5 Unusual Reasons Why I LOVE Self Employment

5 Unusual Reasons Why I LOVE Self Employment350It has been over 8 years since I retired from my engineering career to become a stay at home dad/blogger. I LOVE being self-employed part-time. If I knew what a great fit it was, I would have tried to get here much sooner. Every day is like Christmas combined with Thanksgiving!

For this article, I’m scratching my head to come up with a list of entertaining reasons why I like being self-employed. Of course, wearing gym clothes all day long and not having to go to the office is great, but I’ll try to list more personal reasons as well. (In 2020, a lot of people experienced how great working from home can be. It’ll be hard to go back to the office next year. Hopefully, the employers will be okay with gym shorts. Right?)

*Originally posted in 2013. Updated with current info in 2020. Life is still great, but every day isn’t Christmas+Thanksgiving anymore. I guess you can get used to anything. 🙂

1. Keep more money

The first thing that popped into my head is I get to keep more of the money I generate. I always felt like I wasn’t compensated fairly at my old job. In 2012, Intel paid Paul Otellini (CEO) $19 million. Sure, he deserves more compensation than a regular employee, but I don’t think he should get paid that much more. Intel stock went from around $25 to $21 in 2012 and they didn’t make any progress in the mobile market. As an employee and shareholder, I find it offensive that executives were getting paid so much. I was paid a little over $100,000 and I knew I generated plenty of revenue for the company since I worked in the core CPU group.

Of course, I have no idea how much I really contributed to the bottom line at Intel. It would be nice if they can compute it somehow and pay people accordingly. Now that I run my own business, I know where every dollar goes. These days, I get to keep 80-90% of the revenue depending on the year. I LOVE knowing where the money goes.

While I am making less money overall, I feel better because I’m keeping a bigger piece of the (smaller) pie. I guess that’s just psychology, but I don’t really care. It is very gratifying to know that I am being fairly compensated for my time and effort. A self-employed business can also grow and hopefully, I will make about the same pay rate as my old job. I’d be deliriously happy if I ever hit $50,000/year. That would be great for the half time I put in.

*2020 update – Online income has been inconsistent over the years. My best year was in 2018. The blog generated over $80,000 in revenue that year and my income was around $75,000 after taxes and expenses. That pay rate is higher than when I was an engineer. Most years aren’t as good, though.

RB40 Income history Sept 2020

2. Residual value

I’m building a business and it should have some residual value when I’m ready to walk away. I’m still having fun and I think I keep this up for a few more years. However, if I can’t blog anymore, I should be able to sell my online property. Who knows where Retire By 40 will be in 5 or 10 years?

I’m also building a personal brand. That’s a great way to promote yourself and then branch out to do other stuff. Many PF bloggers became an author, freelancer, TV personality, consultant, and more. A blog is a great launching platform. If you’re interested see my guide – How to start a blog and why you should.

*2020 update – At this point, it doesn’t make sense to sell. The going rate for a blog is 2-3x annual income. That’s not enough of an incentive. I’d rather keep running the blog until my son can take over. In 10 years, we’ll have Retire by 40 v2.0!

3. Autonomy

I don’t like being told what to do. I hated going to those mind-numbing meetings where everyone bangs away on their laptops. I hated deadlines and all the extra unpaid hours I had to put in. I hated being nice to people I didn’t care for. I guess I wasn’t really cut out for the corporate culture.

Now, I am free to set my own agenda and do whatever I want. I can write about anything I want and promote it how I see fit. Every article doesn’t have to be a home run. I can make a mistake and nobody will yell at me. I will just learn from those mistakes and take my own sweet time dealing with them. It’s great to be accountable only to myself and not my employer and coworkers. I guess I like being a lone wolf. Life is much simpler now and it’s amazing.

It really depends on your personality. If you thrive in an organization then working in a corporation or the government might be a great fit. Mrs. RB40 enjoys being a part of something bigger. That’s the main reason why she is still working. Although, the annoyance of work is slowly overtaking the joyous part. She won’t have to wait long. She plans to retire early in 2022.

4. Set my own pace

You know what? Whenever I did an annual review, one of my “strengths” was being a team player. I’m always nice to everyone and can get along with my coworkers. Now, I know that’s not really being a team player. It’s just being polite.

This one is actually a bit complicated. I never really liked team sports or rallies. Our family has mild mitochondrial disease and I can’t exert myself for long. I can do anaerobic exercise (weights), but I can’t do aerobic activities long. I’d faint if I overexert myself. So team sports that require a lot of running are out for me. I can do some aerobic exercise, but I need to closely monitor my heart rate to make sure it’s not too high.

