pros_cons

Without going into too many details, I’m now standing at a crossroad where I need to decide whether or not I should look for another full time job or simply leave the corporate world behind and become my own boss. To say the least, the past few weeks have been very stressful at work due to its disappointing instability and frustrating uncertainty. I’m usually a pretty patient person and often perceive things optimistically, but in this case even my patience is wearing thin.

My blogging enthusiasm is getting affected as well, I can’t seem to get myself into the right mood for creative and inspirational writing. I’ve got several ideas drafted but they are just staying there untouched and collecting dust. This week has especially been a difficult one, which resulted in no posts from me since last Saturday, but I thought of letting some things off my chest and seeking for your input.

I realize that I can’t put you on spot by asking for your direct advice, however it would help me a great deal if you could share your thoughts and personal experience with me. Plus, I’m sure that there are many others who, like myself, can’t decide whether or not going solo and working for themselves is the right thing to do, so hopefully the discussions around this post would help others as well.

First of all, I would like to outline several PROs and CONs in being your own boss. Please, feel free to add to this list, as I’m sure that I’d miss some important things here.

CONs in going Solo

Let’s start with the list of disadvantages of solely depending on ourselves and being our own boss.

1. No Steady income

I’m aware that owning a company, no matter how small or big it is, involves a risk. I can’t say that I’m the type of a person who likes to gamble with life, but I’ve had my share of risky decisions — some good, others not so much. However, as it stands today there are several important factors to consider before I throw myself into building my business: family with a little child to support, a relatively high mortgage to pay every month, plus all the other monthly expenses and bills.

As we all know, the only thing that beats a nice steady paycheck is the constant stream of clients and revenue from the business. But this is where the risk starts.

2. Looking for Clients/Projects

Currently I’m already owning a small web & graphic design business which sometimes brings so much work that I have a hard time keeping up with, while other times it gets very quiet. I realize that I haven’t had much time to build up my business and go after more clients, so things might change once I dedicate all my time for that. However, that’s when #3 comes to play:

3. Too much of overtime work

It certainly takes quite a long time to develop a lucrative network of contacts that would result into profit-making contracts. Of course, people occasionally work overtime at their full time jobs, but running your own business is different. Building a network, meeting with clients, following up on business requests and proposals leave very little time for the actual work (in my case, design and development). That means I’ll have to sacrifice more than usual the time with my family and friends.

4. No more teamwork

This aspect of working alone can be very important to some people. I love working with other people and I would definitely miss the daily interactions outside the house. That’s actually one of the reasons why I still blog – connecting with people on the Web.

5. No paid vacation

This is another important detail when working for ourselves: no paid vacation, sick days, no paid benefits. It is all possible to arrange, however less time for work results in less pays.

6. Extra paperwork

Owning a company means we have to deal with all the paperwork and fees surrounding our business, which once again leads to the extra expenses with less time for the actual development work.

PROs in going solo

I think I’ve covered the major disadvantages for self-employed, now let’s see how the PROs work out:

1. I’m the boss

The fact that there’s no one else to report to and depend on is certainly one of the most appealing parts of running your own business.

2. No more commute

Here’s another big plus — saving time by working from the home office rather than getting stuck in a traffic on the way to work.

3. Flexibility

Even though I mentioned that the overtime work usually accompanies self-employed people, in general terms you’re much more flexible in setting your own hours of work, and the vacation time. Plus we’re the ones to make the choice of working with a certain client/project.

4. Striking it rich

There is always a possibility that my company thrives, which leads to more income and less the actual work time.


As it stands now, looks like the CONs are outweighing PROs. So I’m passing it on to you to tell me what are your PROs and CONs of being self-employed? What was a tipping point for those of you who decided on going solo? How much time did you spend on building your business until it became a success? What would you like to warn me about going solo? Would those of you with a full-time job prefer to be your own boss? What prevents you from doing so? I would really appreciate your thoughts, opinions and possibly, experience with being self-employed vs.having a full-time job?

