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Employment vs. Self-Employment: Similarities and Differences
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By: Dr. Deborah Osgood

Self-employment is on the rise. A recent economic impact study reported that over 10.6 million people in America are working for themselves and a recent Time Magazine article referred to the future of employment as being self-employment.

What does this mean for the business counselors, coaches and consultants who work with individuals going through career transition or thinking about starting their own business for the first time? How might traditional employment development services align with self-employment trends?

3 Factors Supporting Employment Success

There are 3 essential ingredients for supporting employment success, whether it means working for someone else or for yourself;

  1. Want: The individual has to want to succeed.

    One of the first steps to succeeding at anything is the underlying motivation. In terms of employment, generating income is typically high on the list yet not sufficient. Studies show that additional motivators to why we work include validating self-worth, fulfilling a purpose and helping others in a meaningful way.

    As a business advisor, helping clients to identify and write down at least 5 reasons for wanting to succeed is an important driver for success. This process helps everyone to focus on what's important, it makes it visual, and it provides the foundation doing the work required that lies ahead.

    In terms of income, write down a short-term (6 to 12 months) goal, as well as longer-term goals (1, 2 and 3 years). Looking at where you want to be financially in 3 years provides a very valuable perspective for backing in to what you need to do in 2 years, 1 year, the next month, the next week and tomorrow.


  2. Fit: There must be a demonstrated willingness and ability to perform the desired employment activities over time.

    While traditional employment typically requires performing at certain times convenient to the employer, self-employment can offer a lot of flexibility in terms of when, how long and where work is performed. Accordingly, for individuals looking to self-employment or launching a small business, using forecasting tools for single (Excel) and multiple (Excel) product sales projections, breakeven analysis (Excel) and cash flow projections can help to determine how much work is needed to support income objectives. Mapping out the sale (PDF) also provides useful insight into the type of work that may be required to support the sales that will generate the income.


  3. Focus: There must be a clearly documented objective and a process for supporting and tracking progress over time.

    Any goal is best achieved when written down. For employment, there are numerous career development tools available to assess employment skills and develop an individualized plan to support objectives over time.

    There are also valuable tools for supporting self-employment and small business development. For individuals new to business, starting out with self-assessment exercises and steps for evaluating business ideas are useful starting points. There are also methodical steps to follow for projecting income and expenses, compiling a business proposal and tracking progress over time. These exercises by themselves and collectively offer valuable insight for supporting and tracking a clients progress over time.

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