Cowork Rochester

Looking at Self Employment

Posted in coworking by Erik on March 22, 2010

There was an interesting discussion regarding self-employment that I felt was worth repeating on this blog. The thread touches on some of the pros and cons of hanging out your own shingle. My experience of Rochester, especially in the knowledge and web-worker realm, has been that folks are generally engaged in a more traditional employer – employee relationship. Entrepreneurial explorations appear to be “side” projects, not the primary focus. I’ve also noticed that the term self-employment has been used more heavily in the domain of creatives (artists, writers and photographers) and cottage industry. So at the risk of motivating the cube dwellers of Rochester towards independence, read on.

Something that really rang true for me was in Alex’s response, “if you’re independent and not collaborating, you’re likely to fail.” I think this applies to any discipline whether your self employed or not. Of course I believe the best way to work together independently is through coworking. If you are working independently, coworking should be important to you. If your working in a more traditional employer – employee role, coworking should be important to you. Both benefit from coworking and networking with peers, if for no other reason than to get a reality-check. By sharing ideas openly, others can help you focus them, extend your ideas into realms you may not have considered and help you find the true gem that is what you offer.

Carolina Basalo offered up insight into some pros and cons of going solo and Alex Hillman of Indy Hall (IN) chimed in with some responses. The following excerpts from the thread are shared here by permission of the authors.

Carolina: Pro: Independence. You do what you want, when you want. No-one else can screw up your hard work, and you don’t need to depend on anyone but yourself. Your days of being told what to do are over. And there’s no dress code, either!

Con: No Security. With independence, though, comes responsibility. There’s nobody to carry you if you do badly one day – if you don’t make any money for the business, then you don’t get paid. People like certainty in their lives (that’s why they spend big bucks on insurance) – it can be hard to live with this ultimate step into performance-related pay. You might find yourself quickly wishing you had a regular paycheck again.

Alex: Working from home and calling your own shots aren’t necessarily the same  thing. The most effective freelancers I’ve met are the ones that collaborate… and hard. They may be their own boss, but they still support a team.

I also don’t believe that having a full time job means security, nor does being independent mean a lack of security. My approach over the last year has been to break my cost of living down into smaller chunks, and find more sustainable ways to support those individual living needs. Client work isn’t the only path to income, and when you can get out of that headspace, your world opens up.”

Carolina: Pro: Flexible Working. You decide your hours. If you want to take Wednesday off and work Saturday instead, then no-one’s stopping you. If you’d like to get up early and cram all your work into the mornings so you can have the afternoons off, then hey, you’re the boss. Such flexibility can be a massive relief after years of working nine to five.

Con: Work Never Ends. When you work from home, it can be tempting to be constantly monitoring things, even when you’ve decided you’re not working. The only person who can handle a crisis is you – and crises have a tendency to happen in the middle of the night, or on your day off.

Alex: I think this is something that coworking combats, and one of my primary reasons to start coworking. More often than not, my laptop stays at the office now. I choose when I leave the office and when I come in, if at all. But I’ve finally broken the habit of “finding work to do” when I should be balancing my life.

Also, learning to delegate to other collaborators… who aren’t necessarily your boss… can save your sanity.

Carolina: Pro: Keeping All the Money. Everything you earn is yours to keep. It can be truly disheartening to work somewhere where cash is being handled, and realising that the takings for the day add up to a hundred times more than you got paid. You know that someone’s getting rich off your back, but it’s not you – working from home makes you the fatcat at the top.

Con: Doing Everything. Not all that money was profit, you know. It goes on things like marketing, management, stock control, deliveries, and so on. Suddenly you have to manage everything that goes on in your business – you deal with suppliers on one end and customers on the other, you have to do all the budgeting and spending, and you become your own marketing department. You get to deal with all the fun tax issues, too.

Alex: You’re presupposition is that you’re working in solitude, with no team or collaborators. I firmly believe that if you’re independent and not collaborating, you’re likely to fail.

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  1. Chris said, on March 25, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    For me, the biggest benefit to self employment is getting paid only for the work you do. I think our public school system and college training don’t fully prepare students for the crushing reality of the 40+ hour grind of traditional employment.

    Think about it. For 12 years (16 or more if you went to college), you become accustomed to independence. Your grades are a reflection of the work you put into studying or projects, or your ability to B.S. your way through a tricky situation (also a valuable skill).

    On graduation, you get thrust into an environment where your productivity isn’t really important, only that you’re spending 40+ hours in your seat.

    Maybe that’s just my story, but that drove me nuts. Now, as a self-employed person I can work however much I want. If I slack off, I don’t get paid. If I work my butt off, my paycheck should reflect that.


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