Last week, we took a look at some of the less glamorous aspects of running your own business. Of course, we barely scratched the surface and there are all sorts of challenges, ups and downs that you’ll experience in setting up, running, and growing your own business. Despite this, though, I believe that running your own business is the absolute best way to get the freedom and flexibility that so many of us long for.
When I say “your own business”, I use this quite broadly to cover product- and service-based businesses and to include freelancing, consulting and portfolio careers where you do some combination of different roles. You may be, or at least start out as, a ‘solopreneur’, and you may eventually have a team. You don’t have to be (and probably don’t want to be!) “the next Uber” or “the next Elon Musk”. (Have a look at my article on the alternatives to the corporate 9 to 5).
Freedom, flexibility and fulfilment
When I talk about “reimagining success”, the benefits of starting your own business, and my own reasons for leaving the corporate 9 to 5 and deciding to work for myself, I always refer to the goals of “freedom, flexibility and fulfilment”. These can mean different things to different people, but I find in general that they are concepts that appeal to most of us. And it’s these 3Fs that I believe can best be achieved when you create your own business.
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The pull towards freedom is innate in all of us as human beings. In modern society, what we have generally experienced in our lives to date is quite different: years of a strict schedule and homework obligations through our education; the so-called “9 to 5” with all that this entails; and our parents, teachers, and bosses telling us what to do. We feel there is no escape, as we now have a mortgage, maybe young children to take care of, not to mention a feeling that there’s nothing else we know how to do.
The freedom we long for is having more autonomy and being able to make our own decisions; it’s having the creative freedom to run with our own ideas, rather than being limited by someone else’s vision or rules; having more options, more possibilities to choose from. We might also want to be free of any ties to a particular company or location so that we can work with whomever we want, from wherever we want; to be free to take time off completely to travel, to study or to have a baby (or to manage our work around those things).
Running your own business by definition gives you this freedom as you are now your own boss. You are the CEO and you get to decide exactly what your business and brand will stand for, who your clients will be, what work you will and won’t do and how you will and won’t do it. You wake up each morning and decide where you’re going to spend your time and energy within the business – or on other priorities in your life. You can’t get much freer than that!
As well as that broader sense of freedom, there’s also the desire for freedom in a more practical sense. Again, the constraints of the 9 to 5 (which, of course, is never 9 to 5!) mean that you’re working certain fixed hours, in a fixed location, with systems and processes that limit you to a certain way of doing things. More and more companies do offer some flexibility, for example, the opportunity to work from home on some days, but this is still very limited and will always be restricted to what works for the company rather than what works for you.
Flexibility means being able to control your working hours and work more or less depending on your wants and needs, at the times that work for you, and in a location that’s convenient. This might mean working part-time hours, for example, three days a week; working early mornings and then taking afternoons off; or working from home rather than commuting to an office.
When you set up your own business, you can (and should) define exactly what are the parameters within which you’re going to work: How many days and hours a week? Do you want to work from home or are you happy to travel to different locations and clients’ offices? What are the other important priorities in your life and what does your business need to look like in order to support those other goals and focus areas? How will you package your products and services and how will you price those packages to meet your goals? True flexibility also means being able to make adjustments as you go and, again, you can absolutely do this as your business grows and evolves and your priorities shift.
While freedom and flexibility are important, most of us don’t want to give up our professional ambitions, the intellectual stimulation of an interesting job, or the sense of doing something meaningful with our work. This is why people who win the lottery (or, in fact, people who are diagnosed with a terminal illness) tend to keep working even though they don’t need to. On the other hand, this deeper meaning is often lacking in a corporate job where we don’t necessarily feel connected to the end goal. Especially as we get older, we start to look for ways in which we can give back to the community and leave some kind of legacy behind.
Finding fulfilment in our work gives us a sense of purpose and direction, a reason for getting out of bed in the morning. It makes the challenges seem less as we can see the bigger picture of the difference that we’re making in the world, and somehow that gives us more energy and drive, however demanding the work may be. Finding that bigger meaning really is the ultimate goal that we all strive for, the very top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Starting a business automatically creates this sense of purpose as you continually push yourself, set new ambitious goals, and move along a very steep learning curve. More than that, you are creating your own vision, devising your own business model, and deciding on which skills, values and goals you’ll be focusing on. You can’t imagine how fulfilling it is to be your own boss and to see the fruits of your labour, knowing especially that your results are directly linked to your own decisions and hard work. So, starting your own business gives you not only that alluring sense of freedom and flexibility but also the deeper feeling of fulfilment.
Of course, to experience that “freedom, flexibility and fulfilment” for real, you’ll need to set up your business in the right way, from the big-picture vision and business model right down to the day to day of how you run your business. We’ll be looking at how to do just that in the coming weeks…
If you’re looking for a mentor who is a few years ahead of you to coach you through the transition out of the corporate 9 to 5 and into running your own business, then get in touch to get started with a 30-minute clarity call!