THE SIDE OF SELF-EMPLOYMENT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT

black woman on phone

I read a tweet from the Broke Millennial a few days ago addressing an issue rarely mentioned in the discussion on self-employment: payment. Or rather, the lack thereof. She mentioned how most of the time, working for yourself means fighting to get paid for the work you do. Although it’s a frustrating predicament to be in, I’m glad she shed light on the topic.

Being your own boss is a life goal I’ve seen unrealistically glorified across social media. A 9-to-5 is no longer the trendy milestone, and many even ridicule those silly enough to still be working a traditional job in 2018. The idea seems to be that working for someone else makes you unmotivated and lacking the boldness that being an entrepreneur requires.

Like many, I’ve fantasized about the perks of self-employment. It’s inevitable during those 8+ hour workdays in a dimly lit office on a beautiful spring day. When most people feel they’re wasting their lives away at jobs they don’t really like, nothing sounds more appealing than making your own hours and working in PJs.

Still, this is a limited view of what self-employment really looks like. Although I’ve never made a full commitment to work for myself, I tried freelancing while job hunting after graduation. It was a reality check to say the least.

Yes, I was able to wake up when I wanted and work from the comfort of my living room. But aside from the client I started working with in March, guess how much I made after hours of researching, sending email pitches, and drafting blog posts?

$0

I should mention I had a few magazines offer to pay me between $10-$30 for 700+ word articles. Call me snobby, but I couldn’t justify putting in that much time and effort for that little amount of money. This would mean cranking out a minimum of seven articles a week to make $140. At this point, I’m not about that life. #sorrynotsorry

In spite of making no income from my time spent writing, bills were still due. If it weren’t for savings, my last couple GI Bill payments, and my husband’s income, things could have gotten bad quickly.

Self-employment sounds like sweet freedom, but with that freedom comes unpredictability. Even if you land a big contract with a client, they can back out or drag their feet in paying you. In theory, you’re not “working for yourself,” because your money is still in someone else’s hands. You’re just not going into an office Monday through Friday to get it.

I’m not trying to dash anyone’s dreams of being an entrepreneur, but I think it’s important we talk about all the aspects of it, even the unsexy parts. It’s easy to get caught up when you see photos of your favorite Instagrammer taking a first-class flight to an exotic country in the middle of the week. Meanwhile, you’re at your desk with your eyes glazing over from staring at the same Excel spreadsheet for the last 30 minutes. (FYI, this has already happened to me at the new job and it sucks.)

Still, everything about a 9-to-5 is not all gloom and doom. I think some employers are starting to make changes to lessen the misery employees feel from being stuck in an office all day. Things like flexible hours, options to work remotely, and early Fridays are just some of the perks offered to provide a better work-life balance.

There’s also the comfort of knowing you’ll actually get paid for the hours you spend staring at that Excel spreadsheet. I don’t know about anyone else, but it sucks that much more not to be compensated for doing mundane tasks. You also get benefits such as health insurance, 401(k), and PTO, most of the time either partially or fully covered by your employer.

There are pros and cons to self-employment and traditional employment. What’s not cool is when either side passes judgment on the career paths of others. Everyone who becomes self-employed isn’t doomed to fail in their business venture, and everyone who works a 9-to-5 isn’t a mindless robot.

As I always advocate, choose what’s best for you and ignore everyone else. If you truly hate the thought of traditional employment, working for yourself may be a good idea. Just know there could be days where you don’t know when your next paycheck is coming in. If you dip into self-employment only to realize it’s not for you, that’s completely normal. There are risks involved no matter what path you take, so keep that in mind and move accordingly.

2 Comments

  • Really glad you decided to talk about this side of self-employment! Work done by creatives is extremely undervalued. People will literally hire people to write for them, pay them peanuts, and then have the nerve to get upset when the quality of their writing sucks. But, when you ask them for a fair wage for great work they balk! Ridiculous!

    • Yes girl, that had to be THE MOST frustrating thing for me about freelancing. I know I’m not the greatest writer of all time, but I do quality work. People don’t get that concept. They think creative work is “easy,” anyone can do it, so they don’t want to pay fairly (or at all)…but if it was easy, why are you outsourcing it to me??

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