Why Every Woman Should Be Her Own Boss
On my seventy-minute drives to my “normal job,” I consumed massive quantities of coffee and personal-improvement audiobooks. It was my routine, and it went the same way for 2 years. These self-help books, a genre towards which I had long turned up my nose, became something of an addiction for me. I listened to everything from turn-of-the-century literature on positive affirmations to modern-day, female-focused literature on personal finances. Each one made me feel more and more capable of taking on the world. And each one convinced me further that I needed to quit my stupid job. But I didn’t. I started my own business but kept my normal job. I worked every day, from the moment I woke up in the morning until the moment my eyes forced themselves shut at night.
I loved what I was accomplishing working for myself. I was grateful for every moment I was able to spend doing work that I was absolutely passionate about, and I couldn’t believe it was my reality. I daydreamed and waxed on constantly about what I would be able to accomplish if I wasn’t spending all of this time at my normal job. But I stayed.
Regardless of what those books told me about my abilities, and regardless of what I told everyone else about my reasons for staying, the truth was I was scared. I was scared that the authors weren’t talking about me when they wrote those books. I was scared that I would fail. And then what? My brain went in every direction and it all came back to the same place – I told myself I couldn’t risk it. I stayed at that job for 1 year and 9 months after starting my business.
I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was that finally convinced me to close my eyes, hold my nose, and jump into full-time self-employment, but I wish it had come to me sooner. Because after I jumped, I knew there was no going back. Through working for myself, I’ve learned more lessons than I would ever have the time to share. Sometimes moments of vulnerability can teach us how capable we are. And that’s exactly what happened. I learned that taking a chance on myself wasn’t scary. Self-employment wasn’t the “risk” I had expected it to be. I’d really only thought of it as such because I doubted my own ability to succeed. It didn’t take long after taking the plunge to convince myself otherwise.
Change is a scary concept. There is a certain comfort in the familiar, even if what’s familiar isn’t comfortable at all. But there are a few things I can look at now and think, if I had known it would be like this, I would have changed sooner.
I want you to understand your value and see that taking a risk on yourself isn’t actually risky at all. So, without further ado, here are 4 no-bullshit reasons you should take the plunge:
1. Your Time Is Yours
I’m starting with this point because it has been the most critical virtue of self-employment in my experience. Less than a year after I quit my normal job to work for myself full-time, my dad was diagnosed with a very serious chronic illness. He was in and out of hospitals, had a number of major surgeries, and was told in no fewer words that he was dying. It takes me 4 hours to drive to my dad’s house, and I made the trip many times over many months and would stay sometimes for several weeks at a time, never knowing exactly how long I’d be gone each time. Every time I went, I’d realize how lucky I am to have the flexibility to drop everything and go when a family member needed help. I didn’t have to ask anyone for permission to go. I didn’t have to get someone to fill in for me during my absence. I didn’t have to make the impossible choice between my income stream and my sick father.
We all hope that nothing happens to those we love, but things do happen. Having the freedom to create your own schedule, manage your own time, and work around your life instead of living around your work is an incredible asset when life decides to happen. Even simple things like taking your child to an appointment can become huge stressors when it boils down to taking the time off of work. When you’re your own boss, work can consume so much of your time. But that time belongs to you. You never have to decide between your family and your livelihood.
2. Your Work Is Yours
I have always worked in male-dominated fields. When I started working for my last employer, my dad gave me the advice, “Never do any work for which you don’t get credit.” At the time I thought, damn, that’s stupid. But the longer I worked for the company, the more frequently that advice popped into my head.
I’ve struggled throughout my careers to take the credit for work I accomplished. Sometimes this was because others took the credit from me, but usually it was because I failed to speak up and let it be known how hard I had worked and how much I had achieved. I’ve always put everything I had into my work – regardless of what work it was – and I’d always assumed that everyone else I worked with did too. But that’s not necessarily the case – a lesson I had to learn the hard way.
I hardly think I’m alone in this boat, and I assume that most of my boatmates are women. When you’ve worked in jobs where you aren’t given credit for the amount or quality of work you accomplish, you can start to feel like you don’t deserve that credit. This is an understandable but totally garbage thought, and it needs to disappear fast. Research has shown that women produce more output in the workplace as compared to their male colleagues (check out this report from Hive or this 2007 study about gender and job performance on Wall Street).
Regardless of your occupation, you no-doubt bust your ass at work. You deserve recognition and reward for your hard work. When you work for yourself, there’s no question as to who put the work in. There’s no competing for your well-deserved, hard-earned credit. All of that disappears when you work for yourself.
3. Your Money Is Yours
How much money do you make?
Now, how much money do you make for your boss? Company? Someone else?
Do those numbers seem reasonable? If not, you need to take a hard look at what your value is. Chances are, you’ve never considered how much money you make for your employer, and chances are it’s a lot more than what shows up in your bank account every other Friday. Like, a whole lot more.
To top it off, women tend not to negotiate their salaries up front or ask for raises down the line. We have a tendency to accept whatever we’re offered as “fair.” You are valuable. Your work is valuable. You deserve to see the actual payoff of the work you produce. When you work for yourself, the amount of money you see is a direct result of the amount of work you put in. Try it. I promise that you’ll see quickly how much you were shortchanging your value by allowing someone else to determine how much you deserved to be paid.
4. Your Success is Yours
Here’s a truth: Working for yourself is hard. The idea of letting go of something more or less guaranteed to jump into something completely unknown can seem scary. But really, it’s not scary. It just takes a lot of hard work. And you’re already doing that, aren’t you? You already work hard. You work that hard for someone else, so imagine how hard you’ll work for yourself. Women often second guess themselves. We expect the worst and don’t give ourselves the credit we deserve for the incredible things we’re capable of. We miss opportunities because we tell ourselves that we’re not capable or we’re not deserving or there’s someone out there who could do it better.
That’s total bullshit.
You’re capable of anything you go after. You just have to be willing to go after it. You have to be willing to stay after it even when you get discouraged. The hardest part of being your own boss is reminding yourself as often as necessary that you are capable of what you’re doing. That’s it. The rest of it will be taken care of by your innate badassery.
So, get after it. Fill up your travel mug, download Grit: The Power of Passion and Perserverance by Angela Duckworth (or at least check out her TED Talk), and take the plunge.
And then the most amazing thing will happen…
At some point – it could be a month, a year, a decade into your self-employment adventure – you will take a step back and look at everything you’ve accomplished, and you’ll say, “I did this,” and that feeling will be worth every bit of hard work, every rejection, every setback, every battle with an inner voice telling you to turn around and run. I promise you this because I know from experience that that moment will be the best feeling you’ve ever known.