~Joel’s Blog

Ready. Fire. Aim.

It depends on your perspective. One of the legacies of the Great Recession is the massive increase in people working on their own. But is this legacy one we want?

Whether they chose this path willingly—out of frustration with their work environment (like me)—or had it served to them in a pink slip, the number of Solopreneurs jumped during this difficult economic period. According to one study, 543,000 new businesses were created each month throughout 2011. Officially, the recession ended in 2009, but even more people were creating new businesses two years later. Presumably, this reflects the high unemployment rate during that period.

Still, that’s more than 6.5 million new businesses launched in 2011. And we’re still creating them at about this pace. Some believe the trend is moving upward, in fact.

A Familiar Perspective Feels Good

Running a business by yourself is a typically a daily challenge to your perspective. It’s hard work. And often enough, it is new work. Many new businesses are born out of an interest or hobby. And like all newborns, they don’t pop out mature, self-sufficient and productive. Most take a lot of time, energy and focus to grow up into a sustainable company. Uncertainty claws at the owner’s door everyday.

On the other hand, as an employee of any size company, you agree to exchange your time and effort for an agreed rate of compensation. You receive income for what you do wherever it is you work, right? You expect it. Whether you collect minimum wage or a princely salary, you know that according to the agreement, you receive paychecks for your work.

But it’s easy to forget that the person responsible for paying you may not have enough cash to cover payroll. You don’t really think about it. I certainly didn’t wonder about it. I focused on what I was going to spend my paycheck on, not on the sustainability of the company. Or whether there would be enough to go around. But I knew money was coming. There was a predictable pattern. Show up and work x-hours per day/week/month and collect x-dollars for my time.

Consider this: another study reveals that more than 543,000 businesses close their doors every month. Receiving a predictable paycheck is very attractive. But who guarantees sustainable paychecks?

Potential Is Alluring

Small business owners choose potential over predictable. They go solo because they prefer to be paid for their knowledge rather than their time. Their knowledge might be delivered in a service, product, or both, but they find greater meaning and purpose in this way than being paid for just their time.

Even people that accept the more common exchange of getting paid for their time often wish to be their own boss. Be in control. Do things differently. It is a bedrock principle of the American Dream: Go out on your own. Gain the freedom and independence you don’t have working for someone else! Be your own boss.

No Safety Net

Solopreneurs, by and large, have no pattern at all to their income. They might work for days, weeks or months without seeing much—or any—income. Now that’s pressure! They still have normal bills to pay. And life always tosses something unexpected into the mix: “You need a root canal!” Or the car breaks down. Or worse.

Savings are depleted. Faith in the future is stressed. Relationships are strained. Doubt creeps in…and overstays its welcome. This is a common situation in a Solopreneurs life, as well as small business owners.

But this is true for many non-entrepreneurs, too. Will this job last? Is my position being commoditized? Will my skill sets still be needed down the road? Is my degree relevant? Is the company I work for strong and healthy?

Behind Enemy Lines

Of the patterns we’ve looked at, how we choose to be paid isn’t the most troublesome pattern. Working at a J.O.B. or laboring in starting up your own company both bring challenges. Any work option has compelling reasons and corresponding pitfalls. Working for “The Man” brings predictability but often a slow-growing rise in income. Going solo brings excitement and the potential for more money but offers no certainty and considerable risk.

Regardless of how you earn a living, one experience is universal:

When you spend too much time in your head, you are behind enemy lines.

Many people are miserable in their work. They long to lean into their dream—making a difference, bringing a new service into world, writing the next great American novel, whatever. They have a passion that is being unmet. They go to their job because of the predictability of the paycheck. But they hate their situation.

Going Independent

Then there are the Solopreneurs. After the initial thrill wears off, many grow miserable trying to build something from scratch, often will little training or assistance. They slog away, hoping that…one day…their business will take off. They’ll be validated. All the pressure will have been worth it. But secretly they miss having a regular paycheck.

It is imperative that, regardless of your work situation, you partner up with other people to add perspective to your view of things. When we stay in our heads—thinking, vexing, spinning, sleeplessly churning and rehashing—we are not making progress. All we’re doing is burning up time and energy.

Think it’s time to bust out on your own? Great! Go talk to someone at the SBA (Small Business Administration) first. Develop a plan. Create a budget. Count the cost. Line up resources that will help guide you. Don’t rely on only your intuition. Especially don’t accept the wisdom of cousin Larry, who fancies himself knowledgeable about everything. Friends and family will think you’re nuts.

Already on your own? Up to your neck in the complexities of building a company from scratch? Good on you! Again, make sure you are talking to someone else and not just listening to your voice. Don’t impulse your way along to the success you dream for. Get an outsider’s perspective. Hire a business coach suited to your business model.

Stand By Me

Forrest Gump was right. Life is like a box of chocolates. We really don’t know what we’re going to get. It’s full of surprises. Most of the time they’re great and wonderful. But not every time.

Whether you choose the path more trodden, preferring a predictable paycheck, or you break out on your own, diving into building a business, know this: when you are making decisions on your own, taking counsel from only your limited perspective, you are behind enemy lines.

Most of us are not patient, kind, fair or accurate in our assessments of our value, worth or skills. And this is on a good day! Add a dash of uncertainty and a big splash of pressure, and we’re doomed. Liberate yourself. Talk to someone who can help you. Get out of your head. You need perspective. Sooner is better.

Engage here. What’s your experience? Share and we all grow.

Want to discover your entrepreneurial DNA? Go here: What’s my eDNA? Takes about 3 minutes and it’s free.

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