So physically, I need to set my own pace and it’s slower than most other people. This carried over psychologically. I like going at my slow and steady turtle pace and I dislike being pushed. Self-employment enables me to do set my pace for work. I’m slow, but it doesn’t hurt the team because I’m the only one on the team. It’s great.

work autonomy

5. Flexible schedule

Working part-time is very important to me. I don’t have to put in a full day as a blogger. My schedule is very flexible. I’m writing this post at midnight while RB40Jr and I are visiting my brothers in CA. I can be a stay at home dad and spend time with my son most of the day and snatch a few hours here and there to work. Being a stay at home parent is not for everyone, but I love it. I always wanted a son and I can’t believe I’m able to spend so much time with him. 

When I was working full-time, our son was at the daycare for 55 hours/week. That’s way too much time with strangers.

*2020 update – Life became much easier once RB40Jr started school fulltime. I had a lot more time to work on my blog, run errands, and relax. However, 2020 is a crazy year. In spring, the school shut down and we all scrambled to figure out remote learning. Virtual schooling improved a lot by September, though. Now, RB40Jr only needs help occasionally. The teachers are doing a great job. It’ll be nice to go back to normal at some point, but we adapted very well to this new paradigm. Also, I no longer blog at midnight because I can’t stay up that late anymore.

Self-employment is a great fit for me

I can’t tell you how much I love self-employment. My days pass by quickly and work doesn’t drag on. It’s much more rewarding to work for myself. Also, it’s gratifying to know where every dollar goes. I can work at my own pace and slowly build up my online empire without having to compete with a coworker. The added bonus is being able to spend an amazing amount of time as a dad.  That alone is worth the decision to be self-employed. Of course, I’m making less money, but we planned for that that so it isn’t a big deal. Self-employment might not be a good fit for everyone, but it’s perfect for me.

Are you self employed? What are some unusual reasons why you like it? 

Follow up: 5 Things I Miss About Work

Image credit: Nghia Le

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

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61 thoughts on “5 Unusual Reasons Why I LOVE Self Employment”

  1. Hi Joe,

    I totally agree with you. Although I do not earn a single cent from my blog, I am happy to be able to make a post a day. The liberty of typing the daily post based on the thought in my mind at the prevailing day makes me feel contented. I do not have to listen to anyone on the topic of the daily post. This makes me feel great and happy. Happiness is the way of life.

    My two cents worth of view.


  2. Congrats Joe! How much time did it take for you to be able to quit your 9-5 job. I have been blogging for last 10 months and I earned my first income last month? The amount was so small that I think I couldn’t even affor a proper lunch, but I have to confess that it really motivates me.

    • I was an engineer for 16 years before I left. If we didn’t have a solid financial base, I wouldn’t have retired from that career. I started blogging in 2010 and retired in 2012. The blog income helped, but we didn’t have to depend on it. I saved and invested most of it. Many bloggers are more successful than I am.
      Good luck!

  3. Eh, careful with number 3. One of the pieces of advice I have heard from other entrepreneurs is that you still need to take orders from others including clients, customers, and the government will not hesitate to tell you what you need to do.
    I recently started freelance writing, (still working another job in a biopharma firm) and I have written many articles on my own time and frankly with little complaint about my style of writing. However, I still have to stick to certain trending topics and deadlines. The trending issues are dictated by the consumer, not me. For instance, 25% of my articles are about woodturning which apparently became more popular during the pandemic. I literally never heard of woodturning until I was assigned the task.

    In the words of one of my old mentors: “Rank only tells you who you give orders to and who you take orders from. Rank will never relieve you of your duties as a follower and a leader.”

    • You’re right. But I still have a lot more choices than previously. I could make more money by taking on more sponsored posts and freelancing. However, I don’t enjoy those jobs so I rarely take them. We’re FI so I can turn down work without much hesitation.

  4. All great reasons for not wanting to work full-time for someone else, especially the mitochondrial disease. I’m not planning just yet to leave my job, but I look forward to the day when I can cut my hours. Hopefully, I’ll work half as many hours! I’d be okay with that. I’d love to do what you do, but I’m not willing to pay for health insurance yet.

  5. All these ring true for me. However, at year 12 of self-employment, I miss the structure of a standard career. It’s one of those, “the grass is always greener or the other side.” Maybe I’ve just gotten too used to this lifestyle and I need to shake things up so I can appreciate it again.

    I definitely hear you on the plan to pass down the blog to the next generation.

