 200% more effort, I’ll get a pat on the back, or a bonus during the annual review if I’m lucky.
This is an obvious one, and while it might be cliché, it certainly is an excellent benefit. Here’s a neat example: the day before Father’s Day, Laura surprised me with round trip tickets to Las Vegas — just hours before we were to depart! She didn’t have to run it by my boss and try and negotiate a few days off so we can have a fun, impromptu trip as a family.
Perhaps my favourite benefit, because it’s so all-encompassing and is not limited to one reason. Freedom of choice, what to work on, when to vacation, when to wake up (unless you have a baby), when to start, when to stop. Me, and my family, thoroughly enjoy the freedom we have because of self-employment. It’s absolutely tremendous (and that’s an understatement).
This life we’re living is not a practice run, it’s the real deal, and we get only one of them. When I truly came to terms with that idea, the thought of building a career and living my life on somebody else’s terms simply wasn’t going to work for me. Not now. Not ever.
There are risks involved in every choice we make in life, but often times there are benefits that will make the choice worthwhile. Sure, risk-assessment is important, but don’t make choices based only out of fear.
Ask yourself something today:
Is that risk I’m about to take a risk worth taking?
I know it was for me.
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