A full 90% of small business owners say they’re happier now than when they worked for someone else, according to survey by Recruit Ventures. Another study found that 60 percent of self-employed people say their health improved after they started their own business.
That’s remarkable because starting a business can be pretty stressful.
6 Ways Self-Employment Makes You Happier and Less Stressed
Here are some of the reasons self-employment can make you happier despite the hard work it requires.
1. More control over your time
You may find yourself working longer hours for yourself than you did for your old boss, at least for the first couple of years while you ramp things up. The trade-off is more flexibility if you need a sick day or a long lunch to run an errand.
Setting your own work schedule can also boost your productivity. Some of us do our best work after dinner or at the crack of dawn, when the traditional office or shop isn’t open for business.
2. No commute
You can use the time you would have spent in the car to build your business. In Austin, the average commuter spends a bit more than a full workweek—43 hours—stuck in traffic each year. Leaving my last job to freelance full time allowed me to reclaim 90 minutes a day for writing and landing new clients.
Canceling your commute does more than save time. Eliminating your commute can benefit your health by reducing stress and your risk of a car crash. And of course, you’ll save a small fortune on gas, tolls, and parking or public transit passes.
3. A sense of purpose
Most of us like to know there’s a reason for what we’re doing. If your job feels pointless or goes against your values, it’s easy to feel frustrated, depressed, or simply numb.
When you run your own business, you’re not going to feel fulfilled by every small business task you undertake, but it’s easier to stay motivated because you know how those chores can help you reach the big goals that matter to you.
4. Stronger professional connections
Being an employee can feel like being a schoolkid stuck with a group assignment. You don’t always get to choose who you work with, and you may not always like or trust the people you work alongside.
When you work for yourself, you still work with other people – clients, customers, vendors, and eventually maybe even your own employees. The difference is that you can be more selective about who you work with. Working with people you like, trust, and respect makes the day-to-day a lot more pleasant, and it can help you build a great referral network.
5. A workaround for workplace discrimination
Seventy percent of small business owners in the US are women and/or members of a minority group. Many older adults are starting new businesses after retirement—or after layoffs that effectively ended their previous careers.
One reason for the growth in self-employment among these groups is the freedom to earn a living without the stress of harassment, glass ceilings, and other bias-induced career pitfalls.
6. Going with the flow
When you’re doing challenging work you love, you can achieve something called “flow state.” Flow happens when you’re totally absorbed in what you’re doing, you have a goal in mind, and you make progress toward your goal but it doesn’t feel like work. Psychologists say the experience of flow is elemental to human happiness.
It’s possible to experience flow when you’re working for someone else, but it’s more likely to happen when you’re working on your own goals, at your own pace, at the time of day and in the space where you’re most productive. For example, an article that takes me 5 hours to research and write in daytime worker-bee mode at a café or co-working space can take as little as three hours (and feel like just minutes) if I work on it in my home office in the evening, when my creative energy and attention span peak.
Making Self-Employment Work for You
Starting a business does come with some real risks and stressors. You’ll be spending a lot of time working, especially when you’re learning how to do everything and growing your client base. If you’re starting your business on a tiny budget, you also get to be your own HR, IT, accounting, and payroll departments, so you’ll need to figure out how you’ll handle things like insurance, computer repair, tax preparation, and other small business essentials.
Before you start your business, you need to do thorough prep work to give yourself the best chance of success. Start by spending a few weeks on market research to make sure there’s a big enough market for your idea and to learn how you can set your business apart you’re your competitors.
Once you verify that there are people who’ll pay for what you want to offer, it’s time to write your business plan. This doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be clear: Include your planned products or services, pricing, costs, and overall goals. Hang onto your business plan and update it at least once a year as your business evolves.
You need some money to get your new business off the ground, either from savings or a small business loan. Even if your planned business won’t require a huge outlay upfront, you need to make sure you can pay your bills until your business is profitable. Before you leave your current job, figure out how much money you’ll need to cover your expenses for a few months and how long it will take you to save that much.
You also need to create a marketing plan that includes a website for your new business. A small business website is a must for doing well in search results, establishing a sense of trustworthiness, and developing a strong marketing plan over the long term.
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