How Much Independence Should You Expect As a Business Owner?
About a year ago, Nielsen reported that over half of Gen-Z (those born roughly between 1997 and 2012) reported a desire to start their own business. That got us wondering: What is it about owning your own business that is so attractive to this generation? One factor that’s commonly cited is independence. The dream of starting a business seems mostly uncomplicated: you call the shots, you hire and manage the people, you choose how and when you work, etc. With so many profiles on LinkedIn that have Founder or CEO tacked on as their title, it’s obvious these perks are appealing.
But how much freedom comes with owning a business? Entrepreneurism is a spirit that encourages big dreams—which is great!—but sometimes it’s more complicated than having ambition. Many members of the AmpliFi team have had CEO or founder experience, so we’re certainly empathetic toward those who wish to start their own companies.
Check out the recorded conversation or stick around to read our musings. Or both!
Defining independence as a professional
We gotta get this out of the way first. How are we even defining independence? It’s a big concept, so let’s consider these points: Independence and autonomy as a professional can mean choosing how and when you work, the people you work with, the direction you take your company, etc.
It’s no wonder these factors often point toward a CEO or founder role. This makes sense on paper, but starting your own company is not easy (trust us, we’ve been there). We’re going to break down a few options and add our color commentary on how much independence we think you’ll have in each scenario.
With 40% of the American workforce made up of contractors, you’d be in good company alongside many others interested in choosing their own schedules and workloads. But there are a few things to know before 1099-ing. Let’s say you seek out freelance writing opportunities. If you’re a skilled writer who loves your job, it may seem like a no-brainer to go out on your own to market your abilities.
As a writer, your writing is what’s generating revenue, but it’s not the only part of your work. You’ll have to establish connections, manage billing and receivables, navigate taxes and handle random client requests—all on your own! Finding actual work will also feel like a part-time job, so be ready to make adjustments to your work-life balance at first in order to establish a healthy number of clients. These important tasks can eat up a lot of time you’d probably rather spend doing what you actually like. However, if you have the drive to understand and juggle these tasks, the contractor path might be the right one for you!
Our final take on the level of independence as a freelancer? It depends, but if you can do it right, you’ll have plenty of autonomy.
The full-time employee
Next up is the employee who works for an organization. This definitely isn’t the thing that comes to mind when you’re seeking professional independence, but in some cases, it can offer you the greatest level of autonomy. There ARE some asterisks here, though. Independence will really depend on your organization’s culture, your team, your boss and the industry’s community at large.
If you want to spend your time doing what you’re good at (let’s think about that freelance writer from above), working for an employer as a full-time writer will allow you to focus on your craft, level up in your profession all without the pressures of administrative duties.
Our take on full-time employment: If you’re surrounded by supportive team members and leadership, this form of work might actually offer the highest level of independence. Don’t sleep on full-time employment if autonomy is a priority of yours.
The CEO or founder
Time to roll up the sleeves and tackle the topic of independence as a CEO. Think of professional autonomy on a spectrum—one that’s influenced heavily by the number of people who rely on you as a leader.
Starting a business founded on the value you can provide to the market is a good start, but if you intend on expanding your company, your role as a CEO will almost certainly revolve around selling your services and coaching your employees. If you’re willing to give up time honing the skills you founded the company on, this might be a good fit! Just know that your responsibilities will evolve and grow in ways you may not have anticipated.
Being a leader of a business means people will rely on you. They rely on you for your leadership, their career development, not to mention a big one—their paychecks! This is a huge responsibility to take on, so if autonomy is a priority, this option might prove to limit your independence.
The CEO vs. the Solopreneuer
With backgrounds all over the financial realm, our team has seen a lot of founders conflate successful raising of capital with independence. The tech world, for example, is one where business owners raise a ton of capital. These types of stories gain a lot of traction on finance news outlets, but are they truly worthy of celebration?
If you’re a CEO, what level of independence are you giving away by selling out 30% of your company at a low valuation? Sure, it’s a nice headline, but now you have big promises to keep with investors. You no longer really own your business and you have many people to answer to. If you’re interested in professional independence, this isn’t the way to go.
Our advice for people who want real independence is to avoid being the person who needs the big headline. If you’re a solopreneur, it’s easy to become discouraged when you see big stories about startups getting money pumped into them by big investors, but in reality, you’re holding on to your asset with much more security by avoiding outside investment.
Final thoughts on independence
Our philosophy as a Modern Office of Finance is to seek holistic big-picture strategies. There’s a lot to be said about the business founder who starts out at 25 years old and grows their business slowly while not relying on outside capital to grow. If you want to hold on to independence, being a solopreneur will allow for more ability to call your shots and grow at your own pace. If you fall into this category and want to define your long-term strategy, our team is always happy to help.