Being in business for yourself can be both fun and rewarding. There are positives and negatives of being self-employed especially running a virtual business. There are other considerations if you are self-employed and have an office job and employees but the focus of this discussion is more for the individual who is thinking about starting a virtual business and interested in the laptop lifestyle.
You decide when to work – if you are a morning person, you can hop out of bed, grab your coffee open your laptop and you’re there. If you prefer to stay up and work into the wee hours of the morning that is your choice as well. To me this flexibility is one of the best perks. I can work straight through for hours and hours or I can work a bit, take care of some personal business, then back to the laptop.
You can work in your pjs or whatever – No more heels, suits, dresses. Actually I dressed pretty casually going into the office but I really enjoy just hanging out in yoga pants in total comfort.
You save a ton of time commuting – you can work from home or anywhere you have an internet connection. No more time driving into the office. Just between getting ready to go to the office and driving there you can literally save a couple of hours a day.
Tax advantages – a great thing about a home business or any business is the tax write-offs. I’m not an accountant but you can potentially get a tax break for using part of your home as a place of business, you can write off some of the costs of internet service, phone, etc…. It’s certainly a good idea to check with an accountant but along with the obvious business expenses there are likely things that you wouldn’t expect to be business expenses that you can write off.
Potentially more control over your income – the sky is the limit. It really is another one of the great things about a virtual business you can earn residual income, have multiple streams of income and stop trading hours for dollars. It does depend on what you are doing but the opportunities are endless, and you are the one in control of that not some corporate exec that decides the cap on your income.
You can do something that you are really passionate about – discovering your niche market is really about picking something you enjoy, have some knowledge about, and are interested in learning more about and sharing it with others. How great would it be to get up every day and spend time learning more about something you are really interested in and then sharing that with others.
You decide how big or small you want your business to be – You really are the one in control. If you just want a little additional income you can work fewer hours, keep the business small. If you are looking to replace your current income you can do that as well as long as you are willing to put in the time and do what it takes to build a following.
There is no age, sex, race discrimination – no more going in for an interview and worry about getting judged, am I too old for to get hired was the big one for me, at 62 who is going to believe I’ll stay around for any length of time. If you succeed it is because of your efforts, if you fail it is also because of you.
Low start up costs and overhead – If you want to own your own business and you have a shoestring budget this is a great way to invest in yourself. As long as you have a working computer or access to one you are in business. The cost of building a website is minimal and as an affiliate you don’t have to own product, you don’t have to pay a staff although you can outsource some of the work ad again it’s usually not that costly. The biggest cost will be that of your time.
You have to be self disciplined – as great as all the flexibility is you need to be self- motivated and put in the time and effort. It’s easy when you work from home to think about throwing in a load of laundry, or running to the store real quick but those little distractions can be time suckers. This is still a business and needs to be run like one. Schedule things in, if you need to run an errand put it on your schedule and try to stay to the schedule.
Inconsistent income – there is no guarantee as far as income. It’s true the potential is unlimited but it takes time and work and then it can be inconsistent from month to month so it’s important to be able to budget and give yourself enough time to have some stability.
No Paid time off, sick leave, or company benefits – this is probably the thing that gets in the way for most people. Your time is yours but if you don’t work you don’t get paid. Health insurance can get expensive, building a retirement fund falls on your shoulders. You are absolutely taking a risk and giving up some of the security that comes from working for someone else. One of the great things about a virtual business though is that you can do it slowly, spending time building your business while you are still working your day job.
Isolation – if you really do just work from home it’s easy to feel isolated and even bored from time to time. Some ways to prevent this are joining social networks or meet ups that get together and discuss business ventures or your area of interest. One of the great things about some of the online programs that you can hook up with is that they have some active communities where you can check in and feel connected. You can go to coffee shops and work for the afternoon just don’t be too much of a social butterfly. You may have to make the time to stay in touch with friends and get your social needs met.
Life/work balance – sometimes when working from home it can be difficult to unplug and turn the work off. It’s important to take the time to recharge your batteries and put the laptop away. Having set work hours when you are at home can help, and if you are traveling set aside a few hours either in the morning or the evening that are dedicated to work and then unplug.
You’re a one man show – one of the pluses, you are your own boss, but can also be a little overwhelming. All the tasks of the business fall on your shoulders. It might seem conterintuitive to hire an account and a bookkeeper but think about whether it’s worth your time to do those things. If you enjoy it and it isn’t drudgery to keep the financial records that’s great but if you hate it and it would allow you to spend more time doing things that bring in income it might be worth it, even if it creates some financial stress initially. You can pretty much hire someone for everything, it can get really expensive if you do that too much but if you are feeling burnt out it might be better to bring someone else on board instead of needing to do it all yourself.
So there it is, the good the bad and the ugly. There is a lot of freedom in being self-employed but it is a risk. I know I love it and would have a really difficult time ever working for someone else ever again. It is not for everyone, if you prefer the security and the paid vacations I totally get it. I do miss the paid vacations. Starting out slow doing some work in the evenings or on the weekends while you keep your day job might help you decide whether it’s really a fit for you.