Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Finding Happiness as Your Own Boss
Since early April, I've been an independent consultant. I've never been a big risk-taker, and I actually have always enjoyed the security that comes with a steady paycheck and the benefits of a corporate job.
I'd often read those self-help books that encourage people to quit their jobs if they're unhappy, but, being the frugal, responsible person I am, I disagreed with the approach of quitting. Instead, I thought, better to find happiness and resolve whatever problems you have with your job. Reorgs happen, bosses change, responsibilities change, and if you have a positive attitude and do your best, you will find happiness... at least that's what I thought.
But as it so happened, I got laid off, and I got my chance to give this independent consulting thing a try. My kids are all grown and I had a nice little nest egg saved up to tide me over while I was getting started.
As it turns out, I've never been happier. I hadn't realized how absolutely freeing it is to have total autonomy! I can decide when and how I work. I can decide to take a nap in the middle of the day. I can decide to take my laptop to Pearl Street and sip on a margarita while I'm working on an article. I can take my granddaughter to her 9am dance class and watch her joyful little 3-year-old body spin around without feeling a twinge of guilt or worry about "getting back to work."
Now, of course, not everyone who quits their job can suddenly enjoy this leisurely lifestyle. I feel extremely fortunate that I have a great network and contacts, so I'm getting enough work between short teaching gigs and writing assignments to still bring in a good income. It's not as steady and secure, but the trade-off of flexibility and more time to enjoy life has been priceless.
Do I recommend this? Not necessarily. I couldn't have done this 5 years ago. I still had a son in high school and more responsibilities and bills to pay. It can be stressful to find clients and always be on the lookout for work. And even though you no longer have a boss to answer to, if you want to make it on your own, you have to be disciplined in continuing to work your business. A couple of weeks ago, I was in Baltimore, teaching a class, and on the second day, I got sick. It was the first time, I saw a real downside of working for myself... there was no option to "call in sick." If I didn't finish teaching the class, I wouldn't have gotten paid, and probably would have hurt my chances for getting additional training opportunities.
If you're dependent on the income, I still think it's better to keep your job if most of the time, you're happy at work. For me, one of the most important factors of my workplace happiness is having a boss who believes in me. In one of my recent articles for TechBeacon, I share 13 motivators for software engineers. We're living in an age now where managers are recognizing how important it is to give their staff more flexibility and autonomy. If you're lucky, you will have that whether you work for yourself or for someone else.