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John was 53 when the bad news hit: His department was being moved offshore. Since joining the company eight years earlier, he had worked his way up to a solid position in middle management with a decent salary and great benefits. Now, he was out of a job.
Having spent his entire adult life in corporate positions, he knew he could go job hunting. But this was the fifth time he’d had a “secure” position shot out from under him, whether through downsizing, restructuring or other reorganization. With a wife and two teenagers to clothe and feed, he was no longer willing to trust his future to this game of corporate roulette. It was time to go into business for himself.
The great migration
Across the country and around the world, legions of people are abandoning their dependence on big business and seeking independence through their own enterprises. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of “job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs” remained at about 2,800 in March, April and May 2022. Additionally, an increasing amount of people are deciding to start their own businesses.
According to the Census Bureau, over 420,000 business applications were filed in May 2022 alone. In a report by MBO partners, it was found that over 50 million people became independent workers—contract employees, freelancers, etc.—in 2021, nearly 13 million more than the year prior. Whether from the work culture in their old positions, feeling a lack of something from pay to purpose or a desire to be their own boss, the number of Americans deciding to work for themselves has increased.
6 benefits of entrepreneurship
1. Job security
Only a generation or two ago, going into business for yourself was considered risky, and the safest route was to get a good job in a large firm. Now, working for a traditional corporation has become the risky option and working for yourself has become the new job security. “If I’m working for someone else, I’m trading time for money, but I’m not building any equity,” says Duncan MacPherson, founder and CEO of Pareto Systems, a consulting firm. “As an entrepreneur, I’m the master of my own destiny.”
People love the benefits of working for themselves and enjoy the freedom they gain from designing their own prosperity. You get to choose when you work, how you work and with whom you work. Best of all, you don’t have to make the agonizing choice between time for family and time for business.
It doesn’t matter if you’re in a big city or small town. Entrepreneurship is an equal-opportunity employer. E-mail, cheap teleconferencing and a new generation of web tools make it possible to run a competitive business from a home desktop. As a home-based businessperson, you can expand your business to Chicago, San Francisco, Hong Kong and London—and still make the soccer game.
4. Make more money
There is far greater opportunity to make money by building your own business than by working for someone else’s. “Everyone has heard the phrase, ‘The American Dream.’ I look at it as ‘The American Reality,’” says Jeffrey Gitomer, best-selling author of the Little Red Book of Selling and the Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude. “When you’re in business for yourself, you write your own history, you write your own success story, you write your own legacy and most [importantly], you write your own paycheck. Being in business for yourself gives you the opportunity to work your heart out for something you love.”
5. A life of greater impact
In a 2021 Digital.com survey, 41% of participants said they planned to quit their jobs to “find a job they are more passionate about,” and 32% planned to quit in order to “start their own business.” The No. 1 reason they gave for wanting to work for themselves? “To be my own boss,” closely followed by “[to] pursue an idea I am passionate about” at 60%.
6. A second career
The nation’s 73 million baby boomers (according to data estimates from the 2020 census) are just starting to reach retirement age, yet they’re realizing that they can’t afford to retire. What’s more, they don’t want to. Dr. Mary Furlong, author of Turning Silver into Gold, says, “Boomers are looking for ways to give back. They are taking the reins of their own futures and redefining their lives. They want work that reflects their values and identity; they want to make a difference.”
Taking the plunge
“Leaving the rat race is not as daunting as it may seem,” says author Dan Clements in his guide to work-life balance, Escape 101. “You’ll look back in later years and marvel at how easy it was and how much you gained for so little cost.”
So what does it take? First, let’s look at what it doesn’t take. You don’t need an MBA or a high-powered business background, and you don’t need to be rich or to take out a second mortgage on your home. Some self-owned business opportunities require expertise, such as consulting, or can take significant capital investment and possibly training, such as real estate investing and franchises. Some can be started on a shoestring and prove quite lucrative, including direct selling and online opportunities. Many of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time began with no advanced degrees and hardly any startup capital.
But make no mistake about it: What you save in cash capital you will make up for in sweat equity and passion. The major investment in most self-owned businesses is the investment of one’s self in the form of time, focus and persistence. You don’t need to be a genius at negotiation or a whiz at numbers. You just need a burning desire and determination fueled by a strong dose of passion.
This article was published in November 2012 and has been updated. Photo by Sata Production/Shutterstock