Recent Bits
Related Bits
Show or Not to Show: That is The Question
Spark Your Imagination with 16 Stunning Bits of Liquid Design
Secret Formula To Writing Headlines That Catch Your Eyes
How To Establish A Successful Online Business Presence
Design Costs vs. Values
DOS and DON’TS – Blog Branding
8 Smarter Ways To Blog
Meticulous Design: Dramatic Headlines
Comment Bits

32 Insightful Bits in response to “PROs And CONs Of Going Solo”

  1. I know what you’re going through, Vivien. Perhaps you missed my blog post (linked to through my name) on the pros and cons of working as a freelance graphic designer.

    So many questions, yet ultimately the answer lies within you (a cliché I know).

    Don’t worry about putting us on the spot to give you an answer. I say become your own boss. ;)

    It’s not for everyone, and some people prefer the safe, stable position of employment. It’s for me though, and now I have it, I’ll do all I can to keep it. I can’t imagine moving back into employment, but never say never.

  2. That’s going to be a big decision, and so if, on top of an emergency fund which I sure you have, your own business is reputable enough to have a strong and solid customer base, then try it.
    Being one’s own boss is good in many ways after all, bigger sense of satisfaction at the very least. :)

  3. I’m currently asking myself the same question. I know I’ll never be completely happy working for somebody else but having a young child makes it very difficult to make such a leap. Right now the time isn’t right for me, mainly because I don’t have an emergency fund, but as soon as I do I’m pretty sure freelance is the way to go!

  4. Really like how you broke it down; so I’m gona use the same format to reply:
    CONs in going Solo
    1. No Steady income
    This is a big one – you have to overlap several projects to get anything of a steady income. Intern this means managing your money carefully as you often get a load come in at once which has to last you till the next load.

    2. Looking for Clients/Projects
    Bigger problem for newcomers than someone like yourself.

    3. Too much of overtime work
    This is so true! You will end up working more; every project has its different demand and on top of that wanting to learn stuff than interests you is so hard to fit in. I often start work early and work till late; once you build a core workflow with certain clients you almost have to do the work at demand – otherwise you are forcing stable clients to go elsewhere. “Easier to keep a client than get one”

    4. No more teamwork
    You still freelance with others and all projects require working directly with the clients – which is interesting! – you become part of their team and vice versa.

    5. No paid vacation
    This is a bummer! I do a bit of yoga, drink water regular, take vitamin C daily etc just because I can’t afford to get sick! Few days off seem to throw out everything.

    6. Extra paperwork
    This is a true drag – people say you get use to it – but no one ever ends up liking it!

    PROs in going solo
    1. I’m the boss
    I don’t know; you have several bosses instead of one

    2. No more commute
    I rented an office for a few years; was ok but expensive. Then worked from home for a year and half – cheaper but more intense (have three kids under 5) ended up working through the night when they were asleep. Now work in a room down my parents – which is cool but never meet clients here (either at my own house or somewhere like Starbucks – but usually their own offices). It allows me to walk somewhere (about 45mins) which is really healthy to keep your head clear and not be stuck in one box all day looking into another box. And when you are at home, you really are ‘there’

    3. Flexibility
    I’d say it feels as good to turn down projects as it does to take them on (maybe that’s just me, but you aren’t bound to take anything on which is cool). But having projects has deadlines and all your clients want you dedicated to them; which can make taking time out more complex.

    4. Striking it rich
    I’m sure it will thrive – but less work time – I’m not sure; You will want to maintain your reputation and that takes that extra time and care.

