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One Reason Why You May Need a Job!

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Steve Pavlina is a personal development blogger extraordinaire.  He is followed by thousands, so what he says matters.

But he’s a businessman first and foremost. Which means that he writes controversially to generate clicks. Clicks mean ads. Ads mean dough.

So he has every incentive to break some crockery.

Which is why you need to take what he says with a slight pinch of salt. Use his words by all means to make you think, shake off your preconceptions, rustle your complacency.  But realise that his is a cleverly packaged, deliberately extreme point of view.

Take his greatest post of all, which has elicited with more than 1750 responses: 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job. It’s heady stuff – take these snippets:

  • Income is for dummies – don’t sell your time, sell products which can work for you 24/7 – like his lucrative blogsite!
  • Humans are not meant to be raised in cages – roam free!
  • Self-employment risky? – tell that to the employee who’s just been fired!
  • Employees are slaves to the baas man, the “evil bovine monster” - they’re just “turds in the herd” – try telling the boss he’s a jerk and see what happens!

Where Pavlina goes wrong is to assume that everyone else is like him. All they have to do is, for instance, start a blog, come up with some controversial but engaging viewpoints and, hey presto, they have an income stream and they can bin the day job.

As if it were that easy.  There are thousands of bloggers out there who barely turn a buck. Likewise in most other highly competitive areas of self-employment. Take web design, music, aromatherapy – some make it, many don’t. The trick is to find and exploit a niche – Pavlina got into his early and is reaping the benefits.  Good for him.

Self employment isn’t that straightforward.  It’s fine for some, not so for many. On balance, it works for me. I run my own business, with diverse income streams, but I recognise that it ain’t for everyone.

Here are six reasons why going it alone may be tough:

It’s not easy to win business. Most newly self-employed people have little experience of winning business. At their former company, they were typically handed work to do on a plate. Business was promoted by the marketing team and clinched by the sales team, with the company possessing a brand that conferred a degree of credibility in the sales process. Your role may have been to help deliver the business after it had been won. You will be new to selling. 

Pavlina suggests that employees, if they want a pay raise, have to sit up and beg their master for more money. While, “if you have a business and one customer says “no” to you, you simply say “next.”” That is an outrageous exaggeration! Many sole traders suffer because they genuinely find it difficult to sell and have to make do with whatever comes their way.

Pavlina may not understand this. He’s a super-salesman. Not everyone is.

You have to do everything yourself. When you’re self-employed, who do you ask to type a letter? Issue an invoice? Then post it? Make the coffee? Keep the books? Wine and dine a key client? Chat up the local journalist? Design the business cards? Write the brochure? Provide content for the website? Choose the laptop? And the ISP? Delete the spam? Fix the abominable pop-ups? And, having done all that, provide the service better than the competition? The answer is scary: U!, U!, U! You’re not just the CEO. You’re also the GIC—gofer-in-chief. 

There ain’t no security. If you’re an employee and you’re feeling dreadful, with the flu or perhaps something nastier, what do you do? You call the boss and suggest, croakily, that you stay home for the day. You’ll still receive your salary. Likewise if your son is unwell, your wife is unavailable, and you need to take him to the doctor, your bank account will still be credited at the end of the month. Just as it is when you’re on holiday. An employee also has some element of job security. Not as much these days as in earlier decades, perhaps, but some. 

There’s none of that when you’re self-employed. When you’re sick, or when you have to care for sick relatives, you don’t get paid. When you’re on holiday, its cost is not offset by a salary check on your return. And there’s no security, none at all, when the market gets tough. For the self-employed, you eat what you catch. No catch, no food. You are as we all once were: a hunter-gatherer. 

Work time blurs into home time. For the self-employed, there becomes a finer distinction between when work stops and play starts. Work can infiltrate leisure time. This is especially true if you work from home. It can be difficult to turn off the laptop or put down your tools and play with the kids when there’s work remaining undone. 

It can be lonely. As CEO of your own business, you may be pretty isolated for much of the time. That comes with the territory. Worse, when things go badly, it can be lonely. Bad news like a lost pitch can be hard to take. It gets more personal. It’s not your company the client is rejecting in favor of another provider. It’s you. It’s your skills, your track record, your storyline, your pricing, your personality, your face, your armpits (?!), your everything. In a word, you. It can be tough. 

Don’t do it for the money. It’s a common fallacy that self-employed people make more than employees. It’s not generally the case. Just because the daily rates may seem high, remember they are multiplied not by 5*52 days/year, but by the days you do paid work per year—a very different concept. Take off days for marketing, pitching, admin, holidays, or sickness, and take more off for downtime/no work—and your annual earnings may not be spectacular. 

Phew! So there are some of the downsides to being self-employed. Now let’s try to redress the balance. Here are some of the main advantages of being self-employed, of being the head honcho of your own business: 

You’re your own boss. This is the most obvious boon. No reporting, no asking for permission, no annual reviews, no internal politics. No need to account to anyone but U! To those of us with little patience for bosses of limited capability other than playing the corporate game of slippery snakes and greasy ladders, this is a big plus. Pavlina is bang on here. With your own business, you’re not just another turd. 

You’ll grow your business. Each time you win a new customer, that’s your precious customer. Each time you receive payment, that’s your bank account you’ll be dropping the check into. Each time you prepare your annual accounts, hopefully you’ll be tracking the growth of your company, your enterprise, your initiative, your energy. Your baby. It feels good. 

You can select your own free time. This is the flipside to the disadvantage above of work slipping into leisure time. Leisure can also slip happily into work time when you’re self-employed. You’re bashing away at the laptop, the lad comes home from school and he wants to kick a ball with you in the park. Why not?! 

You’ll see more of the family. Few self-employed people have long commutes. Many work from home or from nearby offices, maybe on the Main Street down the road. Many visit other people’s homes within a reasonable radius of theirs. Time saved in commuting should mean more time with the family. When you see both parents of a child at an after lunch performance of the school’s jazz band, what’s the betting that the working parent (or parents) is self-employed? 

So there you have it. There’s a balance. Some fantastic advantages, balanced by some rather grim disadvantages. It’s a lifestyle choice.

We all know which side of the argument has most swayed Pavlina. And good luck to him. But for you?

If you have found this helpful, there’s much more detail on the pros and cons of setting up your own business in Chapter 13 of my book, Backing U! A Business-Oriented Guide to Backing Your Passion and Achieving Career Success.

There are also a whole bunch of tips on how to sell and how to run a business in the book – which you can take a look at now or wait for another blog post sometime soon…!

So, to summarise. There’s one reason why you may need a job – you’re not Steve Pavlina! Different strokes for different folks…

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