Working for yourself VERSUS working for someone else … or is there a THIRD way?


For years now I have talked about and referenced the classic matchup – do you work for yourself, or work for someone else?  For me, the answer has always been very simple.  Working for yourself, whilst sometimes stressful, tiring, hard work and more, beats working for someone else hands down every time.

Now assuming you are working for someone else at the moment, maybe thinking of starting your own business, here are the usual comparison points.


In short, the biggest difference is when it’s your business, you are both responsible for the issues and able to benefit from the rewards, far more than when you work for someone else and everything is “done to you”.

The way I always used to think of it is this – if you work the same hours in your own business doing a similar business as being employed, you ought to make much more money since it’s your business.  Alternatively, you ought to be able to make the same money as an employed person for less hours.

And for 15 years or so that is absolutely the line I have stuck with, and I have been very happy with.

But, now I think there is a THIRD way – a better way.  Let me explain.

During the late nineties and into the 2000’s I had a standing aim – “To not work for a living”.

I know that sounds like a joke – but it links with the common idea that if you are doing something you love, it’s not really work.

So this was fine for a good 12 years – I ran my business, I hired people I liked and delivered for clients that generally paid well for minimal hassle.  I travelled all over the UK, Europe and further afield and I loved about 90% of what I did.  I was also well paid, and from a standing start was able to completely fund my life, big house in the country and growing family with non-working partner.

All good – all about living my life how I wanted, making good money, and I realized quite soon very little of it felt like work.

But the difficulty was that my goal was set badly – “Not work for a living” – I knew what I meant by it, and I achieved it, but it also meant I was “bolted into” the business.  Literally nothing really happened unless I was involved, had signed it off, had some input.  And all the time I WANTED to be involved this was great, but as time went on of course, I started to want to do other things.

But the REAL change happened in 2014 – my business managed to land an enormous piece of work, and so the only way I could deliver all this was to hire many more people, and pay to get work done.

And during 2014 and into 2015 I realized that the choice isn’t between working for someone else and working for yourself, instead its between working for yourself, and owning the company and getting others to do the work for you.

This is an important shift, and when I look back at various stages I can see when I have chosen for someone else to do a task, and how much better that has been.

Some simple examples along the way.

I used to run training stands to promote my business.  Each year we hired a van, bought all the kit and spent a day building the stand … the year we hired a professional the stand looked loads better, and the price was much lower than we used to pay!

I used to do invoices and payroll myself – the time I hired a bookkeeper to issue and track invoices, chase late payments, keep suppliers in line, guess what, my life got so much simpler and cash flow improved.

I delivered all our training.  I’m one of the best around, but unless clients are paying for “the best” why not send them a trainer who is “very good”, and free up your own time.

Dozens of examples since have taught me that owning and running the business, rather than being in the business, is absolutely the way to go.

Entrepreneurs are some of the worst – we launch an idea and find it hard to let go and to scale up.  This means that as we get a business which is thriving, we can’t grow it, BECAUSE WE ARE IN THE WAY OF BUSINESS GROWTH!!!  – Instead design EVERYTHING from the start so you don’t need to do it.  Of course everything then has a cost, but would you rather work 80 hours a week to earn £100k, or 5 hours a week to earn £60k, and have the time to yourself to set up another business, or spend with your family and loved ones?

Truth is – even if you are making good money in your business, but working all the hours to do so, you have a job but without the protections of a job.  As business owners, we need to move toward owning business and working ON the business, not IN the business.

Since realizing this truth, I have had the time and energy to set up 4 more companies, and in each case although they need my time to launch them, if/when they take off, and they will barely need me at all.  Interestingly – for me – they have been totally different areas to where I have worked previously which means a whole new set of experiences and skills.  It’s really enlivened me and got me excited about ways to make money.

I’m interested in what you think about this approach, and how you could use it in your own businesses?

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