Why aren’t you self-employed?

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I had a discussion with my mother the other day. It was one we repeated often over the past 40 years of my adult life.

My mother thinks I would be much more secure and happier if only I got a “real job” rather than worked as a self-employed freelancer, which is something I have done off and on since 1984.

Bless her heart! She was a career, unionized government employee who enjoyed a comfortable salary and “great benefits.” But, she had to drive 30 minutes to catch a bus to take her to an office where she put in her 8 hours, enjoyed her 30 minute lunch break and two 15-minute breaks each day.

But, when I was growing up, she rarely had any time off beyond the two-weeks of paid vacation she got every year and a handful of paid holidays. Most of those days were taken in half-day intervals when one of us kids was sick. But, she did get a good pension that today gives her just enough to live comfortably in retirement, provided she doesn’t do any traveling and never leaves her apartment.

I’m sorry, I just can’t work like that!

Having to drive 30 minutes to an office just to sit in a cubicle to work on someone else’s computer drove me insane. How many of my children’s special events did I miss because I had to travel for work? As a magazine editor, I put in nearly 70,000 air miles every year. That’s a lot of airport hassles!

I got almost three weeks of paid vacation! Woah! But, I had to schedule it around slow periods at the office and I was still expected to respond to emails and be available if any questions or problems came up during my absence.

I would work no less than 60 hours per week, but needed special permission to take a few hours off to attend one of my daughters’ school functions.

Of course, my salary was based on a 40-hour week (without commute time), so I made between $17 and $23 an hour from my 32nd birthday until I was nearly 50 years old.

I, too, had good benefits with rising insurance deductibles and increasing co-payments. My company-paid 401K plan cost more money in fees each year than I actually made from the investments.

The worst part of working for someone else was the idea of “face time.” As long as my supervisors could see my face, they “knew” I was working. However, if I chose to do so, I could play solitaire on my computer for hours every day, but as long as I walked past my boss’ office several times, I was “working.” But, God help me if I showed up 45 minutes late to work some day!

One of the last jobs I had paid me a full-time salary of $46,000 per year as the only writer on the monthly magazine. But, the publication brought in $1.2 million in revenue – and dropped nearly $700,000 to the bottom line in profit during my last year. Surely, I got a bonus, right? I earned $3,500, but only because I decreased my travel budget by more than 10%.

Of course, I got the standard 2.2% cost-of-living raise that everyone else got – including the people who took a 10-minute smoke break every hour.

Then, for two years in a row, every employee had to take off 10 days WITHOUT PAY because the company only made a profit of 10%, and corporate executives promised the bankers 14%.

Shortly after I left to pursue self-employment, the company went bankrupt and dozens of hard-working people lost their jobs that accounted for 100% of their income.

People like my mother think that’s job security.

As a freelance writer, I can set my own schedule and work whenever and wherever I want as long as I meet deadlines. I don’t have to ask for a raise. If I want more money, I just put in the work to find more clients to serve. If I lose a client, my income goes down, but not entirely.

I get to take advantage of legal tax deductions for operating a business and, if I feel overwhelmed with work, I can simply farm some out to other writers.

America, which used to be the “Land of Opportunity,” now tells kids from the moment they go into kindergarten until they graduate with a high school diploma, that the keys to success require going into debt to get a college degree, working your butt off for 45 years for some company so you can wonder if the next merger or new bean counter will render your job obsolete without warning.

There is a better way!

A good friend and mentor, Vincent Pugliese, wrote a book titled Freelance to Freedom a few years ago. I highly recommend it to anyone who suspects that by working to enrich someone else, they are climbing the wrong ladder.

In his book, Vincent wrote one section that I think defines the reality of working for someone else vs. working for yourself. The section was titled “Imagine:”

The college-graduate route has been sold to us for the past few decades. And why were we taught to get a university degree? So we could get a good job, right? Well, guess what?

Companies like Google, Facebook, Ernst & Young, Penguin/Random House Publishers, Whole Foods, Apple, Starbucks and Nordstrom no longer require a college degree for employment. And the list is growing every day. So, the bottom is dropping out on that theory in many ways. That approach is dying, and we collectively need to create a different way.

Can you imagine a world where our 25-year-olds have no debt? Not even “good debt.” No student loans. No car payments. No credit card bills. A world where they are already saving money for their future.

Imagine a world where they owned their own homes outright. Where there weren’t mortgages, second mortgages and home equity loans sucking the life out of their incomes. A world where they weren’t taught to trade a large mortgage payment for a measly tax deduction.

Imagine a world where they didn’t rely on someone else for employment. Where they didn’t slog into work daily to make someone else wealthy while making themselves sick.

Imagine a world where they build successful businesses doing something that inspired them and benefited others. A business without the burden of debt and the stress that tags along. A world where they are in control of their money, instead of their money controlling them.

Imagine that world.

How much less would we ring our hands about who will be elected next? If we collectively didn’t need their promises of better jobs – because we created those jobs – then their power would diminish. Taxes would decrease. Healthcare costs would decrease, as well, because, as a society, we would be healthier. Less trips to the doctor mean lower costs for everyone. Less stress means less alcohol and drug abuse. Less alcohol and drug use means less crime.

Imagine these 25-year-olds growing older and not stressing about money often. What would their relationships with their children look like? I imagine that it is an infinitely brighter future than if their parents were tired, stressed, unhealthy and deeply in debt.

How much better would their children’s lives be? How much better and happier would their entire families be? How much more time would they have to create wonderful memories? How much better would that make their neighborhoods, other businesses and the large cities that surround those neighborhoods? How much more could be given to the improvement of those areas? How much better would that make our nation and our world?

Can you imagine?

Yes, I can!

As a society, we are doing a great disservice by encouraging young people to become indentured servants to corporations and small businesses rather than teaching them the principles of entrepreneurism.

The recreation vehicle industry, which I served for nearly 20 years, is literally screaming for repair technicians. For an investment of less than $20,000 and five weeks of advanced training, people can start businesses as mobile repair technicians and make $50,000 per year the first year and double that the second.

RV inspectors can make nearly as much money working on their own.

Nationwide, there is a critical shortage of plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians and carpenters. But, we have a surplus of graduates majoring in gender studies, political science, social work, education and other fields that require professional, four-year college degrees or higher, but don’t pay more than 40,000 a year.

A good friend of mine, who is also a writer, ventured out on her own two years ago. When doing so, she confessed that she hoped she wasn’t making a mistake because she had been employed as a writer her entire life. Earlier this year, she called to have me talk her off the wall. She was so busy with so many freelance projects that she was having a hard time getting all the work done. Today, she has a team of freelancers helping her.

If this is a summer of discontent for you, or you were one of the millions of people who unexpectedly lost jobs over the past year through no fault of your own, I strongly encourage you to consider taking the reigns of your life. Find something you’re truly passionate about and go into business for yourself.

Remember, 75% of millionaires are self-employed, while 75% of employees can’t make ends meet every month. What if you fell somewhere in the middle?

About 50% of small businesses can be started with less than $1,000, while 60% require less than $5,000. Start small and grow it to the point you can just simply walk away from the job world.

People who willingly give up freedom for security eventually wind up with neither.

Still unconvinced? Check out Vincent’s book Freelance to Freedom. It will change your life!

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Greg Gerber

A native of Wisconsin who moved to Arizona in 2009, Greg Gerber is a DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three grown daughters. He worked as a journalist for many years before pursuing a career as a faith-based writer, author, coach and speaker. Greg is the author of Pornocide: How Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life.

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