    5. The unkown (my addition)
    The very thing that makes being solo scary – the unknown of it all – is also the beauty that keeps me in it. Being solo you have more doors open to you and can actually decide which one to take:
    they asked him,
    “hey, where’s this bus going?”
    and he said, “well, i’m really not sure.”
    “well then, how will you know where to get off?”
    and he said, “the place with the most allure.”
    Clem Snide – I Love The Unknown

    If a steady income means I have to sit somewhere for a set time and pretend I’m busy (as I’m not allowed to explore and do random things) I’d rather take my chance working at my best with less dosh.
    Sorry if this was too long; all the best with it! As Bob Marley said when one door closes another opens!

  5. It is very hard to give advice in this issue. From what I’ve experienced, it took almost 2 years in making my own business bring enough income. In the first year I paid about half of the expenses from the salary I got at my regular job. But that was a “brick and mortar” publishing house, so there were several expenses we could not avoid in any way (like the cost of printing the magazines).

    As of the internet business I’m running now, it took about one year to actually make a decent living out of it.

    What I can tell you is that I’m happy with working from home, despite the fact that I had an excellent salary and other benefits at my last employer. Of course, after going solo I had some hard times seeing my savings evaporating with every month of self employment, but I’m happy I took this step.

    Besides, I save about 3 hours every day by not needing to commute.

    When I decided to take this step, I said to myself that in case something went wrong, I could have taken another job any time. And I had savings to secure paying the bills and the vacations for two more years.

  6. Similar to Simonne, saving that daily commute by working from home is certainly a big plus. Of course you miss out on the office banter, but you also put aside the office politics. Plenty of pros and cons, as you say.

  7. Thanks so much to everyone who responded so far. Your input was very helpful indeed.

    David, I did recall reading that post of yours on PROs and CONs last year, thanks for reminding – once again it put a smile on my face of how closely all that rings the bell. Thanks for being direct with your advice, I really appreciate it.

    Kriz, i do have an emergency fund, not a big one, but at least, something, and also I have one big client project that will sustain me for a couple of months. So it’s definitely worth trying.

    I liked how Simonne said what made her to decide – if going solo full time doesn’t work for me, I can always get another job. Saving time on commute is very important for me – after all I can always find better uses to spend those two hours of commute.

    Eric, the same is true for me – I’ve had my share of great and so great bosses, but being your own boss is definitely a hard thing to beat.

    Sundar, thank you sooooooooo much for your detailed response. You’re right, it’s very hard to work from home when children are running around and demanding attention. I’m not a fan of Starbucks, but there are several coffee places around with free wifi, so I won’t need to spend money on renting an office – all I need is a table and chair to work on my laptop and do some sketching and planning.
    The Unknown – great quote you had there – it is indeed as scary as it is inviting.
    Before becoming a parent, the unknown factors of motherhood were at times daunting, but now I see that it’s not so scary after all, slowly I’ve learned all the things I need to be a good mother. Of course, I’m still learning – that’s an ongoing process, and I realize that the same will happen once I decide to go solo.

    I’ll keep you posted how things work out. Once again, thanks so much for your input.

  8. As a freelancer who is still in college I must be honest in saying that I could not support myself on the smallish (comparatively) amount of work that I do receive if I didn’t already had a roof over my head but in saying that it does pay the bills that I do have to pay (minus household bills). But after reading this working for someone else does sound better for newcomers…

    I actually want to start working for someone else when I leave uni and freelance at the same time so I can get a bit of both worlds. At least I know where to come back to when I decide on what I should do.

    So far what are you swaying more towards after these great responses?

  9. Ina

    Vivien,

    This must be a hard decision to make. (I just saw the post and hence answering a bit l8)

    I’ve been working for myself for a while now in different areas and I can say, not having a fixed income can be quite annoying at times but choosing to take a holiday with the kids whenever I want (well, in moderation), not begging someone for permission to stay home when they are sick, having my breakfast in the garden under the sun while thinking on my business ideas and sketching while others are stuck in an office, having a stroll on the beach on a sunny day while meditating on the next step, or when I am frustrated with life is priceless for me!

    You are in a business with people and you will be meeting them often enough, besides, how many quality conversation do we actually have with the people in the office? (In my case, very few and I am a social kind of gal I believe…!) Why not use part of that time being with friends and just chatting about real stuff you actually care about?

