Why be an independent?
Today is the 10 year anniversary of my company I co-founded and also marks the time when my own Sunday night feeling of anxiety ceased for good when I transitioned from an employee to a self-employed business owner. “Why be an independent?” I thought this would be a fitting topic to discuss because I think each person should at least consider and ask this question of themselves periodically throughout their careers. I have met numerous people who would probably be much happier and more prosperous if they would take the proper steps needed to start their own venture or become a consultant or independent in their field.
Why consider working for yourself? Because you probably already are whether you realize it or not. As many of us have learned over the past decade or so, the days where you traded loyalty to your employer in return for steady employment is now the exception rather than the rule. Having a “permanent” job is not an assurance of long-term employment. In fact, it is not unusual for a contractor to have a longer tenure at a firm than most of the employees. If an employer decides to make a change in your employment status, most can do so without any further financial obligation. This modern day reality shifts a tremendous amount of risk from the employer to the employee.
Most people mention they need to be an employee because of the benefits – primarily health insurance. I do not question the importance of having proper health insurance for you and your family, but you can purchase health insurance on your own without getting it from an employer. In fact, by doing so, you can choose one that best fits your needs, possibly even better than the one handed to you from an employer. As health insurance costs have continued to rise, most employees who receive health insurance through their employers have paid more for this “benefit” and received less from their policies. Most salaries have not risen to keep up with this cost, and many salaried employees are now expected to work more hours than before for the same pay and benefits. I believe that if more workers were solely responsible for their own health insurance policies, they would make different decisions about where they work and what they do. I do realize that most people do not want to absorb this extra cost to purchase their own benefits, but employers do not want to do this either. Because of this burden, many companies have laid off and/or reduced hours for salaried employees and replace them with some type of outside resource whether it is a firm, contractor, consultant, or some other type of independent worker.
“… skate to where the puck is going, not where it’s been.”
In my business, 80-90% of the opportunities available are contract/project oriented versus the 10- 20% that are permanent hires. Ironically, 80-90% of our job candidates are actively seeking permanent positions while 10-20% of candidates truly desire contract/project opportunities. The most successful consultants typically spread their work amongst many firms rather than a single client. Diversifying their base of clients gives them a better sense of security by not being overly dependent on any one company. Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky said that when he was growing up, his father told him to “skate to where the puck is going, not where it’s been.” This advice is also applicable to today’s worker. The world of employment has changed and those that best adapt and embrace where it is going will prosper.