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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 April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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