If you’re pretty new to the idea of becoming a Career Nomad and the wide-open possibilities before you, it can be a bit overwhelming. Not only could you direct your efforts to pretty much any job in the world, but you don’t even have to be married to one nature of employment.
Do you want to be an employee or self-employed?
I’ve been both, and each has their pros, each has their cons.
Let’s take a look at a few of the biggies.
Ability to earn additional income
Employee Pros: Executives at bigger firms can literally earn millions upon millions in a combination of straight salary, bonuses, and stock options. While this might be an extreme with a work-life balance that’s not for everyone, a progressive company will eagerly promote its employees and reward good work with good money.
Self-Employed Pros: Pretty simple here: the sky’s the limit. As long as you’re signing non-exclusive contracts, you can keep cramming in job after job after job – and all the money that comes with it.
Employee Cons: Notice how I had to put qualifiers in front of the types of companies in the “Pros”? That’s one of the big draw-backs of the salaried world: so much depends on the employer. (That’s also a great motivation for taking some of that control into your own hands, even if you’re an employee for life.) You can control your performance, but if you insist on sticking with your employer, you can’t control your compensation.
Self-Employed Cons: Those contracts won’t be chasing you. Unless you’ve been slowly building prospects before you go “solo,” it will take you much longer than you think to build up a steady stream. It all comes down to: how much do you want it?
Ability for advancement
Employee Pros: In most organizations, people are working toward common goals. So if you’re a hard-working employee who genuinely enjoys working with others, you have a lot ahead of you. Senior executives get paid extra to meet and exceed company goals – so they’re financially motivated to ensure they have the best people working for them.
Self-Employed Pros: We’re going to interpret this category as a “reputation” or “class” of consultant. The great part of this for the self-employed is that there are tons of ways to accelerate your “advancement.” Become active in local association chapters, sponsor charities, build an online presence… Too many ideas to list here. As with your salary, the sky’s the limit.
Employee Cons: Again, it can be dependent on the company you’re working for. Culture starts at the top, and while you can do your best to make your mark in your own team, long-term prospects may be restricted by others on the outside.
Self-Employed Cons: Also in keeping with the income potential, your reputation isn’t going to build itself. Virtually all self-promotional activities will either cost you time outside of business hours, or cost you earning potential during business hours. There’s a potentially huge payoff down the road, but there’s an investment to be made.
Ability to change careers (again)
Employee Pros: It’s all just wide open. As long as you’ve got a good plan, you can transition into any job you want. Heck, you might even want to make a change for change’s sake.
Self-Employed Pros: It’s your career – do what you want! There’s no one telling you that any move is a mistake, there’s no one who’s holding a reference over your head.
Employee Cons: If you focus too much on your job instead of your skills, you can severely limit your prospects. Truth is, the only thing holding you back here is yourself.
Self-Employed Cons: Those contracts take time to accumulate, that network takes time to build. Do you want to start over? Truth be told, there are ways to build new networks while you’re currently active with another, but you’ll need even more energy to build it.
So which should you choose?
The answer is – and you’re going to kill me for this – is that it depends.
We can achieve whatever we want from our careers – from our lives – but it has to be natural. If you (and your family) are okay with long hours and uncertain income in the short-term, then why not give self-employment a shot?
If, however, you’re confident that you’ll get everything you want from your employer, and you don’t want to have to give it up for an unknown, then stick with that!
The biggest suggestion I can make it: just be honest with yourself. Don’t convince yourself that you really want the freedom that comes with self-employment when you’re not 100% you can manage yourself. And don’t start looking for employee jobs just because you’re not seeing the results straight away.
Do what makes you happy, and the success will come.
Have you ever contemplated a change in the type of work you do? What convinced you or kept you away? Tell us in the comments!