Are you cut out to be self-employed?

| September 26, 2011

Few people are suited to be their own bosses. Most people want a regular work routine. Their lives are based on 40-hour work weeks and steady paychecks. When people tell me they want to start their own business, I ask them whether they can really live without regular income.

I tell them to talk to their families and get their honest answers. I ask them whether they could go weeks or months without money coming in and how they would deal with it.

They need to understand they are trading their steady paycheck for an unsteady paycheck.

Many people want their own businesses for the wrong reasons. Like in the Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett song, “It’s 5 o’clock Somewhere,” people decide they don’t like their jobs and that it would be fun to be self-employed. They don’t realize that self-employment means it is never 5 o’clock anywhere.

I’ve told many professionals they should not go into business for themselves. They may be good workers with good ideas, but they couldn’t handle the stress of not having a guaranteed income.

Never being off work can be hard on families. A friend of mine tried being an independent financial planner. He worked a lot of hours, and his wife started calling his office in the evenings. She put their children on the phone to tell him how much they missed him.

He went back to a steady paycheck at a big insurance company. He has less independence, but he is still married.
Some people become self-employed because no large organization will hire them. I did not plan to be self-employed, but I could not find a job out of graduate school other than cleaning up at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. After I started my financial business, I realized I needed the independence of being self-employed more than I needed a steady paycheck.

Education and upbringing are important in deciding whether a person can make it as an entrepreneur. I was with Barbourville, Ky., attorney Sam Davies when a woman told him she was sending her son to military school. “He will learn how to follow the rules,” she said. Sam replied, “He would be better off if he found a school where they taught him how not to follow the rules.”

Sam, who never had a partner until his son Samuel joined him a few years ago, is one of the best attorneys in the United States, in my opinion. Most great trial lawyers practice by themselves or with a few associates. Few are in large firms. The attitude that makes them unafraid to take on billion-dollar businesses makes it impossible for them to fit into big corporations.

They produce an “unsteady paycheck,” and they never know when 5 o’clock rolls around. Or Saturday or Sunday, for that matter.

Before deciding on self-employment, figure out how important a steady paycheck and a steady calendar are in your life.

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Category: Columns, Don McNay

About the Author (Author Profile)

Don McNay
Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the best sellling author of the book Wealth Without Wall Street: A Main Street Guide to Making Money.

McNay is an award winning financial columnist and Huffington Post Contributor.

He is the Chairman of the Board for the McNay Settlement Group (www.mcnay.com) which provides structured settlement consulting for injury victims, lottery winners, and the families of special needs children.

McNay founded Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC, which assists attorneys in as conservators and setting up guardianship’s. It is nationally recognized as an administrator of Qualified Settlement (468b) funds.

Don has appeared on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric and over 100 radio and television programs.

McNay has Master’s Degrees from Vanderbilt and the American College and is in the Eastern Kentucky University Hall of Distinguished Alumni. Don is a Quarter Century member of the Million Dollar Round Table and has four professional designations in the financial services field.

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