Monday, March 5, 2012

I'm too lazy to be an entrepreneur.

This post is a part of Women's Money Week 2012. For more posts about the pros and cons of working for yourself, see Entrepreneurship / Making Money Roundup.

"Entrepreneur" is one of those words I have to think about when I type it, like "bureaucracy". (So many vowels!) It's also, like "masseuse" and "atheist", something I don't think you should be calling yourself in public unless you can spell it correctly.

Thankfully, I only have to remember how to spell one of those words on a regular basis -- and it's not entrepreneur. Mostly because I'm too lazy to be one.

Look, I work hard. Don't get me wrong. Around the office, I'm known as a "ticket monster" -- the one who dives in and cranks out results. I pick up a project, take a little time to plan what I'm going to do, go head-down, and demolish it. Some people ask, "Why should you slave all day for the benefit of a corporation? What do you get out of it? Why wouldn't you want to be your own boss?" For some personality types, those are galvanizing questions. They jump right up and start their own businesses. I'm just not like that. I'm okay with working hard for someone else -- like a boss or a company -- as long as my work also benefits me.

Owning your own business, going freelance, creating a startup -- these things take WORK. They suck up time, energy, and money like a vindictive ex-girlfriend.
*You have to incorporate, and file extra tax forms, set up separate bank accounts, market yourself non-stop, maybe run payroll for employees... all the administrative stuff that is taken of by a large company when you have one of those dreaded J-O-Bs.
*As an employee, you develop your skills, you make connections, you market yourself as part of continuing a career. On your own, you have to hustle ALL THE TIME, and even that might not be enough to ensure success.
*In most industries, you get downtime; I've certainly experienced lulls as well as pedal-to-the-metal madness over the last five years at my current company. Freelancing? A lull in business, an injury, a lawsuit, or even just a client's late payments could spell disaster if you don't have the savings to carry you through. Larger companies can afford to meet occasional tough times; they have the scale and the perspective to do so.

Plus there are the financial perks of being an employee in a 9-5 position.
*Maybe the paychecks aren't as big as you dream of, but they are regular and predictable. (And do you have any guarantee that says your new business's profits will be?)
*There are certainly ways to learn new skills, build value, and up your payscale without going freelance, if you're patient and disciplined. (And if you're not patient and disciplined, someone in your startup had better be!)
*Maybe your company matches your 401(k) contributions -- that's extra savings you wouldn't see as your own boss.
*Most companies do provide health insurance benefits to full-time employees, and THAT is a huge expense for the self-employed. The difference in premiums is something you can bank into a Health Savings Account.
Basically, I have no need or desire to manage company finances. I'd prefer that the company manages its money, and I'll manage mine.

Like many of the entrepreneurial-minded, I don't appreciate being micromanaged. I would like to control how I manage my own time and work. I go about it not by striking out on my own, but by finding (and making, and continuing to craft) a fit with a good employer.

Here's what works for me: I value routine and structure, and yet I find that flexibility allows for those things to happen successfully. I am highly results-oriented, and my supervisors claim me as a good person to turn to in a pinch. Given the information, the tools, and some autonomy, I execute tasks very well. I want to be accountable for a (reasonable) subset of the total amount of work needing to be done, and to have my achievements and failures -- mine, based on my own work -- recognized. I want that to be true for the people I work with and for, as well. Oh, and I don't want to be taken for granted or squeezed for every drop of energy I have. That combination of expectation and feedback creates the best working environment for me: one that acknowledges my contributions, imposes appropriate and rational consequences, and allows me to register a consistent progressive effort toward success for myself personally and for a larger team.

That's all.

It's a work philosophy that's adaptable to a growing startup (owned by someone else) or some governmental programs or a few large, healthy corporations. I don't object to being a cog in a machine, as long as I am doing good work and I'm recognized for it. I don't think that appreciating some stability makes me unimaginative -- on the contrary, with a safety net, I'm more inclined to take appropriate risks. I have the get-up-and-go necessary for a lot of important stuff (say, attending grad school full-time while working 40 hours a week, planning a wedding, rehearsing for choir performances, learning to code, dabbling in blogging, and living on half my income), but I'd rather apply it to a job where I can work hard, advance the company's initiatives, achieve personal and professional goals, and then leave the work at the office while I go home to the rest of my life.

So I'm not suited to be an entrepreneur. I'm still suited for success -- and I'm working hard to get there. That's my business plan.

Feel differently? Am I fearful, too conservative, or just insane? Argue with me in the comments!

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