My thoughts on the benefits and drawbacks of self-employment

May 18, 2015
by gfs
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I don’t really remember how I would answer the question “what do you want to be when you grow up” when I was asked it as a kid. I guess I probably said “a footballer” or “a fireman” since I never really gave it any thought. But one thing I have always been sure of is that I didn’t want to get stuck working in an office. Don’t get me wrong – I have done plenty of contracting work within office buildings and that’s just fine by me. But the thought of wearing a suit every day, and being in the same location all the time? Just not my thing.

And I guess it was this thirst for freedom (well, relatively speaking!) that put me on the road to self-employment. The funny thing is, it doesn’t matter where you are in life, there will always be a little bit of the “grass is greener” factor going on. So while being self-employed means being free of having a boss, it doesn’t mean being free of having to work for a living. In fact, you probably end up with even more of the working day devoted to job-related tasks than if you’re an employee.

The drawbacks of being self-employed do exist, but they’re not enough to make being your own boss any less attractive. But you have to be realistic, so here are the main ones, in my experience (feel free to add any others in the comments).

Drawbacks of being self-employed

Sheer responsibility. Even if your speciality is something like flooring, work doesn’t stop there. Oh, no. You also need to skill up on tax requirements, purchasing, health and safety, and probably also some extremely interesting stuff like indemnity/liability cover – and a fair bit besides. Responsibility is no bad thing – but it does seem to come with a lot of paperwork!

Economic ups and downs. If you work for a large multinational company, you will be affected by recessions just as much as anyone else, but you’re less likely to be at the sharper end of things. If you are self-employed during tight times, it can be a little bit nerve-wracking.  However, it still surprises me that many small businesses still aren’t fully utilising government investment schemes.

Work looms large. Self-employed folk take less holiday time and also less time off sick. This is no surprise since if you’re off there’s less chance of someone covering for you.  Recent research shows that 40% of small business owners worry about cashflow (Source: The Pros & Cons of Business Borrowing.)

Filling in tax returns. I don’t even want to discuss this one. Not without a Nurofen anyway :(

Benefits of being self-employed

Kudos. You are the backbone of the economy!

Freedom. As I’ve said above, as a self-employed individual you will likely work more hours. But when you’re in the driving seat, it doesn’t matter so much. You are the one who calls the shots. It’s a great feeling.

You set your own dress code. This may seem like a small thing – but if you’ve ever had to wear a uniform then being able to dress how you like is much more relaxed.

You’re the boss. And few things in life could be cooler than that.


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