Are you Self-Employed or Are you a Business Owner?

Are you Self-Employed or Are you a Business Owner | toner and ink

This post was inspired by Michael E. Gerber book, “The E-Myth.”

Many people say, “I want to be my own boss.” The thinking is that since they’ve got some marketable skills, they’ll be successful in business. Plus, they won’t have to answer to anyone and can set their own hours.

The truth is that when you’re self-employed, your boss is a jerk. You work holidays and late evenings or early mornings. You aren’t truly the boss; your work is. And work has no essence of time or empathy.

However, being a business owner is an entirely different ballgame.

On the surface, there appears to be no difference between a self-employed individual and a business owner. Both require a business license; there may or may not be an office. In reality, the difference lies under the surface: it’s all in the mindset.

If you think of yourself as self-employed, that’s all you’ll ever be. And you’ll be stuck toiling the days and nights away, since your boss is your work.

However, if you’re a business owner, you are truly the boss. Your work works for you. So do your employees, if you have them already. Business owners who accept help have much more time to think strategically and enjoy life outside of their business.

Michael Gerber, author of “The E-Myth” has a great description of those who are trapped in self-employment, “They aren’t entrepreneurs at all, but are instead what I call ‘technicians suffering from an entrepreneurial seizure.’”

What does an entrepreneurial seizure feel like? Stressful, pushing you into burnout. Which is a nasty place to be as a self-employed technician as you cannot take a break from your work since it can’t survive without you.

If you’ve been in the midst of one of those seizures for a while, it may feel as if there’s no going back. That’s not true! You’ll have to make some changes, but it all begins with a shift in mindset.

Here are some things that can help shift your mindset:

Think of Yourself as a Business Owner

Personal branding gurus, be darned – when you start your business, begin by building a business brand. Your brand includes a name or DBA (“Doing Business As“), a business license, a logo, and a marketing plan. However, at the center of all of this is what you want to be known for. Do you want people to associate your company with trust? Creativity? Fun? Think long and hard about what your company will mean to your customers. That is what your brand is.

You aren’t the product, your services are. For example, if you’re a self-employed accountant, you may think that people work with you because they trust you. This is likely true, however, that same trust they feel with you could be extended to the company you lead. As an accountant, it’s likely that you have multiple clients. You’re doing your clients’ books, you’re doing your books, you’re doing your own marketing and networking, you’re regularly communicating with the clients, and you’re cleaning the office to boot. Whew, that’s a lot of work! You could hire someone to clean, and do the marketing for you; this would be a great start. You could even hire someone else to do your books, which would be the ultimate irony in life. Or, you could hire a cleaning service and a full-time employee to take over your company’s books as well as some of your client work. This would leave you and your new employee with more time to devote to each client, and provide you more time to market and bring in more work. Then, you can bring in another accountant, or hire a marketer or assistant to help attract even more clients. Voila, you’re transformed from burnt out self-employed accountant, to the owner of an accounting business that continues serving clients even while you’re on vacation.

Have an Abundance Mindset

As evidenced by the above scenario, having an abundance mindset is integral to growing your business. If the accounting business owner was operating with a scarcity mindset, he or she would continue being the accountant, owner, cleaning service, and marketer.

A scarcity mindset is one of fear: fear that you won’t have enough money, or that you won’t have enough time.

An abundance mindset is one of confidence. Confidence that the money you spend is an investment in your business and your future. While even confident leaders feel fearful, they don’t let fear dictate their decisions. Keep fear out of your business plan.


Without an abundance mindset, it’s impossible to have the confidence to hire help.

Successful business owners know that the question isn’t if they will hire or outsource; it’s when.

From the very beginning, identify milestones that signify when your business will be ready to outsource work and/or hire employees. Keep those promises.

When considering your options, realize that there are positives and negatives to both outsourcing and hiring. Outsourcing involves less financial risk, but more risk on the technical side. It’s hard to control the quality of work when the individuals you outsource to aren’t in your office. This is why it’s important to build a strong relationship with an individual or a company before you outsource work to them.

When hiring an employee, quality control is easier, however you take on a greater financial responsibility. You’re no longer responsible for your own salary and needs, you are responsible for another individual.

Done right, outsourcing work and hiring employees can help make your business even more successful.

Take Failure With Stride

After reading many articles this year, I’m convinced that 2014 was the year of Fail Big! Fail Fast! These articles are onto something: failure is a by-product of taking risks. And when you think of yourself as a business owner, not as self-employed, taking risks seems much less scary. This is because the emotional toll of the risks is shared with your business. It’s not Joe Schmo’s sole risk or mistake to carry on his weary shoulders, it’s a mistake made by Schmo’s Widgets. While you’re still responsible for those mistakes, it’s less scary to operate under an entity larger than yourself.

Listen to your Gut

One of the most rewarding things about leading a business, is that you are the captain and can adjust the sails based on the changes you sense ahead.

Without even changing anything in your business just yet, these above tips should help reframe your business in your eyes.

For in-depth steps on how to become a business owners, rather than self-employed, we highly suggest that you take a look at Michael Gerber’s book and online resources, “The E-Myth.”

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