Why Are Those People Happy?
Why Are Those People Happy?back

Yes and no: That’s how I feel about the findings of an article in Business Week about the job satisfaction of the self-employed and small business owner. The gist of the article was that despite lower wages, greater stress, and longer hours, self-employed people are happier with their jobs.

That’s the part I agree with.

The part I disagree with, in part, is the reason for this greater satisfaction. Research quoted by the article said that the satisfaction stemmed from the desire to be your own boss, the ability to interact with everyone in the company, and greater scheduling flexibility.

The first two reasons are, again, right on. Being your boss means not having to ask permission to try something new and being able to maintain the standards you value. Which does not mean you don’t like knowing the whole team and asking their ideas. After all, people need people.

And, as your own boss, you don’t need to compete for the corner office (there may be none).

The part I disagree with is the last one: scheduling flexibility. If by that the researchers mean you can work at 1 a.m., then they are right on. But scheduling for owners of small businesses and the self-employed usually means working at 1 a.m. and 1 p.m. and 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. Remember that part about “despite working longer hours?”

Being self-employed often means long, hard working hours. You may be the only staff; if you leave, the doors close. You have to multi-task: understand financials, work with customers, train staff, and even clean the floors.

This is especially true for start-up businesses. Later on, yes, your staff increases, you have a second-in-command, you can come in late or leave early … if no one goes on vacation or calls in sick.

Being your own boss is not for the faint of heart. It is for those who like

  • variety,
  • challenge,
  • taking responsibility,
  • making decisions,
  • setting the rules,
  • figuring out puzzles (like how to survive a recession or deliver when a supplier let’s you down)
  • hard work.

The job satisfaction of self-employment is akin to the satisfaction of running a marathon or watching your child graduate from college: Personal accomplishment of a worthwhile goal despite the odds. It takes a lot of sweat, worry, and work but that’s the point. You did it.

Works for me.