    Also, as far as paper work goes I HATE paper work! I mean I do! But that is why, there are accountants, (God Bless those creatures!). This is what I do! An accountant is my best spend money all month/year!  There are also those people who actually ENJOY paper work, and you can outsource it to them, the same way those who are illiterate in web-design (me for a start) give the job to people like you!

    I support the idea “Listen to your heart”.

    You are sooo insightful, creative, “out of the box”, analytical (just some of the qualities I have perceived you possess) that I am sure you are on the right path…

    I believe, there are times one MUST work for others so that one may learn certain things faster and then, there are times that one must leave….when is the later….well….only YOU can feel that!

    But sometimes, at least in my case, logic can be your/my worst enemy….hence, I say, follow your gut (your heart). :)

    Wishing you courage!

    PS. Another thing I feel is essential (can not emphasise enough how essential) is having a very supportive husband (or partner as I find people like to say around here ;) ). You must be on the same page and he must back you up 100%+.
    It makes the load and the frustrations soooooo much easier to bear…What does your husband/partner think about your future path? I am not saying, he must make the choice, I am saying he must stay behind you and support you if/when the going gets a little rough…But YOU must make the choice!

  10. I have no experience in this area, so I can’t really give advice. However, I read something on Successful Blog recently that suggested a list of head and heart. Perhaps by using that list instead of just pros and cons you can figure out, which one you really want more… or start to figure it out.

    Good luck.

  11. Jacob, so far I’m swaying more towards going solo. Ina is absolutely right in saying that working for someone allows us to learn new skills, get the experience that later will become very handy when becoming your own boss.

    Ina, thanks so much for your such a helpful response. Your life sounds like you live in paradise that can exist only in New Zealand ;-) You’re right about hiring an accountant. Actually, it is the time for filing our income taxes to the government and I am meeting with an accountant who can prepare everything for me in a couple of days, though I still need to put all the papers together.
    Regarding my husband – yes, he’s supporting me in any way I choose. In fact he even prefers if I only work from home. I’ll just need to remind him every now and then that I have work to do so he can take over and look after our daughter, otherwise my presence at home puts him in a relaxing mode, relying on me to occupy her ;-)

    Kristarella, thanks so much for the link to Liz’s post – very helpful. I’ll definitely give it a try.
    You mentioned you have “no experience in this area” – does it mean that you’ve never freelanced, and always were an employee only, or the other way around?

  12. Vivien, I don’t really have much advice either way, unfortunately… but I wanted to let you know I’m cheering for your great success in whatever you choose! I think Simonne is very right, try solo and if it’s just not working after a couple of months, know that you can start looking for full time work. I hope you’ll let us know what you decide. Best of luck to you!

  13. Sort of neither. :P I have never worked as a designer, employee or freelancer. At the moment it’s just an interest, and I sometimes do favours for people in the way of websites or photos.
    I’m only just finishing uni, so most of my jobs have been casual ones.

  14. Thanks, Lauren. What about you? Would you ever consider going solo, or prefer working for someone else instead?
    Of course, I’ll let you know what I decide and how things will work out.

    Kristarella, are you planning on getting a full time job after the university, or start your own business?

  15. I have freelanced a little on the side, but it has mostly been a frustrating experience for me; many picky or unresponsive clients. I think this is mostly due to the low amount of clients I work with, though.

    I think when kiddies come into the picture freelancing will definitely be the way to go. I love designing and I would hate to put my career on hold for 20 years! It may have to be put aside for a few years–until the kids are old enough to occupy themselves (and I can finally sleep through the night!)–and I don’t mind that. I don’t want to get too out of practice, though. Fortunately, designing–and continuing to write for my blog–is one of the easiest things to do work-wise from home.

