Which is better? A job, or a business? 3

Job or business?Every so often I wonder if I really would be better off working for myself.

Usually I ponder this during a job searching phase in my life – like right now.  Having thought I had found the perfect job recently, I discover that I’m sensitive to the chemicals used in the factory environment.   I am optimistic that I will find a job – in fact I was offered one this week – but the issue I have is that I can’t realistically see myself sitting in a cubicle, or tiny shared office, eating my lunch at my desk.  I’m probably a bit hyperactive for that environment!  I need a challenge, and I need a purpose, so.. do I need my own business?

Don’t get me wrong, there are some jobs that do suit me – including the one where I currently am (if it didn’t smell).  I just like to be treated as a human, rather than a resource.  These days human resources appear to be more common than human beings.  Maybe I’m just getting older and wiser and am not prepared to be treated like a minion anymore.  So, I think I’ve narrowed my search down to being an employee for an old-fashioned business, or being my own boss.

During my pondering, I’ve been weighing up the pros and cons of each option.

Advantages of a job

Quite frankly, getting a job is the “easiest” option.  Someone else runs the business and takes care of paying you regular wages.  You get holidays and sick days and can generally go home at the end of your contracted hours and forget about work.  You don’t even really need to think that much, because you have to work to someone else’s systems – this can also be a disadvantage!

Having a job is traditionally seen as more secure than having a business, but in reality this is not the case.  You do get paid regularly though and this is what most people see as “security” – until it stops.

Disadvantages of a job

You are effectively selling hours of your life for money.  This isn’t a huge problem, but you do have a limited number of hours of life, so you need to be getting a decent hourly rate for those hours that you are giving up.  Most people have to start out with a job to get some money behind them, but if your career is not progressing in the workforce, is it best to invest your money into something that you can grow to get better value from your hours?  If you need to earn more money, you can’t just keep giving up more hours of your life to do this.  You only have a limited number of life hours.

You have to bite your tongue when you see things that could be done better.  This is not true of all businesses that you work for, but it certainly is in the large corporate environment.  The production business I currently work for is great in this respect.  The boss/owner is very approachable, but this is certainly not the case everywhere!  Generally in most large companies you are better to bite your tongue and fly under the radar.  It doesn’t pay to be different to the other employees.  I have experienced bullying first-hand by being different in a corporate environment.

The hours that you work are determined by your employer.  If you want a holiday, this leave has to be approved and if it’s a large organisation, you can forget about taking peak holiday time (e.g. Christmas) off unless you’re mates with the boss.  Many companies now actually make you use a certain amount of leave every year whether you want to or not.  This can be a real pain if you are saving up leave for a larger trip such as us last year when we took 7 weeks off.

Advantages of a business

You call the shots.  You decide everything to do with how you will run your business – this can also be a disadvantage if you are prone to ‘analysis paralysis’.
You decide how hard you are going to work and you get paid by your results.  You can set up systems so that others can work for you to generate profits for your business, rather than being limited by the number of hours that you can put in yourself.  This is called leverage.  Once you have mastered leverage and have staffed your business then you can work flexible hours and take holidays whenever suits you.

Disadvantages of a business

You will have to put in huge hours at the beginning of either buying or starting a business.

You will have to risk some money on your business.

You won’t get holidays or sick days until you are in a position to pay staff to help you out.

If you don’t make sales, you don’t get paid. Your cash flows will vary from month to month, so you have to be good at managing your money to get through the tough times.


There are many other blog posts on this topic.  Here is one from My Wife Quit Her Job.  This is fast becoming one of my favourite blog sites.  There is also a lot of information there regarding starting your own online business.

I’m sure there are many good and bad things about jobs and businesses that I have missed, so please add your comments below..

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3 thoughts on “Which is better? A job, or a business?

  • David

    Good stuff as always Meg!

    Regarding the disadvantages of having a job…

    (1) “getting a decent hourly rate for those hours that you are giving up”
    You spend “X” hours on a job each workday. When you factor in time to get ready, commute etc. the actual time is much higher. This means your hourly rate a is lower than what your contract says. In other words you sacrifice “job time” + “getting ready time”, but only get paid for the “job time”.

    (2) Working in roles where you need to dress to impress eg. suit and tie or have to use your own resources eg. car, can be very expensive.

  • Emma

    I battle with this daily. I do some freelance work now and I know if I really hustled I could get more. But it’s so difficult! Making that investment into a website and actively marketing yourself is hard work. Showing up in the same place each day and knowing you’ll get paid every week/month/fortnight is much simpler. That said I’ve been able to work with my clients in Australia whilst travelling in Mexico, Spain and Ireland so the freedom is also hard to give up. For now I am going to focus on getting a solid part time job while building up my freelance business slowly. It’s hard to target early retirement without a reliable income.

    • Meg Post author

      Hi Emma,
      Thanks for your comment. I think a part-time job using the rest of your time to focus on your own business is a great balance. It’s something I’m also considering, although if I found employment that had career prospects, rather than just a “job”, I could be persuaded down that path.
      At least everything that we learn is useful. Nothing is wasted.