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7 Reasons Most Professionals Should Work for Themselves


Lately I've found myself counseling a number of professionals I know to give up the "permanent full-time employment" option (a myth, anyway) in favor of working for themselves. Some of the reasons are pretty obvious, but some are less so.

Below are the reasons I've been sharing with people in favor of working for themselves:

1. You Diversify Your Funding Stream. 

Would you rely on a single company's stock for your retirement fund? Why, then, do you rely on a single organization for your salary? Particularly in this economy where cutting jobs is the first thing companies do in response to downturns. Strength and security is found in diversity, not homogeneity. 

2. You Can Tell The Truth More Often.

Many of the professionals I know just really want to do a great job without getting bogged down in company politics. This often means that they want to voice unpleasant truths their organizations are unable or unwilling to hear.

Oddly, companies and organizations seem much more open to constructive feedback when it comes from the outside. (The reasons why could take up an entire blog post of their own). They may not actually DO anything with this external advice, but at least you were able to stay true to your own sense of how the work could/should be done. 

3. You Can Focus on Work that Plays to Your Strengths

Most organizations aren't particularly good at knowing employee strengths and leveraging those strengths. They may THINK they're good at it, but most people know this isn't true. 

When you work for yourself, you can go after the projects that play to what you're good at. This has the added benefit of making you look like a superstar because you can become known for the areas in which you excel. 

When you work for someone else, it's likely that you'll end up in the dreaded "other duties as assigned" part of the job description that tends to play to your weaknesses. Some companies have a particular genius for this; they are the cause of the Peter Principle.  

4. You Will Be Valued More

It's crazy, but for some reason, many companies and organizations value advice and resources they get from the outside more than the knowledge that can be found on the inside. When you are an external contractor, that fact alone will add value to the work you do for many people. 

Combine that fact with Item 3 above on playing to your strengths, and you are definitely going to be feeling better about what you do.

5. You Can Have More Control Over Your Work Environment

When I worked for someone else, two things drove me crazy--people dropping into my office just to "chat," (I'm an introvert) and having to attend useless meetings. Both of these items have virtually disappeared from my life since I began working for myself. 

I also have the added benefit of being able to make my own schedule and decorate my office any way I want. No one cares what screensaver I use and no one blocks my access to social media! 

6. You Can Be on the Leading Edge of the Next Industrial Revolution

Freelancing is our "back to the future" industrial revolution of the 21st century. Those who are on the crest of that wave are most likely to benefit from it. 

7. You Get Variety Without Having to Change "Jobs"

Most of the professionals I'm connected to love to experiment and try new things. Generally it's easier to have this kind of variety in your work life as a contractor than it is when you work for someone else. You have control over the projects you will do and can choose those that give you a better mix of activities and opportunities. 

Of course, working for yourself may not be the best option for everyone. But more and more I believe that for those professionals that really care about what they do and want to have more control over how they do it, contract work may be the best choice. 



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Very interesting post Michelle ;) I started following you on Twitter, valuable information!!!

I would work for myself if health care wasn't so expensive. I believe health care reform would be a great motivator for entrepreneurism in the U.S.

I really enjoyed this, especially diversifying my funding stream. Never thought of it that way before!

Thanks Epistele--appreciate it!

Eileen-I agree that healthcare reform is critical to people being able to work for themselves. If we really want to support a culture of entrepreneurship in this country, we need to start with the supports that people need to work for themselves.

Nancy--It's funny how we think that working for someone else and relying on one source of money is "safer" than diversifying. I thought that way for years!

I agree with all of your points, as I finally made the leap and quit my full time job in August. Yay! To Eileen's point though, I can only do this freelance work because my husband has a regular full-time job with health insurance. If he lost his job, I'd have no choice but to go back to a full time position.

I think there is an aspect of personality fit here too. For example, I am really looking for variety and being able to work in my own environment, and I'm willing to deal with some of hassles of running the business side of things to get those benefits.

My husband would hate running the business and marketing side of things though. Frankly, it wouldn't be a good fit for him. I wonder what will happen in the future as the economy shifts to people who really do thrive in the traditional environment. Will regular jobs still exist, or will they have to adapt just like people who used to work in factories have to reskill?

So glad to hear you made the jump, Christy! And you're right that health insurance is a huge issue, especially for a small one-person shop. It's one of the reasons I believe that if we really want to have government policies that will spur growth, we need to have national health insurance. But that's a whole other story!

RE: your point about the "fit" for people. . . I'm thinking that we may end up with more businesses that help people who are freelancers in the areas where they are less comfortable, like marketing, etc. Although things like that may come more easily to some people than others, I do believe in the growth mindset where it's simply a matter of learning new skills. They may not come as easily, but you CAN learn them. . .

"if we really want to have government policies that will spur growth, we need to have national health insurance."

There are a lot of assumptions there -- a much simpler, and politically easier, start would be to allow self-employed people to deduct health-insurance premiums as business expenses, and to form small groups to buy insurance together. Then at least the playing field would be fairly level.

This was hard for me as an extreme extrovert. I did not get the creative stimulation I needed in my consulting gig. Now back in corporate America I'm alone in an office and am still lacking the connections I need to thrive. I look for ways to connect and collaborate with others virtually but it does not fill my needs as an extrovert. It's a challenge. Sometimes I miss the days of working and interacting with the public.

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