I’ve been self-employed for four years now, and my husband recently took the plunge too. Since 2012, he has been working for himself as well. When entrepreneurs launch new businesses, they’re warned to expect some initial lean years as they ramp up their venture and build contacts. I wondered if that would be true for me and for him, but that hasn’t been the case. I’ve discovered at least four big myths about being self-employed:
You’ll make less money. In the four years we’ve been our own bosses, our income has risen about 20 percent year over year—and we’ve worked less, commuted less and been more available to our kids, families and friends.
This wouldn’t be the case if we were 20somethings launching a startup. Instead, we’ve started strong financially because we were able to tap decades of experience, skills and contacts we developed in our professions of finance and law. Remaining in the same career and leveraging that expertise has been a key to our financial security and business growth.
You won’t be able to save for retirement. True, we don’t have an employer who offers a percentage match on our 401(k) contributions. But do have other inducements to sock away money for retirement. Self-employed folks can set up a SEP IRA or a solo 401(k) and contribute up to 25 percent of their compensation, to as much as $53,000 in 2015.
Compare that to a traditional employer-sponsored 401(k), which limits contributions to $18,000 in 2015, plus an extra $6,000 “catch-up” for those 50 and older. Self-employed savers can even set up their own pension plan.
You’ll lose all your professional connections. Networking is more important than ever when you’re not in an office and don’t have a marketing team promoting you and your skills. Fortunately, technology offers a multitude of ways to connect with colleagues, prospects and mentors. You may be self-employed, but you don’t need to feel isolated.
I joined XY Planning Network, a professional organization of fee-only financial advisors who specialize in working with Gen X and Gen Y clients. It is a creative, forward-thinking bunch of independent advisors. We use online forums, webinars and live conference meet-ups to discuss best practices for serving clients and running our businesses. I also collaborate with a virtual marketing assistant and a professional cash-flow specialist. I have no employees or managers, but I am well connected and have more resources than ever before.
You’ll never get anything done. Like most successful freelancers and self-employed people, I feel happy and energized working alone. I’m more focused and not distracted by office chatter and pointless meetings. I never feel the need to put in extra hours just to impress the boss … because she’s made it clear that she’s not impressed by long hours either!
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