When this topic first popped into my mind, all of the obvious differences between being an employee and an owner came to mind as well. They are the typical, structural differences: the work-day schedule shift, dissolving the compartmentalization of keeping your work life and your personal life separate and adapting to the changes that come from working with a team of co-workers to working mostly alone. These shifts are real, but they are mostly superficial issues. As I delve deeper into what this has meant for me personally, I find that the transition has produced emotions and vulnerabilities that have surprised me and challenged me to grow in profound ways.
The Easy Parts
You know the routine. As an employee you put on your make-up (if you”re a girl. Boys of course have different morning rituals, but the goals are the same), dress to kill, commute, work, commute back, collapse in front of the TV with a glass of wine, go to bed. Wash, rinse, repeat.
One of the best parts of being a business owner is that I now own my time. I still need to get up early to bring my children to school, but I am free to dress as elaborately or casually as my schedule dictates. If I don”t have any meetings scheduled for a particular day, I can get away with jeans and a t-shirt, no make-up, and run around barefoot if I feel like it.
More importantly though, I am able to make myself available for my children”s activities and appointments, and opportunities for professional enrichment like networking meetings, continuing education classes, tours, lectures, etc. I”m no longer judged by “face-time”: the hours I spend in someone”s office. I”m judged on output and results, by the people that hire me, which means that the circumstances under which my work occurs matter very little. There is an amazing amount of freedom in this.
“I made this!” This is the best part of being in business for myself. Putting your name on work that you”re proud of is glorious. So is creating friends and advocates and gaining trusted advisors along the way. There”s more to it than that, however, and it has to do with values: mine, and not someone else”s. More on this in a minute.
The Not-So-Easy Parts
Letting go of the stresses of a design project was much easier as an employee. As dedicated an employee as I was, I always had the knowledge in the back of my mind that I had backup. There was a final authority available that would sort out the worst crises that occurred and it wasn”t me; it was my boss.
As a business owner, I own my mistakes now. And sometimes they cost real money. This reality creates unfortunate consequences, in that it”s easy to put up obstacles built on fear and become mired in the quest for perfection, and as designers we long for perfection as a matter of course as it is.