  16. Not sure. I’m actually studying science. I’d love to do design or photography, but since I don’t have formal training or business experience I think it would be much better to work for someone else. Perhaps do an apprenticeship or something. At the moment I just want to get through this year and do as well as I can, then I’ll see what’s out there.

    You sound like you have some clients and some business experience, which I think gives you an advantage. :)

  17. For me freedom and being my own boss are the two greatest pros, and they outweigh all the cons. I certainly earn less money now than when I was employed, but then I realized that I didn’t in fact need all that money. Many companies expect one’s soul in return for what? A paycheck? They expect your loyalty in return for what? A paycheck. There are very few employers that give a damn about their employees.

    I don’t often give advice, but now I’m going to say, “do it; go solo.” What’s the worst thing that can happen? Right now you have skills that someone is willing to pay you for regularly (a salary); going solo will only improve those skills, and you’ll be able to do things your way.

    I also think that the working overtime part is offset by the fact that you’ll be working from home most of the time (and offset against commute times). Re paid holidays, I’d say you might just have to forgo holidays altogether (initially).

    Well, that’s my tuppence worth.

  18. ^^^^

    What John said.

  19. Lauren, working from home is certainly the way to go when you get to the life with kids. However, keep in mind that it’s not that easy to do. My daughter at first hated when I was working at the computer instead of spending time with her, she used to scream – “No capaputer, mama!” and jump into my arms, not letting to work. Now, after she learned how to use the mouse, she’s kicking me out and saying “I’ve got to work now, mama. You go!” ;-)

    Kristarella, good luck with your studies. I think it’s good to start your career with another employer and go from there.

    John, I really appreciate your honest response and advice. It’s hard to disagree with anything you said above, except that I won’t be able to last long without any vacation. I used to, but not now. My daughter has been asking for months already to go swim in the ocean and go to the beach… I keep promising we’ll do this in summer, it’s too cold now ;-)

    David, what’s that sign means – four thumbs up? ;-)

  20. Hi Vivien

    I left my corporate job several years ago to do my own thing. Though I’ve had to go back to a 9-5 several times over the years because some periods have been financially dry, I don’t regret the initial decision I made to leave.

    The pros far outweigh the cons of being my own boss – yes, it can be EXTREMELY challenging at times (sometimes, more often than not), but I personally don’t see an alternative. Going back to a regular 9-5 is just not an option for me any more.

    Actually, I take it back, one pro kicks all the cons to the curb and that pro is: FREEDOM. I cannot tell you how trapped/entrapped/clip-winged I felt working in an office environment. It was the nice people I worked with that made it anywhere near bearable.

    Vivien, if you can afford to follow your own rhythm and leave, DO SO. Can you afford NOT to?

    Sending you a super-duper, ‘scoop of Ben & Jerrys’, binary hug whatever you decide.

  21. Hi Vivien
    I understand your dilemma completely – went through the same thing myself. I now work one week for my employer (teaching design) – which involves a big commute, and the other week working on my own business from home (usually in tracksuit bottoms and fake uggs). Is there any possibility of you doing work sharing in your current job? Or could you get a job somewhere else with only a few hours a week? At least that way you would have a bit of guaranteed income but still have time to do your own thing. It could be the stepping stone you need before taking the full jump.

    Looking forward to hearing how you get on.

  22. Hi 2ThePoint (I tried tracking down your name from your blog and posts/comments, but couldn’t find anyone mentioning it ;-)
    Thanks so much for your kind comment. Freedom is important indeed. You know, I’ve heard from many people who went solo, that despite all the challenges they would never go back to 9-5 jobs they had be4. I hope the same will happen to me. But I guess, it’s the taste of freedom that’s too sweet to trade for an office job. Thanks for the hug and support.

    Hi Jen.
    It’s nice the way you have it worked out for you – one week teaching and another working for yourself. I can’t do any work sharing at my current job, but I do have once a week classes in Fall where I’m teaching programming/database, so that should work out well, even though it’s not going to cover all my bills, but at least some steady income there.

