I've been in business for myself as a graphic designer for over 18 years and I've seen both sides of this question. For the first 13 years after college, I worked for someone else. I've had so many jobs, some good, some bad. But the one thing I learned is not everyone is cut out to be self-employed.
In the beginning of your career, it is imperative that you work under someone who has been successful. I've worked for wonderful mentors and some I could have done without, but in all of my jobs, I've learned and grown. Working for someone else brings with it a type of security and peace of mind that you don't have to worry so much about the business in general. It's your job to do a good job, and at the end of the day you can go home and sleep easy knowing the ultimate success of the company doesn't rest on you. You don't have to deal with employees, insurance, paying bills, etc. You just have to focus on your job and being good at it. At my last job, I also enjoyed being a part of something I felt was larger than me. It was a small advertising agency here in Greenville now called Brains on Fire. I loved going to work most days. I got to do what I love without worrying about tomorrow. It was an exciting time and a great job!
However, as most things do, all good things must end and I found myself wanting to spend time with my young boys. So one day I got up my courage to leave and work as a freelancer. It was such a hard thing to do, and very risky. Once I left, I had no promise of income, no insurance on my own (my husband has a corporate job and I was insured), and I was working alone in my home. I suddenly was on my own and my career survival was squarely on my head (and God's blessings). There were days I wondered what in the world I'd done, but I kept pushing through. I had times of loneliness and wishing I was back being a part of something exciting. But then I would see my kids smile and have the option of taking them to the pond to read a book and was reminded of why I did this. I had to discipline myself. I got up every day and showered and got dressed and went into my office to work as if I were going to a job. Sitting on your couch is a really bad idea and I wouldn't advise it ever...unless you're sick, of course AND you don't have to call in, so a plus to self-employment! In the early days, I had a tiny desk in my dining room, which was very stressful. Eventually I dedicated a room in my house to work in and in the past few years I rented a desk at a co-working space called Atlas Local. Working from home has it's challenges, and renting a desk or office space gets you out of your home and around other talented people.
As the years have gone by, God provided the work and I've worked hard. I've made a consistent income every year for 18 years. I made the decision early on not to build this business beyond myself. I did that to keep my life simple. I knew I could take on more work with help, but that comes with complications and not always more income. I've enjoyed partnering with a great copywriter, Valerie Bickley of Bickley Creative, a website company, David Haskins at Haskins & Company and many others who are great at what they do. It's been a good career and I get to do what I love every day and set my own hours.
In 2014, a friend and I decided to start another company completely unrelated to graphic design. It's a small company that manufactures pet products called AllyJay Pets. Now I get to do graphic design for my own company! This has been a wonderful change! It's also been one of the hardest things I've ever done! I'm still working full time as a graphic designer and work on a start-up. It's been a complete game changer to have a partner after so many years of just working for myself. The closest analogy I have is I feel like I've married someone I didn't date. You learn a lot about someone when you live with them after marriage and you equally learn a lot about someone when you go into business with them. Don't get me wrong, I could have NEVER done this without her, but it does come with it's challenges. You have to run every decision by your business partner. I've gone from making my own decisions with no one questioning me to a partner who questions most things I say (which she should!). My only advise to you on this matter is choose your business partner wisely. Make sure they have the same ethics, beliefs and commitment you have. While my business partner and I have lots of challenges, at the end of it all, we come together with a common belief system and purpose. We are both growing and learning together as a team.
The challenge I'm facing now is growing a business that will have employees. Gone are the days of my simple life, but ahead lay challenges that will help me grow beyond myself. I look forward to mentoring young people and giving back what was given to me. Not a day goes by where I don't ask myself, "Why are you doing this?". If you're starting a business, you need to know your "why". It will be the only thing that drives you through the tough days. Your "why" can't be just to earn money. If money is your only motivation for starting a company, you might find yourself in a position of doing something you hate! Make sure you're building a business where you can find fulfillment in your job. Sure you're going to have to do things you don't like to do, but your goal should be to do something you're good at for your own company.
In building a new business, I have a lot of stress and fear for success. Fear is the only thing holding me back some days. I'm now realizing that fear is nothing more than moving toward the unknown. Once you take that first step toward fear, it begins to lose it's power over you. I hope that will a little courage and God on my side, I can face each fear and become a fearless leader!
In summary, should work for yourself or someone else? Both are great, but from my perspective working for yourself is liberating! I wish you success either way!