Is It Better to Be Self-Employed?

<em>Magritte, The Son of Man</em> It is really better to be self-employed than work at a j-j-job?

What a dumb question.

Of course it's better to be self-employed. You can set your own hours, go skiing on Fridays, answer to no one called The Man, take as much vacation time as you wish, work in your PJs, set your salary, name your price, burst out of all ceilings, glass or otherwise. You're free, baby.

And yet --

Being employed rocks! Regular pay checks, built-in community, insurance, 401ks, someone holding you to goals and gorgeous career arcs, there's this thing called work-life-balance that is so in this century, and did we mention the built-in community of people? Easy. You belong, man.

And the answer is --

But first a story that led to this noodling:

Today I walked into an old friend in my neighborhood. She asked what I was up to. I told her I was starting a couple of businesses. Her answer: "Oh, how nice to be self-employed. You can take walks when you want to, have lunch whenever you want, have your own time ..." I looked at her a bit in wonderment and she continued very dreamily. "Oh, it's sooo nice being self-employed."

I just said "Yes. Yes it is." I was tempted to say something like, "It's really nice to be self-employed and start up a business with 2.5 clients and have that whole money-earning challenge with the health insurance hassle and and and." But really, who wants to hear that sob story. No one held a gun to my head and made me do it all.

Plus, I liked her take on it much better.

But I did have this thought as I walked home. Neither one is better. If you look at Working for the Man vs. Working for Yourself without judgment or prejudice, they come out pretty evenly in the wash. One comes with a built-in sense of community and that financial care-taking comfort. Ah, that was lovely. And the politics. The other frees you of constructed corporate hoops and the possibility of working for a dumbell who gets by on charm and connections. Each work option has its advantages and disadvantages . 

And on this particular walk home it struck me that both end up being equally the same. The variables probably depend on the kind of personality you have, where you are in your life and your career and if circumstances have offered you an opportunity to start something on your own (recessions make entrepreneurs out of many of us).

It's only better to be self-employed if self-employment suits your personality and your stage of life. And it's probably great to be self-employed when you've got some time behind you and your biz is going along fantastically and you're going skiing on Fridays and enjoying the thrill and pride of making something that is yours and providing you a good life.

Otherwise, who can say which is better. I have ping-ponged back and forth over my life -- in jobs and on my own -- and enjoyed/dis-enjoyed them both equally, which may count for my reaction to the question.

But now I'm taking a stand in building my own business. I am striking out to become a "solopreneur" with a Web-based business (er, two actually). Which is exciting for sure. And it probably really, really suits me, even if it scares the bejuses out of me some nights. For example, I usually get bored in a job after a year or two and if I look at my work pattern over the last 25 years, there is more evidence to support a work life outside corporate America. But god did I try! And yes, sometimes I feel a bit like a loney-preneur. But one gets resourceful and finds some other solo-flyers and starts what I'm calling Salonpreneur gatherings.

So is it better to be self-employed?

That's your call.