The Ups and Downs of Working for Yourself as a Solopreneur

Some folks have a glorified idea of what their life would be like if they could quit their job and start working for themselves, pursuing their passions as a business: sleeping in, working in their pajamas, being able to take a day off whenever they want to, having more vacation time, being home to take care of the kids after school, a higher salary, and being able to focus on work that they love for example.

Do you want to know something? That’s all absolutely true. If you build a home-based business, those are all potential perks (if you choose to take them — they’re not for everybody). I’ve been working for myself full-time for about 14 years, and I’ve personally enjoyed quite a few of them.

But what many potential solopreneurs don’t understand up front is all of those ideals aren’t guaranteed to work out as they hope.

Let’s explore some of the real pros and cons of working for yourself — specifically from home — to help you better make a decision as to whether or not freelancing, consulting, blogging, affiliate marketing, or some other home-based solo career is what you really want.

Pros of Working for Yourself

Here are some of the biggest perks of working as a home-based solopreneur:

  • You don’t have to answer to a boss or supervisor.
  • You can choose your projects.
  • You can work from the comfort of your own home (or anywhere you please).
  • You get to set you own rates and fees.
  • If you work from home, you can see your family more.
  • You can dress casually.
  • You can choose what days and hours to work.
  • You can decide when to take your vacations and for how long.
  • You get to spend each day doing work in a field that you (hopefully) love.

Cons of Working for Yourself

Now let’s look at the other side of things. There are some downsides of working for yourself, even from home, too. Here are some examples you might come up against:

  • If you offer services, you answer to your clients (to some degree). Instead of one boss, it can feel like you have many.
  • You might have slow times where you have little-to-no income coming in, especially in the beginning.
  • It can be harder to separate your work from your home life.
  • It’s easy to put in more hours than planned, and overwork yourself, because work is always around you.
  • There’s no one to tell you to go home at 5:00.
  • If you sell services, all the hours you work won’t be billable time. You have to squeeze in administrative, financial, and marketing work as well.
  • Seeing your family more can be a work distraction, and your work might cause family tension.
  • You need to be available during regular business hours if clients, or potential clients, will need to contact you during those hours. That can decrease your flexibility in scheduling quite a bit. (This isn’t applicable to all types of solopreneurs though — mostly for freelancers who work with clients in a single country, region, or time zone.)
  • Sometimes you’ll make mistakes in estimating the time required for projects. If you’re on your own entirely, that can lead to burn-out, but it can also be problematic if you had a scheduled day off or need to take a sick day and you have no one to fill in for you.

Deciding if Solopreneurship is Right for You

These pros and cons can vary quite a bit depending on the type of work you do. Personally, I have a three-prong approach to my business:

  • I offer freelance writing and consulting services.
  • I’m a web publisher in my own right (predominantly a blogger, with quite a few sites of my own, including this one).
  • I’m also an indie publisher, working on nonfiction books & e-books, fiction, and poetry (other than nonfiction, most of this is under pen names for marketing reasons).

I try to limit my client projects to a couple of days each week. I have one admin day. And I have one day where I work exclusively on my own sites and publishing projects (though I sink time into them on client days too once scheduled client work is finished). I officially work four days per week, though sometimes I slip into workaholic modes (like I’m in currently) because work is a pleasant distraction from other things or because I have big projects, like new site launches or manuscripts I’m nearly finished with, that I’d like to push through.

This schedule works out well for me because it gives me quite a bit of flexibility. I have long weekends every week, so I don’t need to take days away from work if I want to go away for a short trip or if I just need to unwind. It also gives me absolute control over my schedule five days each week because I only take on client work during two. But even then, I try to schedule my own early deadlines for client projects so I never press against a client’s ultimate deadline if I happen to need a sick day.

Little tweaks like that to your schedule and working policies can help you make the most of the benefits of solopreneurship that matter most to you while minimizing the downsides. But to do that, you have to know what benefits and perks you’re looking for and what challenges you’ll realistically face given your individual circumstances.

Don’t let anyone tell you self-employment is a lousy option for you or too risky. But at the same time, be honest with yourself about your availability, your knowledge, your energy, and your life situation and how it might impact your goals. And do this before you jump into business. When you’re honest with yourself, you can turn your passion and ambition into an actionable plan to overcome those challenges. And that is how you’ll build a strong and sustainable business on your terms.

Do you work for yourself? What have been some of the biggest benefits and drawbacks for you personally? If you don’t work for yourself yet but you would like to, what are you most looking forward to or what worries you the most? If you’ve had to overcome any significant challenges, tell us what they were in the comments and how you worked around them to build the business you wanted.

This post was originally published on March 7, 2007. It was updated and expanded on its currently-listed publication date.

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