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Are you considering self-employment as your career path? Most people dream of becoming self-employed and believe it is the ideal career path. When they imagine being self-employed, they may see themselves living a life of leisure, having power and influence, and earning a higher income. But does self-employment really promise these things?
In this article we start to uncover the realities of self-employment through the experience of three small business owners. In each of these three stories you will see that each business owner had a different reason (or motivation) for choosing self-employment as their career path. It is our hope that you will be able to relate your own situation to the experience of these business owners and explore whether your goals may be in alignment with becoming self-employed.
Exploring Your Alignment
When considering self-employment, you’ll want to be sure it is the right career path for you before committing your time, energy, and savings to the effort. A great place to start is to learn what reasons others have given for deciding to become self-employed.
Here, we present the top three reasons given for launching a business. These include the ability to chart your own course in life, to make your own decisions, and to follow your passion.
Reason 1: Charting Your Own Course in Life
Charting your own course in life simply means choosing your own direction or plan, rather than following the typical path of others. Perhaps you have a great business idea that is based on a passion or special interest of yours, or perhaps you are listening to your heart and it is driving you to give back to the world. Charting your own course is about navigating how and what you will spend your time and energy on.
Let’s consider the example of Susan. Susan has been working as a receptionist for a real estate company for the past 10 years. She wants to break free of the 9 to 5, Monday to Friday schedule she is working and have the ability to pick her children up from school by 3:30 p.m. each day, or the freedom to schedule a doctor’s appointment during the day without having to ask for time off. Susan has a special interest in home decorating, which she developed as a result of working in the real estate office. However, Susan has no professional training in interior design and lacks confidence in the field. Still, feeling inspired to change her course in life, Susan registers for an online course in home décor, which she completes by studying each day after work. Starting small, Susan begins staging some homes to get them ready for sale by working after hours and on weekends. Eventually, Susan quits her job as a receptionist and becomes fully self-employed in her own home décor business. Now Susan is able to schedule her own hours and work in a profession that she loves and is skilled at. Susan has effectively charted her own course in life.
Many entrepreneurs have started their businesses to have a greater ability to meet their personal commitments and chart their own course with a very specific motivation. This is usually someone who wants to create their own business out of necessity and lacks other ways to accommodate their desired lifestyle.
Do you have a reason to chart your own course in life through self-employment? If you’re like Susan, you may wish to create your own schedule to free your time up to meet your personal obligations. Whatever your situation, if you would like to set your own course in life, then self-employment may be right for you.
Reason 2: Making Your Own Decisions
There are many decisions that people face when starting their own business. Fortunately, most entrepreneurs enjoy the decision-making control they have and are good at making wise decisions. If you believe that this description fits you, then self-employment may be right for you. As a business owner, you will be making decisions every single day—from what to post on social media to how you provide customer service, and every matter in between.
For example, Phil is the owner and operator of a popular food truck business that offers authentic tacos. He currently has two employees who help him with food preparation, cooking, and serving customers wherever he parks his food truck. Phil is very busy during the summer months with bookings at local music festivals, farmers markets, and community events. Due to the increasing demand for his services, he is considering whether he should buy a second truck. He will also need to decide what size of truck to buy and who he will hire to run the second truck. Phil will need a business loan for the purchase and must determine how much money he will need to borrow. The decision making for Phil does not end there! He will also need to decide where to locate his trucks, how to expand his menu, and where he will source his produce going forward. With every decision he faces, Phil also increases his business risks with the hope of expanding his business and eventually increasing his profits.
How do you feel about taking risks? If you are like Phil, then you may be a natural risk taker. Perhaps you enjoy making decisions because you can see more cost-effective ways of doing things or know how to make better use of resources than others. Whatever the reason, if you trust your judgement and thrive on making your own decisions, then self-employment may be the right career path for you.
Reason 3: Following Your Passion
Another popular reason people give for choosing self-employment is the ability it gives them to do what they are passionate about as a part of their work. Those with a career that involves doing what they love, say it gives them energy and motivation to keep going when times get tough. When you think about it, doing what you are passionate about means that it will be more enjoyable, less stressful, and will feel less like “work.”
