“So, what do you do?” It’s a question I used to hate and is the stereotypical ‘strangers at a braai’ question.
If you respond with “I am self-employed”, prepare to be greeted with mild disdain or pity or a long lively conversation fraught with misunderstanding, sympathy, curiosity, respect, confusion and intrigue, all wrapped up in a layer of polite small talk.
I’m writing this post to explain (from my perspective) some of the perceived myths associated with ‘self-employment’. But you’ll discover that each contains a grain of truth to them. So, what do you think, based on your own experience? Are these a reality or just all in my head?
Myth 1: Self-Employment = Fulfilling your purpose
This is probably the most common myth out there in that when you are self-employed you are ‘chasing your passion’ or doing something that creates and fulfills your purpose in life.
The fact is, we all have to do some work that is unpleasant even when doing something (that in a broader context) we absolutely love. Work doesn’t have to be painful or dreadful, but neither is work a constant stream of unending joy. Like everything in life, life has its ups, downs and in-betweens. Self-employed people may be living out their passion, but at the end of the day it’s also a job. Employed people may ALSO be living out their passion, but it’s definitely also a job. Jobs have demands, unpleasant experiences and sometimes long hours.
“Without a purpose, life is motion without meaning, activity without direction, and events without reason. Without a purpose, life is trivial, petty, and pointless.”
Myth 2: There must be something wrong with you to make you ‘unemployable’
This is the ‘so-you-couldn’t-handle-it’ myth. The myth where people who are employed (and are doing well) believe that maybe the problem is with you and not that you are pursuing ‘something better’.
This I think is partly true that some self-employed people are unemployable, and there are two very simple reasons why:
- The traditional model of labor dictates that you are awesome based on your ability to ‘be a cog in the wheel’, ‘serving your time’, ‘towing the line and doing your job’ or ‘playing politics’ in order to advance at a pace that is desirable. Self-employed people view this as archaic, untenable, unrealistic and undesirable. They choose self-employment as the way to stay sane, achieve balance and do work they love.
- People are complex beings, jobs are not. We are all driven by multiple forces (think Economics 101 with Maslows Hierachy of Needs) whereas the 99% of jobs out there are defined with a ‘process-mentallity’, narrow in focus and aimed at maximising growth for the business – basically everything has it’s box. Self-employed people choose to see their work, life, family, needs, wants as one massive box that can work congruently together to make something awesome.
Does this mean there is something wrong with us? No. Are we just plain lazy? Hardly. Are we unemployable? Well, if you want to call it that, yes. By choice.
Myth 3: You don’t have a “real” business.
We live in the age where a “real” business doesn’t require a postal code, office space or even a website.
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Self-employed people realize that their businesses are as legitimate as they come. The work they do is real, it generates income, fills a need and occupies a niche. They realize that size does not automatically equate to impact.
Myth 4: Self-employment is the riskier option.
All of life contains risk. You simply choose your preferred level of risk. If you work for a typical business, you are taking a risk. You are entrusting your job security, income potential and employment to other people. If you are self-employed, you are taking that risk upon yourself.
The choice you make depends on your level of trust in yourself.
The caveat here is that (whether you are self-employed or not) if you are not actively managing your risks and preparing for them you are placing your fate in the hands of Lady Luck. Quite often self-employed people’s own optimism leads to limited planning towards risk-management. When you are employed you have that safety net – in fact, whole departments exist to manage risk.
I am sure there are way more myths than the ones above (so comment below with your myths) but these are the ‘big ones’ for me. Overall though I just really feel there MUST be a better term for running your own business than ‘being self-employed’ as the general impression I get from employed people is one of respect and pity (in equal doses)!!!
Anyways, that’s it from me…