Oddly, the ultimate goal of self-employment might be to work yourself out of a job.
Many people start businesses simply to create jobs for themselves. Self-employment offers many benefits, not the least of which is the opportunity to develop basic business trade skills, while getting paid for work you love to do. Self-employment is everything some owners want, while others use it as a stepping stone to build sustainable, stand-alone businesses.
What’s the difference between self-employment and being in business? Here are some signs that you are self-employed.
1. You are the business. When customers think of your business they think of you, and they usually count on you to be one delivering the goods.
2. You might be tied to a roller coaster, feast and famine schedule. You work long hours while contracts last and you’re unemployed when they end. You are at the beck and call of your customers and dare not turn down any jobs because you never know when they might stop coming in.
3. Your pay-cheque is tied to the amount of hours you personally spend serving customers. When you stop, the revenue stops; when you get tired the business stops.
4. You spend all or most of your time working in the business, with no energy left over to work on the business.
5. You likely don’t have financial systems in place, probably do your own bookkeeping, and treat your accountant to the occasional shoebox bulging with receipts. You fly by the seat of your pants for the entire year before finding out if you’ve earned a profit.
Here are a few indicators that a business owner is moving beyond self-employment and on to building a business.
1. The business is separate from the owner. Customers don’t necessarily expect the owner to be on the front line. The business takes on more of a team approach, involving people who share the owner’s vision, mission and values.
2. The team will necessitate human resource responsibilities, systems and processes. Jobs have written descriptions and are staffed by the right people, instead of the other way around. The owner’s job shifts from the front line to leading the team.
3. Although the owner will probably still work a considerable number of hours, his pay-cheque is not limited to the number of billable hours worked.
4. While the owner might still choose to work in the business, more time is invested in designing systems for efficiency and growth.
5. The business has proper accounting and financial controls, with regular monthly financial statements and methods for tracking the flow of all monies in and out of the business.
The transition from self-employment to business doesn’t happen by accident. It is brought about when the owner consciously decides to invest in building the systems that form the backbone of the business. Once the infrastructure is in place the owner will be positioned to reduce her work hours, or possibly even sell the business and move on to other pursuits.