Everything Else

The Pros and Cons of Self-Employment

Life Chats (formerly Small Business Sunday) is a weekly thing that happens here where I talk about random things that come up in my life as a music therapist, small business owner, book blogger, coffee addict, and perpetually confused 20-something.

I’m having a rough day, work-wise. (I’m writing this on Wednesday the 7th – I don’t work on Sundays, when these things go up.) I had a full day of work today, but when I went to go to work, my car was having issues. I had to cancel my morning stuff, to get my car to the shop, and have been slowly canceling things as I don’t hear from the mechanics. On top of this, I have a full day tomorrow, and we’re supposed to get a huge snowstorm, which could mean canceling things tomorrow.

So yeah, I’m pretty stressed right now. Because when things get canceled, I either 1) have to figure out how to reschedule them, or 2) don’t get paid at all. And February’s already a hard month because of it being shorter, and bills staying the same amount.

And as I’ve been thinking about this, I started wondering for the millionth time if being self-employed is really worth it. I love what I do, and I know I’m not ready to give it up yet, but it’s this awful vicious cycle that never seems to go away.

With this cycle in mind for the pros and cons of being self-employed.

Pro: I work as much or as little as I want, and I can be fussy about the programs I want to do.

I really like working with kids, so that’s mostly what I do. But I don’t just want to work with kids, so I take some other clients as well. I like being done work by 6pm, so I don’t often schedule after that. I can have late starts or early finishes whenever I want.

Con: Financial Instability

This is the big one, honestly. This is what makes it hard. I’m fortunate to have some solid contracts that I can rely on, and they are enough money that I at least know my bills will be paid. Whether or not I get spending money or have enough to cover emergencies is a whole other thing. Some months are good (especially during the fall, for whatever reason), some are a struggle (I am always broke by mid-August, because summers are slow).

I try to put away as much money as I can during the good months, so that I can spread it out more during the bad ones, which helps a lot. But things can change quickly, and you can’t always be prepared. I lost three clients (one was a big one – like in the high hundreds of dollars a month) in January and was coming off of a break for the holidays, so this month is a bit hard. I have been getting calls for new clients and programs, but these often take time to get going, and even longer for the first pay from them to come through.

Pro: I’m my own boss.

I basically get to do whatever I want, and I can set my own standards for how my company is going to run. No one tells me what I can or can’t do, I get to pick and choose my own clients and work, and can basically design my dream job.

Con: I’m completely on my own.

I guess not completely, because I have my network and people I can go to if I need help. But I don’t have colleagues or work friends, and if something goes wrong, there’s no one else to fix it. I have to be the one to do everything, from running programs to accounting to answering the phone.

Pro: I am not paying anyone’s bills but my own.

In that, the money I make stays in my pocket, and is not going to some bigger corporation or buying some manager/CEO/whatever a summer home. I pay taxes, and cover my running expenses, and the rest stays with me.

Con: I know what I’m doing about 15% of the time.

And for the record, that 15% is just music therapy stuff.

I had to teach myself to build websites, sell my services, do all the book keeping stuff, register for licenses, and so on so forth. At this point, I kind of know what I’m doing, but usually I’m just making it up as I go and hoping for the best.

Pro: I get to learn tonnes of stuff.

I’m a total nerd and I love getting the chance to pick up new skills and such. And by running my own business, I always get the opportunity to pick up something new. Some come easier than others, but it definitely appeals to my nerd side.

Con: I have to learn everything.

How to build websites, how to market programming, how to do accounting things, how to organize your life, how to work with every possible type of person, and so on so forth. I’m getting better with the people. The rest are still a struggle.

Pro: I can basically claim everything on taxes.

Seriously. There are so many things that count as a business expense.

Con: I still don’t understand taxes.

I pay someone to do it for me. She tries to explain it to me, which is followed by looks that question my intelligence when I’m completely lost after two seconds. She’s amazing.

Pro: I get to work with the absolute best people.

They’re seriously amazing. I love each and every one of them.

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