Today’s post is about something that took me years to figure out. I started my professional career in 2006. Back then, I just got my masters in Computer Science and was eager to put my skills to work. I was hopeful that if I did great work, that work would get me noticed and help me climb the corporate ladder quickly, because that’s what employees are supposed to do, right?
For years I did all I could to get noticed: I worked hard, respected deadlines, brought innovative ideas to the table. I even accepted a relocation from France to New Jersey to help my employer grow in the US. I would never say no and just get things done. Time and effort did not matter as I knew they would all pay off someday. But I kept waiting and waiting, and not much happened. I wasn’t in charge: My employer was.
Sure enough, my salary increased a little bit over time. My co-workers knew they could count on me and so did my successive managers. I had great friends and a solid reputation all over the company. What more could I do to boost my career?
As time passed, I noticed people around me getting promoted. Somehow it did not happen to me. I eventually grew frustrated and quit that company, thinking that their HR management was broken and that my new employer would see how valuable I was and promote me quicker.
Long story short, the new job was even worse. The tasks were boring to say the least and I did not fit in the company culture. That’s when I realized something very important:
“Sooner or later, some of us figure out that we’re essentially unemployable.”
I was basically expecting too much from my jobs. I wanted to work on challenging tasks that would make me grow. Instead, I was asked to sort data tables in alphabetical order… Does one really need a masters degree to do that?
So I gave up on being an employee and decided to work for myself instead
That way I would be the only one to blame if my career did not meet its expectations. I started my business part-time, working on evenings and week-ends. Then I asked my employer to switch to part-time employment so that I could spend more time on my business, and six months later I was working full-time for myself. That was 2 years ago and I don’t have any single regret.
Why do I like my new career so much? Here are the 5 main reasons:
1. More Freedom and Control
When you work for yourself, you have the possibility to work on the projects you like whenever you like. Obviously, this may not be the case when you just get started with your business and need clients to build your portfolio and reputation, but soon enough you’ll get to the point where freedom is real.
This year, I have travelled for over 6 weeks and fired a couple of clients that I did not want to work with anymore. I declined multiple projects because they were not interesting enough or did not pay well enough. That’s freedom and control in action.
2. Set Your Own Salary and Raises
This is another pretty cool thing about working for yourself. I got to pick my own salary and consistently raised my hourly rate as a consultant over the past 2 years. My hourly rate these days is more than twice as much as what it was when I got started. Last week, a 2-minute phone call with a client got me a $500 monthly increase in income. This just doesn’t happen when you are an employee!
3. It’s Rewarding
Surprisingly enough, I find client work more rewarding than employee work. Clients write recommendation letters and leave positive feedback without me having to ask them to do so. It’s especially true when I work for small businesses or start-ups, as deliverables for those clients are usually very important for their business and thus much more appreciated. If you want to feel appreciated and rewarded for your efforts, starting a business is definitely the way to go.
4. More Time to Learn, Explore Side Projects and Ideas
When you’re in control of your schedule, you can set aside time to read, learn, and explore new ideas. This is probably one the most enjoyable part when you work for yourself. Being able to learn and grow whenever you want to is priceless!
Sometimes I would even use a new client project to test out and learn new technologies. When the project is small enough, it’s basically risk free and just takes a bunch of extra hours during the learning curve. That way even a boring project can be turned into an interesting one.
5. You’re the Boss
Working for yourself means you’re the boss, and it’s really as good as it sounds. No more useless meetings or corporate administrative work to do. I get to pick the tools I work with, the clients I work with, and can take a day off whenever I want to. I can automate or delegate the parts I don’t like or that would waste too much of my time. Don’t like accounting? Someone else can do it for you.
The opposite is also true: If you want to be in charge of specific areas, you can just do that as well. Sure, it can be a lot of work. But it’s work you will be proud of because everything you do will come from your own decisions. Again, life gets very interesting when you have the power to decide what happens with it.
Photo: Man at work