It’s fun to fantasize about being your own boss, making the rules, setting the hours, and making the big bucks. Of course, people who work for themselves whether entrepreneurs, freelancers, or small business owners know that the perks of being your own boss often take years to achieve. And even if the money rolls in, self-employment is not the glamorous lifestyle that you might think it is.
Myth #1: You don’t have to answer to anyone
It’s a bit childish to think that when you’re your own boss you can do whatever you want. Sure, you get to call the shots of your business, but assuming your business does take off, you’ll have to answer to customers. Your customers will have needs, and you will have to take them into consideration if you want to create customer loyalty. If you freelance, your customers are your clients. And make no mistake, you need to cater to their interests, or they will take their business elsewhere.
When you read about business, you hear about giving great customer service. If you’re an employer, not only do you have to give great service to customers, you have to make sure that you serve your employees well. Poor management-to-employee service results in low morale, lack of efficacy, and high turnover. More, if you’re an employer that truly cares about retaining and attracting talent, you’ll need to be receptive to your employees’ needs. Some companies even do this by asking what their employees want and finding a way to give it to them. (Side note: some successful companies are already setting a high bar for keeping their employees happy. Check out this infographic on work-place incentives.)
So, you may be the boss, but you still need to serve your employees to ensure that you retain the most talented and productive workers.
Myth#2: Flexible hours
Just because you can make your own hours doesn’t mean you’ll always have flexibility. If you own a business, you’ll have to work the hours of the business, especially when you’re just starting out. Freelancing may be more flexible, but you’ll have to find time to work with clients when they need you. And, more often than not, in the early stages of starting up, you’ll be working around-the-clock.
Carlo Momo, who co-owns Terra Momo Restaurant Group in Princeton, N.J., opened his first restaurant with his brother in the early 80s and said he worked nonstop for years. While he said his workweek is much more manageable now, he admits that the worry and stress of owning several businesses never lets up.
Jared O’ Toole, Co-founder of Under30CEO.com said that there is always work he has to do. For the most part, his workday starts when he wakes up and ends when he goes to bed.
CEO Brad Galle often leaves his home at eight in the morning and stays at his office until 12 at night, albeit, he usually doesn’t work on weekends.
Myth#3: Work will always be exciting
It’s true that working for yourself is exciting. However, you’ll still encounter a certain amount of repetition even when you own your own business.
My father, who was the founder of the JK Group, an outsourcing company for corporate philanthropic giving programs, spent much of his time every day answering emails. Did he love his work? Sure, but answering emails for several hours a day was one aspect of his work that was less than exciting.
Jessica Durrie, co-owner of Small World Coffee, a thriving business in Princeton, can still be caught washing dishes behind the counter, fixing up the pastry case, and breaking down cardboard boxes. Not exactly the work many people think about doing when owning a business is it?
Myth #4: Anyone can do it
Yep, it’s true. Anyone can start a business. In theory. Start talking to self-employed people who are successful, and you’ll find there’s a common thread among them. Aside from the tolerance for risk, most of the self-employed people and entrepreneurs that I have interviewed and know have a strong support system.
Think about it. If you have a bad day or are feeling kind of low, don’t you want to get a pep talk from someone? You are guaranteed to experience self-doubt over and over again in the early (and sometimes even into the late) stages of self-employment. What’s the chance of really making it through the early stages – when you’re not making money – if those who are closest to you don’t support your goals?
Something else that many self-employed people have is financial support. It’s a lot easier to start a business when you have parents with a basement that you can live in rent-free, which is what Jared O’Toole did when he was starting Under30CEO.
Ryan Healy, one of the co-founders of Brazen Careerist lived off of a gift of 25 thousand dollars from a family friend that allowed him to devote 100 percent of his time to his startup.
You can do your own research by thinking about some businesses and looking up information about the founders. You’ll see that many self-starters have had a lot of support, both financial and emotional. (That is not to say that there aren’t people who were able to make it against all odds. There certainly are. It’s just that much harder!)
If you really want to be your own boss, go for it. Just be sure to go into it with your eyes wide open.
*All examples of were based on interviews I’ve done. You can read an interview with each person by searching for his/her name, or looking under the interview tab.
7/1/12 Brad Galle stepped down from his CEO position this past June.