    I’ve already resigned from my current work, but have a commitment to stay for some time, perhaps a month or two. I’ll keep you posted how things progress with it.

  23. Hi Vivien

    I tend to use different names to tap into different sides of me. My real name is Ebele :-) . I used to pass by your blog some time ago. Glad I found it again!

    take care…here’s another hug…on the house…

  24. In following your blog for more than a year now I think you will always be able to find work. Yes there will be slow times and fast times but I think you can remain pretty steady.

    The comments above have been great. I would like to add one more. You mention in your cons, #4 No more Teamwork that you love working with people. What about trying to find a young person possibly still in school and having them intern with you. For the right person it could be a win win for both of you. You would get a team member to work with plus someone to share the work load. In my day job all of the management staff have people they mentor, it has been very rewarding for everyone and has helped with the growth of the company. Several are now in management with us or other companies.

    You say you have the support of your husband, an emergency fund and at least one solid client so I say put your ducks in a row and go it solo.

    Good Luck Vivien!

  25. Hi Ebele. I’m too glad you found my blog. Hope you manage to keep track of all those different sides of you. ;-)

    Joey, thanks for your reassuring comment. That’s indeed a good idea to mentor someone and collaborate. I might do that once I get too much work to handle myself. The school where I used to teach full time has an internship program, so I could “recruit” a student from there.

    You guys are all great at convincing me to go solo. :-) Looks like that’s what I will do, as soon as I get things resolved at my current work.

  26. :D Going solo!! I’m looking forward to all the success stories you will have for us!

  27. Go Solo!

    I had wanted to go freelance for several years but was always to scare – nice wage safe etc. I eventually made the break and haven’t regretted it. I was lucky my partner had a steady job and we haven’t got kids so we could have fell back on just his wage if we needed too, but touch wood so far (4 years) we haven’t had to. I read somewhere that in some ways its safer working for yourself –
    •if you work for a company you have no control and don’t necessarily know how the company is doing until they make you redundant
    •If you work for yourself you at least know the financial situation and so can do your best to do something about it when things aren’t going so well.

    If the worse comes to the worse you can always go back to a full time position anyway.

    Good luck

  28. Lauren, you’re even a bigger optimist than I am ;-)
    But of course, I’ll be sharing with everyone here what I’ll be learning and dealing with as my own boss.

    Tara, thanks so much for your comment and uplifting advice. All three of your last IFs summarize the situation perfectly. Your first IF is so true nowadays. It seems that no matter where I work, few months after hiring me the company’s business spirals down out of control. The companies are closing down almost with the same rate as the new ones appear. So yes, at least when working for yourself, the cards are open and you know what you are and will be dealing with.

  29. Ivan

    Well, I’m currently working full-time job, until that point I was trying to work as a freelance and it didn’t worked very well. Although it’s good to have a fixed income and not to fear about your paycheck, it’s not same as having a choice to choose for which client to work, where or when to work and how to work. I’m trying to make some balance in my full-time job, college and freelance work so I will see where this is going :)

  30. I wish you to find that right balance, Ivan. It’s not working that well for me at the moment: after work I’m trying to catch up with my daughter, husband and at the end of the day I’m often having a hard time keeping my eyes open and do some work after finally putting my girl to sleep. So hopefully switching to freelancing full time I’ll be in a position to balance career and family better – I’ll keep my fingers crossed ;-)

  1. Top Best Graphic Design Articles of April 2008

    [...] The Pros and Cons of Going Solo – from Inspiration Bit Vivien sums up the best and worst bits about going solo as a graphic designer. [...]

  2. How To Establish A Successful Online Business Presence » Inspiration Bit

    [...] since I started thinking of going solo (even before putting it down in writing), I was collecting various ideas for effective integration [...]

Selected Bits

PopularBits

RecommendedBits

FavouriteBits

PersonalBits

Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
read more…
When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach programming, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on