For example, Anna, who is a self-taught visual artist, has always loved illustrating greeting cards for family members and creating business logos for her friends. Anna worked as a waitress for several years but always longed to develop her creative talents into a career. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and businesses were locked down, Anna took the opportunity to return to school and complete a graphic design training program. She completed her studies within a few short months, gaining the IT skills she needed to complement her love of design. This enabled Anna to open a graphic design business and spend her time working in the creative field, delighting her customers with her original designs. Anna does not regret her decision to upskill, and considers herself fortunate to be working in a career that is aligned with her passions.
Do you currently have an untapped passion or skill? Many business owners have started their own business based on an underlying passion. Think about some of the most popular brands, particularly those named after their founders, such as Disney, Harley Davidson, or The Hilton Hotels & Resorts, and you will quickly realize a wide variety of businesses were established through their founders’ unique passion or skill.
Considering the Bigger Picture
The experience of our three business owners may seem rosy and bright, but with every positive (or a “pro”) comes a potential negative (or a “con”). As you continue to explore your career options, be aware of the need to look at both sides of the equation in becoming self-employed.
Recalling Susan, and her new home décor business, the pros for her include the flexibility that self-employment offers. This flexibility allows Susan to better attend to any health concerns and be more available for her family. There are also several cons associated with her choice to become self-employed. For instance, Susan can no longer depend on a regular paycheque every two weeks or the health benefits that her employer provided. She must also ensure she has clients lined up to bring in revenue, which takes extra time and energy. Susan often needs to sacrifice her evening hours for email and scheduling new clients long after the sun goes down.
We also examined Phil’s food truck business and the decisions he faced with expanding his operations by purchasing a second food truck. It’s a definite perk that Phil’s tacos are in high demand, which means he can potentially enjoy a greater income, as well as the prestige he feels as his business grows. Phil would say that one big pro for him in being self-employed is the ability to have control over the direction of his business and, ultimately, his destiny. The cons for Phil are that he will need to work harder and longer hours in setting up his new truck and hiring and training new employees. Phil will also need to spend more time on his operations and logistics in adding a second food truck.
Our study of Anna is the perfect example of someone who was able to create a business out of a lifelong passion. Following a passion is one of the leading reasons, and one of the biggest “pros” that can entice people to choose self-employment as their career path. Being a self-employed freelance graphic designer, Anna now spends her time in the activity she loves and creates an income from it. She finds her life more meaningful and doesn’t get (literally) run off her feet as she did waitressing. Some of the cons for Anna include the sacrifices she had to make in cancelling plans with friends and family to attend classes and complete her coursework while still working full-time hours at her waitressing job. Finally, although Anna enjoys following her passion now, much of her week is spent completing tasks that she doesn’t really enjoy, such as cold calling prospective clients and completing bookkeeping tasks.
Summing it up
Now that you have read our three business case examples and the reasons Susan, Phil, and Anna had for choosing the self-employment career path, do you see any similarities with your own situation? Whatever the case, it is important to remember that the decision to become self-employed is not one to be taken lightly. In the next article we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of self-employment in detail.
And remember, if you need guidance with exploring your career options, consider reaching out to a career or business coach, a career services organization in your local community, or our online career assistance and skills training programs that can help you identify and work toward your employment or self-employment goals.
Make A Change Canada provides online supportive programs for individuals who are facing barriers to employment across Canada.
- Online Career Exploration and Job Search Resources for people facing barriers to employment:
If you experience barriers to employment, you could be eligible for services. Visit AnyCareer.ca for more information and to apply online.
- Online Skills Training:
Make A Change Canada offers online employment and job search assistance and web/digital skills training.
- Online STEM Education:
The online Certificate in Web and Digital Technologies Programs (Foundational and Advanced levels) are ideal for those who wish to gain valuable web/digital skills for employment or self-employment. Visit StudyAnywhere.ca for more information and to apply online.
- One-on-one Support:
When you join Make A Change Canada’s Web and Digital Technologies Certificate Programs, you will benefit from the support of dedicated course instructors and teaching assistants. Students receive ongoing assistance during our weekly classroom sessions, online chat or email, and one-on-one assistance sessions. Our overall objective is to help support you in achieving your career and learning goals.