The Solopreneur

This article resonated with me.  For years, I have wanted to work from home.  I have spent some time working in drama filled, toxic environments and found myself, often, eager to strike out on my own.

These days, I am home about half the time.  I divide my working ours between the one school I still teach in, New Hope Academy, teaching online, working with my kids, and my part time construction job.  I also spend a lot of time online blogging, posting, and working on my site.   Increasingly, I work from home.

I like it.  I don’t mind working alone.  If fact, with the work ethic I developed when my family was struggling financially, it is probably better I work alone.  If we worked in office together, I am certain you would find me difficult to work with.  Just ask my wife.

When I read this article I couldn’t help but agree.  Becoming a “solopreneur” may not be for everyone.

The Truth About Becoming a Solopreneur, by Bob Bly.

If you’re like me, a lot of the online newsletters you read rant and rave about how great it is to be an entrepreneur and freelancer.  And they describe ordinary 9 to 5 jobs as a purgatory to be avoided at all costs.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact is that self-employment and corporate employment both have, like anything else, their pros and cons … and you have to decide which suits you best.

When I was advertising manager of Koch Engineering in the early 1980s, I had just gotten into industrial marketing (that’s what we called B2B back then) and was thrilled to be learning it in a position where, for a recent college grad in his early 20s, I had a significant amount of responsibility.

Just a couple of months ago, half a dozen of us from those early Koch days had a reunion dinner in a cheap midtown Manhattan bar — strictly burgers and beers — and we had a good time all around.

Before Koch, my first job out of college was with Westinghouse Defense & Aerospace in Baltimore. I also enjoyed the company of a small group of coworkers; Terry Smith, my first boss, had hired me out of college in 1979, and we are still friends today.

I admit that back then it was easier being a corporate employee than it is today, where you are never more than a text or cell call away from your boss almost 24X7. We worked fewer hours and had less pressure than 21st century white-collar workers.

I am not entrepreneurial by nature and would have stayed at Koch for years had the company not asked me to relocate to Wichita, Kansas.

My fiancée did not want to go, so I resigned my position and started working on my own as a freelance industrial writer — a copywriter specializing in B2B clients.

Here’s how corporate work vs. freelancing stacked up for me back then:

>> I had a steady paycheck at Koch Engineering and suddenly it was gone. So were my generous benefits, especially health insurance, and the comradery of the office.

>> As a solopreneur, unless you live in Canada or have a spouse who gets benefits in his or her job, you have to buy your health insurance. It was moderately priced then. Today it is much more expensive, and as you get older, the price goes way up.

>> As an employee, you have a boss or manager who tells you what to do and gives you your work. As a freelancer, I depend on clients who may or may not give me a project on any given day.

When you are first starting out, as I was in 1982, you feel like you are always prospecting and selling.

>> As a freelancer, I work alone, and even though I am solitary by nature, I do occasionally miss the company of my coworkers and others. Corporate employment, by comparison, gives you a built-in social group; when I interviewed with IBM, my prospective boss told me our department had a bowling team. At Westinghouse, we went to Homer’s Dixie Pig every Friday for ribs at lunch.

>> One of the big perks of freelancing back in the 1980s was the promise of earning six figures. Today, however, it is very common for relatively young people in executive or technical positions to earn $100,000 to $200,000 a year or even more. So the income advantage of self-employment, though still significant, is declining.

>> If you are leaning toward self-employment as a copywriter, coach, speaker, consultant, or author, the competition in those areas has multiplied tenfold or more since I started freelancing in 1982.

Don’t get me wrong. I love being a freelance copywriter. But is it absolutely, unconditionally superior to corporate employment?

In my opinion, no. It really depends on you: your temperament, personality, likes, and dislikes.

I do advise college seniors not to start out as freelancers but to first get a couple of years of corporate employment under their belts so they have some experience and a basis for comparison.

Sincerely,

Bob Bly