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Should You Be In Business For Yourself? Some Pros and Cons

Should You Be In Business For Yourself? Some Pros and Cons

    I write a lot about personal finance. I hear a lot about how different employers are handling the current economic crunch and, lately, what I’ve been hearing makes me pretty uncomfortable about working for a long list of companies. Some employers are slashing benefits — effectively cutting their employees’ salaries while inflation reduces their buying power.

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    I want to suggest entrepreneurship as an alternative, but I realize that it isn’t a great option for everyone. I’ve been putting together a list of pros and cons in an effort to decide whether starting up a business is really a good idea for some people, especially in the middle of ongoing financial problems. I’ve tried to stick to financial and business issues  while it’s nice that many small business owners can spend more time with their families, I don’t think that’s the biggest issue for many folks considering entrepreneurship right now.

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    The Pros

    1. If your employer is letting you go, offering early retirement or using another euphemism for firing you, it may be hard to find another job immediately. Being in business for yourself allows you to immediately start working on making money, rather than proofreading your resume.
    2. Without the middleman (a.k.a. your employer) you can charge significantly more for your services — along the lines of what your employer was charging for your work.
    3. You don’t have to go whole hog into running your own business. You can try out your business on a part-time, evenings and weekends, basis while still working your current job.
    4. It can be easier to pick up overtime if you no longer have to get your manager to sign off on it. If you run your own business, overtime is a matter of finding another client or customer.
    5. The cost of working at home is much lower than for your employer: you don’t have to pay to commute, you can eat inexpensively in your own kitchen and you only have to meet a dress code when you’ll actually be seeing a client. And, while this isn’t particularly noble, you can avoid the constant birthday parties, baby showers and other office events that constantly drain your time and your wallet.
    6. Just about all of the expenses associated with your business are tax deductible. Running your own business can make your tax burden significantly lower — and a surprising number of things are considered business expenses, like conference registrations.

    The Cons

    1. While getting health insurance without an employer providing it isn’t impossible, it can be pretty difficult — especially if you actually need. Pre-existing conditions can make it absolutely impossible to get health insurance on your own.
    2. With a job, if you aren’t quite on the ball one week, you still get paid. But if you fumble on your own business, you can wind up losing money. Even if you have a contract, sometimes things can go very wrong. An employer absorbs those problems, but can you do that if you’re on your own?
    3. There are some great jobs that simply aren’t possible to do in a small business that you’re just starting yourself. If you have one of those jobs and you like it, why mess with a good thing?
    4. It’s all well and good to jump off the deep end if no one’s depending on your earnings. But if you have a family or other dependents, you have to be absolutely sure before you strike out on your own.
    5. You have to buy your own equipment when you run your own business: no more company laptop — or printing out your personal stuff at work. A computer, a printer, maybe even a fax machine: you’ll have to buy what ever you need for your home office.
    6. There’s no such thing as vacation time or sick leave when you run your own business. You can certainly take time off when you need to — after all, you’re the boss — but you just don’t get paid when you’re not working.
    7. While the flexibility of working for yourself can be nice, more and more employers are offering flex time and telecommuting options. You can have a lot of the benefits of working for yourself without having to give up a regular salary.

    My Conclusion

    Freelancing, consulting, and running your own business isn’t for everyone. There’s a certain amount of security in working for an employer, even if that employer is considering cutting costs with little tricks like suspending 401(k) benefits. That said, if you’re comfortable with the risks, I think there are a lot of opportunities right now: even big companies are turning to freelancers and consultants to handle the workloads of those employees who suffered under a cost-saving measure. Either choice requires a lot of careful consideration and shouldn’t be made lightly.

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    There are plenty of situations that can negate the cons I listed, as well as the pros. I mentioned that there’s no such thing as paid vacation if you run your own business — you can get around that negative fairly easily if you concentrate on building passive income. A lot depends on your field, as well as whether you have the self-discipline to run your own company. Before you make your decision, research all your options. You might even consider doing a test run: with a lot of businesses, you can get a head start on things even while you’re still gainfully employed.

    Do you have any pros or cons to add? Please leave them in the comments.

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    The power of habit

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to make a reminder works for you

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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