In praise of self-employment

The IT Skeptic seldom wanders off the topic of ITSM - not often enough I reckon. But those of you who have read Working in IT - all ten of you - know I'm passionate about careers and personal development. I want to share a personal reflection with you.

Life's about as good as it can be right now. I'm old enough to know it doesn't get better than "good" for very long. "Good" is as good as life sustainably gets, except for those mad twelve month spells when you are in love and the hormones take you. My marriage is good, my son is good, my new house is fantastic (clearly I'm still in love with it), money is good, work is good... well as good as work can ever be. At least it is in good supply, which wasn't recently the case.

[An assessor at an insurance company wanted to know why my consulting income has varied so wildly in the last three years. What an idiot. I've just fired them but that's another story. What's that? Oh, Sovereign.]

When life is up, you look down. Can't help yourself, like climbing a cliff. But it's not me who does the real worrying: it's my wife and Mum and friends. Why don't I get a nice safe permanent job?

Why not? Because if things go badly for me now it is my fault. My destiny is in my hands, not controlled by some intellectual pygmy who thinks he can patronise me because someone labelled him a manager. A few good people at line manager level keep most companies running, despite their peers and bosses. The higher up the pyramid you look the dumber they get until you find a nadir just below the boss - the level the dumbest rise to, through rat cunning and psychopathy. Then the boss is either one of the smarter rats, or is someone genuinely switched on with a few equally sharp key lieutenants trying to make something of the mess below them.

Read the Halo Effect: it's all dumb luck. Past results do not predict future performance. Lehman Brothers. BP. Those dickheads can screw up your future for you in a flash. If I'm going to crash and burn I want it to be my fault.

And if I succeed I want it to show, and I want the benefits to flow to me.

I'll never build a consulting empire. I'll never be an internet superstar. One day my book sales will get into five figures. But I'm making more than I would managing a service desk, with a lot more personal satisfaction. And the hours are good. Sure I stress about future revenue. But overall I stress far less than working for a corporation, and I'm in charge of addressing the issue. When we finally get the recession we deserve, I'd rather back myself to get through than be in the hands of those bumblers again. [If any of my ex-managers are reading this, you were one of those exceptions I mentioned who kept the place going. Really.]

If it was my only way to feed the family, I'd go back to a salary. But I hope I never do - this is living.

[My chances of ever getting into a salaried job just went to zero anyway, as HR people trawl your online identity these days. I'm happy to burn that bridge]


the dark side of self-employment

of course the flip-side of working for yourself is that you are the toughest boss you ever had.

I've decided that since I have two active clients I'm not allowed to take time off over the summer period. Actually when i complained to me, i relented and let me have six days off.

Well, eight days off really - you have to count the weekend too because I always make me work them.

I'm working late tonight. I hope I notice.

I'm better negotiator

This the vacation schedule I have negotiated with myself:

- one week skiing holiday in March (this year we'll spend a week driving from Las Vegas to San Francisco after Pink 11 but we might do some skiing later)
- month of July
- one week in October
- one week at Christmas time

There is an ongoing discussion of taking Friday afternoons off too but that is not always practical ;)


going it alone

I really enjoyed your reflection Skep.

I remember when i made the decision to leap from the corporate apron strings of quiet, comfy public sectordom, and start my own small company of 1. My father thought I had gone over the edge giving up a pension, security and all that. Now I'm not sure if he's read a paper lately (he's 75 and likely could care less now) but security is a thing of the past isn't it?

Since that first small company, i have bought and sold a few, invested the money, lost it in the both stock market crashes, ate filet mignon some months, and bologna others, but one thing has remained constant. Ok two things....1. fear of more bologna...2. the intense feeling of satisfaction that no one else creates my future but me.

Like you Skep, i am sunsetting and past the growing kids and big mortgages, and i see more of Dilbert sense in my life than ever before. I'm still loving this crazy give it all up to ITSM dedication and have those days where i wonder why i do it. I have travelled the world, made life-long friends in every country on the planet (and maybe a few enemies too) and i could never have done that at my comfy job.

When i think about my father telling me I was crazy to go it alone...I smile and know I am just going to be fine... bologna or steak.

thanks for sharing Skep. You really made me smile and remember why I am here some days.


The Dilbert Principle

One thing I forgot to mention in the post. Some time after I left fulltime employment I was wallowing in poverty and - hence - self-doubt. Maybe I had made a mistake to leave the security of a salaried position.

Then I read The Dilbert Principle and re-affirmed my conviction that I was on the right path. it's not a collection of comics. It is a solid book demolishing corporate culture. I recommend it to anyone.

And if that's not enough, add a dose of The Triumph of the Airheads: And the Retreat from Commonsense, especially the bit about HR departments.

Funnily enough, I'm now

Funnily enough, I'm now getting round to reading the Dilbert Future - had it for years, just not had the time (while employed) to read.
I'm left thinking, apart from what foresight by Scott Adams, why didn't I read this years ago and ditch the job for self-employment back then?
Much more satisfying now.

The best decision of my life

was to become an entrepreneur (career life). I remember it was scary first with uncertain income, two kids and a big mortage but twenty years later it seems to have worked just fine. Of course the uncertainty remains. I have lost a lot of revenue as I have not been able to convince myself that training ITIL V3 is ok and don't know yet how to replace that revenue.

During these years I have had a few periods where my smalll company has been part of a larger corporation and it has always been a pleasure to leave. I suppose those episodes were useful as one can learn a lot in a bigger corporation but I agree that the Dilbert managers are not worth enduring. It is actually amazing how close Dilbert is to real corporate life.


Absolutely with you on this

Yes, being a self-employed consultant is ideal.
With a few good compatriots to work with.

I am grateful for our customers. We just don't have to work with customers we don't like.
I'm grateful for customers that are working, at their pace of course, to make significant improvements to their effectiveness.

I'm grateful for the individuals I work with. I get to pick the individuals with which I associate. They are hard-working, highly-skilled individuals.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to brand myself - and work on things that I believe are of material use to our customers. I see so many of our friends, that have not had the opportunity to work independently, severely constrained by the need to spout corporate lines they KNOW are less than truthful - and see what it does to them.

I am grateful for the opportunity to share ideas with people around the world who are, like the IT Skeptic, critical thinkers about our shared passion - making IT work better.

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