This is #11 on Chris Brogan’s 100 Blog Topics list, and is part of the 100 Topics Challenge.
Several people have expressed annoyance at the lengthy delay since the last post. My apologies. Flu plus a heavy workload do not lend themselves to frequent blogging.
People my age (tail end of Gen-X) came of age at an interesting junction in history. My parents grew up in a world where the accepted way to get ahead in life was to get a university degree, join a big firm, and then steadily work one’s way up the corporate ladder; retirement being funded by company pension plans, subsidized by government pensions that actually were worth something.
Something funny happened along the way.
Lifelong employment – actually any kind of employment – became passe. Instead, people somehow make their way essentially as free agents, passing time from job to job, hopefully surviving the intermediary periods of unemployment, eking out what living they may – and – with a great deal of luck – scratching together enough savings to (marginally) survive retirement.
After being laid off from a programming job during the last recession, enduring a year of unemployment, building a company with friends (5 years of blood sweat and tears), leaving it, being laid off again in the current recession, building a new company from scratch: I’ve come to the understanding that a) it is more risky for me to be employed by somebody than it is to be an entrepreneur, and b) I really wish that I had known more about business to start off with in the first place.
Pretty much everything I have learned about: running a business, marketing, sales, product development, managing people, collecting outstanding money from customers, balancing the books, finishing projects, handling troublesome clients – I have learned the hard way, by making horrible mistakes.
I sincerely hope that the example I set my (future) children will be different. I want them to learn financial literacy (not through crushing debt the way I learned it). I want them to learn entrepreneurship through example (not by last resort when chronically underemployed). I want them to be able to leverage off of my network of friends and business parters, the angel investors that I know, the worldly mentors I have met and befriended.
My children will do it differently.
Excellent post. While I’m not sure I agree with your statement regarding risk, as working for another company provides various benefits (including, as relates to this post, a severance package) which you do not have as an entrepreneur, nor do you have any guarantee that there will be business, and as a corollary, a paycheck at the end of the week. However, being able to know how to work for yourself has definite benefits, and I hope my children will learn these skills at a young age.
In my specific situation, I’ve found that it is easy for me to find lots of small contracts. If one of them turns out poorly for whatever reason (and yes, once in a while – for whatever reason – things don’t work out between me and my customer), I haven’t usually lost much.
I have also discovered that when I work for somebody, there seems to be a high likelyhood of getting laid off whenever the economy takes a downturn. Twice is enough for me. I’ll stick to working for myself.