The Joy of Self Employment
When I retired from real work about five years ago, I inadvertently crossed a very interesting divide in our society. It was the canyon that separates the People with Real Jobs from the Self-Employed.
As it turns out, I was entering a sparsely-populated area. Only about 1 in 9 workers in the US is self-employed, a figure that is lower than Canada and most European countries. Those numbers surprise me since we’re supposedly an entrepreneurial country with over 60 percent of all new jobs coming from small companies with under 500 employees.
But yet now that I AM self-employed, I seem to hang around with and meet almost 50% self-employed people. Maybe it’s my neighborhood, which is a bit of an earthy and less rat-race oriented clump of historical housing. Or maybe it’s just the tendency of entrepreneurial people to select a like-minded group of friends.
But by joining this minority, I’ve gained a very interesting new perspective on what it means to have a job and to earn money in exchange for “work”.
When I had a job, I always thought it was a pretty special thing.
“Ooo, I wouldn’t want to lose my Job. What if I could never get another one?”.
“These job thingies sure are mysterious.. I show up for work each day and type on a computer, and they magically deliver great gobs of money to my checking account. How do they do it?”.
“I wonder how jobs even get created? I don’t really know, since all I’ve ever done is take jobs rather than make them.”
As a member of the plain old Employee class, I was always curious about the mysterious world of the Self Employed Business Owners.
“Imagine, being your own boss!”, I would think. “Why, you could set your own working hours, or even your own working Seasons!”. “Man, the first thing I would do is strike Mondays entirely from the work schedule.”
So I started checking out library books about starting one’s own business. They dealt with the tax laws, the trade-offs between Corporations and simpler partnerships like the LLC. It sounded fairly complicated at the time but I soaked it all up and when it came right down to it, starting a business really only required these two steps:
- go to the IRS website and apply for an employer identification number (EIN)
- go to your state’s website and register your business with the state. This may involve submitting a signed document or two and a small fee (it was $50 here in Colorado).
- for your first business, you probably just want to use the LLC organization style .. it is flexible, simple, and you can change it in the unlikely event that you ever need to.
Boom, you have a business! You can use the new EIN to get a bank account in the name of your business, to file business tax returns at the end of each year, and things can grow as much as you like from that point.
So I followed the steps and started my own business, just before retiring from real work. Initially my new company seemed just an imaginary concept. But then a sense of reassuring power started to seep in. People started asking me for help with things, and then asking “how much do I owe you?”. And at that point, I would create a quick spreadsheet telling the person how much money I wanted them to give me, and they would give me exactly that amount!
It seemed amazing to me that I could hang around in someone’s house to set up a computer network, or play with advanced power tools in the garage to build eco-friendly coffins for a local company, or even answer questions about the power consumption of an electric vehicle, and receive real money for these services – valid money which I could then trade for groceries.
At this point, I realized I would never go hungry. If I really want the amazing firehose of cash that full-time professional employment provides, I can go get one of those jobs. If I just want occasional boosts of cash and/or self-esteem, I can crank up or down the self-employment schedule as needed. Since I don’t have much need for regular income, the self-employment gig is really just a reassuring companion. Self-employment is a big muscular friend who follows you around and smiles a lot, but cracks his knuckles and lets out a very loud 30Hz growl if Life ever attempts to get up in your face.
My amazement at getting paid for doing random fun projects around the town continues to this day. But yet I do not have any of the burdens of a real job. When I wake up every morning, my only obligation is to the coffee machine and the frying pan, to make the family a nice breakfast while they play in the living room or the garden. When it rains or snows, I laugh heartily and grab a good book or a vacuum cleaner and watch the storm through the comfort of double-pane windows. When the sun shines upon the Rocky Mountains the other 300 days of the year, I take great pleasure in mixing bicycle errands and completely random local work into my mostly full-time parenting schedule.
Meanwhile, almost everything in life has become tax-deductible. The main things I spend money on besides groceries are: tools, a good computer or camera occasionally, and cell phone and internet service. All of these are required by the business, so the business pays for them. With this newfound additional blog writing hat in the closet, I might even be able to write off some travel expenses in the future.
And all the while, there is nobody sitting in their corner office clucking their tongue and checking their watch and wondering when that Money Mustache lad is ever going to get to the office.
If you already have worked for yourself, you know what I’m talking about. But if you’ve only ever been an employee, you might have an unnecessarily fearful view of your financial future. An employee does not have complete control of their income stream, and for most of us, lack of control causes fear.
Mr. Money Mustache’s neverending prescription for curing fear is gaining more control over all aspects of your life. Spending less money instantly increases your control. Building up investments that provide passive income gives you even more control. And starting your own business, even if it’s just for some learning and dabbling on the side while you keep your day job, brings you even more of that happy, coffee machine and frying pan, laughing on the back patio with a giant homebrew, Control.
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