For years, my services have belonged to one employer at a time. They advertise for a position. I interview. We chat, perhaps multiple times. If we like each other, there’s a negotiated offer, and I come on board. We hug, shed a joyful tear or two, and I settle in behind the keyboard with fellow cubicle jocks riding herd on a network.
This is a comfortable arrangement. The company that’s hired me has a business. Usually this involves selling something to someone for more money than it costs to make it. If I’ve done my homework, this is a successful (or at least promising) business I’ve attached myself to, and therefore I can expect a paycheck and fringe benefits supplied at regular intervals. My refrigerator rejoices at the prospect of being full enough to feed the family.
There is a balance under these conditions; I competently render my services, and they pay me for them. The business owners take substantial risk, while I take comparatively little. I provide the network that helps the business grow. If I do it as I ought, the business barely knows I exist. If the business struggles, I stand to lose little; in the worst case, I will have to attach myself to some other business.
Comfort is the reason I’ve stuck with this general model of “they take the risk, I do my job, they pay me” for all of my employed life. I’ve worked for a small consulting firm, a high-tech startup, a 10,000+ employee government entity, a worldwide financial behemoth, and now a mid-sized business with offices dotting the globe. All of these businesses take the risk (except perhaps the government) I have been unwilling to take. They “hang it out there”, and I help them reduce their risk by providing competent services. I haven’t wanted to be the guy hanging it out there. I haven’t wanted to take the financial and legal risks.
I’m a guy with a family and a mortgage, so my risk averseness makes sense. Nonetheless, I can’t shake the feeling that at some future point, I want to take that step of independence. I want to try going it alone: taking on the risks that heretofore I was unwilling to take. With big risk comes the chance for big rewards – or similarly epic failure. I believe I could be a success independently, assuming the right relationships, a few folks to point me in the right direction, and a bit of luck.
These questions are to those of you who made the leap to independence. You work for yourself, and are perhaps your own brand. You’re building a business around your reputation, technical abilities, and resume of past successes. Or alternatively, you have your own business of some sort, even if the brand you’re building isn’t “you”, so to speak.
- When did you know it was time to stop working for someone else, and go independent? Was there a specific catalyst?
- Are you happier and/or more fulfilled working for yourself?
- Has independence brought more financial reward?
- What have you had to sacrifice to make independence work?
- What opportunities have you had that you would have missed out on working for someone else?
- Would you consider going back to working for someone else?
- What other wisdom would you pass along to someone considering self-employment in the field of information technology?
Your thoughts strongly appreciated. I will publish a follow-up article with folks’ comments, anonymously or not as you prefer. You can reach me via comments on packetattack.wordpress.com, or e-mail to [email protected].