Self-employment comes with a lot of risks. You give up the stability of a regular paycheck for having to fend for yourself. In addition, you no longer get to only do your job; you have to also be human resources, sales, janitor, and who knows what else, depending upon the size of your business.
It's a potentially rewarding lifestyle but one that also generally comes with long hours, sleepless nights, and a whole lot of responsibility. Despite those negatives, for many people, being self-employed is the culmination of a dream -- a chance to answer to nobody and benefit (or fail) based on your hard work.
Self-employment also comes with a surprising benefit. Despite all the work that needs to be done, 50% of self-employed workers said they have more time for themselves, while 55% said they have more family time, according to a new survey from Intuit's QuickBooks Self-Employed. In addition, roughly another 20% said they had about the same amount of time for family as when they worked for someone else, and the majority of respondents said they had the same or more time for friends, vacation, and exercise.
Work smarter, not harder?
Only 35% of the 1,000 people surveyed said they work longer hours now that they work for themselves. Another 38% work less, while 27% reported they work about the same amount of hours. Among those who work shorter hours, the top reason given was "I make more per hour," followed by "better work-life balance."
"More surprising were the answers given by those who now work longer hours than they used to," wrote QuickBooks' Danielle Higley. "Besides earning more income, many of these individuals also reported feeling a greater sense of fulfillment and having lower levels of stress. While a higher income may be directly responsible for less stress, it's possible these individuals simply don't mind working more, so long as it's work that's meaningful to them."
The self-employed have more time for family and personal pursuits at least partly because working for yourself comes with increased flexibility. Over three-quarters of those surveyed (81%) said they did not keep the same schedule every day, compared to only 19% who said they do.
That control over when you work requires discipline, but it also makes it easier to devote time to things other than work. A self-employed person might, for example. work early or late in order to attend a school event or to meet a significant other for lunch. The same trades can be made to fit in a workout or even to take a day off.
With that control, of course, comes the responsibility that whether you are a solo act, working as a freelancer, or running a small business, the buck stops with you. That means that you can enjoy all the benefits working for yourself entails, but you must also endure the hardships that come with the package.
That could mean anything from having to work during a vacation to dropping what you're doing to keep a client happy. Self-employment offers a path toward a better work-life balance, but you have to figure out how to make that happen for yourself.
You have to be able to go to work when maybe you don't want to and leave work when, well, maybe you don't want to as well. Both can be a challenge, but it's possible to find the right balance, and this survey shows that most self-employed people (about 70% reported an increase in happiness over when they worked for someone else) manage to make it work despite the challenges.