Myths and Misconceptions About Being Your Own Boss

by Linda Pophal

 

Ever since I was a child, I have dreamed about running my own business. I grew up in a family-owned business and have always been very interested in business issues and business management. Like many wannabe entrepreneurs, part of the lure was, of course, “being my own boss.” But, also like others, I’ve discovered that there are a lot of misconceptions about being your boss.

I started my business, Strategic Communications, LLC, in October 2008. It had been a long-time dream of mine, and the time was right, personally and professionally, even though the economy was tanking at about that time. The first year or so was stressful, but things began to really take off in Year 3 and, at this point, I can’t imagine ever going back to a “real job.” Still, there have been a few surprises along the way and some areas where I found that I had some misconceptions about what running my own business would entail:

  • You can set your own schedule. While, theoretically, that would seem to be true, the reality is that the demands on an entrepreneur’s time are likely even greater than the demands on a traditional employee. Like other entrepreneurs I talk to frequently, since leaving my “day job,” I have found that I spend even more time “working.” I’ve always been somewhat of a Type A/workaholic-type individual, but the stakes are higher now. It often feels that I’m “on” 24/7, although my most recent resolutions have me trying to focus on enjoying more down time and being more “in the moment.” Still, it is not uncommon for friends of mine to make comments like “must be nice to take off whenever you want” or “well, you can take care of that — you’re not really working.” I shake those comments off, but they sting. The truth is that I work very hard and have many time commitments that range from client meetings, to ensuring that I’m available to run interference on projects or issues that could crop up at any time.
  • There is more risk to your standard of living when self-employed than there is when you’re employed full-time. This was a big “a-ha” for me. Shortly after I launched my business, I had lunch with a former colleague who asked me how things were going and how I was doing. I told her that things were going fine, but it was stressful not knowing where the next client would come from, or worrying about losing clients and my livelihood. I told her that, in some ways, I missed the “security” of being in a “real job.” Perhaps since this was, again, during the big recession in 2008, she laughed and said that she wasn’t any more secure in her position. In fact, she said she felt less certain of her future and certainly had less control over her future than I did. She could, conceivably, be laid off at any moment. Her perspective really resonated with me and actually made me feel far less vulnerable than I had previously in terms of navigating my future.
  • You will have more “control” as a business owner than an employee. One of the things that always frustrated me about working in an organization as a marketing communication professional was how challenging it could sometimes be to get my point across to persuade internal clients and leaders — especially those without marketing communication backgrounds — to “listen to me.” I always thought that if I ran my own business and served as an “expert external consultant” I would be more able to see my recommendations followed. Boy, was I wrong about this one! The challenges are the same today as they were back then in terms of the need to be able to effectively explain, and “sell,” my ideas and recommendations. My clients are just as likely to challenge my input/advice as my former employers and colleagues were! Their questions and challenges, though, are great learning opportunities and help me consider new and better ways of explaining the “why” behind my recommendations.

I know many of my readers are also entrepreneurs. What are the misconceptions you had about being your own boss?

 

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