  6. As for me, I have been self-employed for over 30 years. I joke with my friends that “I am self-employed and still have a jerk for a boss. But he pays me very well so I stick around. ”

    These are special words of wisdom that compliment the principles that I live by:

    “The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.”
    — Fred Wilson

    “I’d rather live precariously in my own office than comfortably in somebody else’s.”
    — Peter Mayle

    “If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.”
    — Anna Quindlan

    “Have you ever heard of a wage slave? Even worse . . . are you one? Wage slaves may live in big houses. They might drive Porsches. It doesn’t matter how “rich” you look, if you can’t walk away from your job — even for a second — because you would no longer be able to pay the bills, you’re a wage slave. ”
    — Sara Glakas

    “It’s more satisfying to dig a ditch with friends than to design a skyscraper with a team of sociopaths.”
    — Jessica Hagy

    “All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind.”
    — Aristotle

    “We can create the ultimate job security by becoming less dependent on the organization for which we work and more dependent on our own resources.”
    — Bo Bennett

    “Getting a job and trading your time for money may seem like a good idea. There’s only one problem with it. It’s stupid! It’s the stupidest way you can possibly generate income! This is truly income for dummies.”
    — Steve Pavlina, Author of “Personal Development for Smart People”

    “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
    — Jiddu Krishnamurti

    “He who joyfully marches in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would have been enough.”
    — Albert Einstein

  7. Very true! Being your own boss can be really nice. We have a similar story on our website that discusses why freelancing was a better choice for the author than her 9 to 5 job for similar reasons. If you don’t mind me sharing, here’s the link: http://bit.ly/1siIhWI.

  8. People seem to mostly agree with you, Joe, but I am so thankful to work 4days a week. I really need to get out of the house and be around other people. I did not do well the year I was home with Baby. But full time would not be ideal because I dont want strangers with my kids so much. My kids are my first priority. I just think I am a better mother working part time. Also, I am more productive because I’m not trapped there 40+hours a week.

    • Mrs. RB40 would agree with you. There is no way she can stay home with the kid. It just depends on the personality. 🙂
      It’s great that you were able to figure out the right solution for your family.

  9. I hear you on the benefits of self employment. You are doing what you want, for yourself, at your pace and keeping the fruit of your labor.

    If you’re like me, some days you get too busy to do much “work”. And that’s ok. One of the fringe benefits I guess.

  10. I definitely agree with the majority of your points that you listed-which is why I am getting ready to return to it after my adventures in teaching in China. There are a lot of things that you feel a lot more free to do when you are the boss! That’s what I like-I can choose my own projects rather than the projects that someone else wants to pursue.

  11. I am self-employed and like it for all of the reasons you’ve mentioned! I’ve always been a solo worker, even when I worked for someone else. I don’t think I would work well in a group or on projects with other people anyways. I like doing my own thing.

  12. Hi joe
    I’m going to agree with most of your comments. For you personally it’s obvious you have a great dislike of the 9-5 world, office structure and being someone’s employee. It’s great you have found a way to work at things you like and make money as you do. It’s also great your wife can support you and cover your family under her health plan while you ramp up your alternative income streams. Your very lucky. I really think you have managed to make a good outcome for yourself.

    The one point I will disagree with you on is your comments about not getting fairly compensated vs. your former CEO’s compensation. You were paid $100k. That for some people is a dream pay. I also feel as a salaried employee you assume zero risk other then just showing up every day and doing your job. The CEO of Intel and it’s owners built the company and assume all it’s risks and liabilities. It’s their company they should decide what fair pay is. I feel some bitterness in your words. I feel more amazed that a small group of people could put a company together like Intel and employ quite a lot of people that will have decent life and never be without want of anything being paid that much. Not everyone deserves $100 k and no company can pay everyone what they think they deserve and stay in business. You stated how much you hated doing your job every day. I manage about 15 employees myself. I would find it hard to have a conversation with an employee that hated his job and at the same time felt he was worth much more then he was paid and asked for a raise.
    I see my boss do 12 hour days and he usually works weekends. I’m sure he makes 3 x as much as I do although my dept which I recreated from nothing (actually it was losing money) creates the most profit. Maybe I should be paid more then our CEO ? I honestly never feel that way. I would however consider starting my own competitive company then later pay myself as much as my boss gets now or whatever I wanted to pay myself when the company could afford it. I just look at that differently.

    • I just think they should be held accountable for their recent performances. Why should Paul get paid so much when the company isn’t doing that well. I admire the founders too, but that’s ancient history. As a shareholder, what have they done for me lately? 15 years ago, I liked my job and worked 12 hours/day too. That’s how I got raises in the past. I didn’t start out hating the job.
      Anyway, many people are happy working 12 hours/day to enrich the executives. It’s just not for me. Good luck with your business.

  13. I also love being self employed because I can spend more time with my siblings. I now do have a flexible time schedule. I can blog at anytime I want 🙂 You can now earn money while you enjoy!

  14. congratulations, Joe! looks like your plan is working out splendidly for you! do you find that needing to balance the blogger and stay-at-home-Dad roles stressful at all? after all, I could see both being a full time job (hours and the thinking/ emotion , etc)

    • Thanks! It’s getting more stressful because my mom is not here anymore. We are looking for a babysitter to help out during the day though. I just need a couple of hours in the afternoon to blog. It’s definitely less stressful for me than working a corporate job.

  15. I love the autonomy point. There’s nothing quite like being at the wheel, you know? Pink’s book “Drive” mentioned autonomy as one of the three big motivators, and I find it to be true. Whether you’re self employed or not, a job requires a degree of autonomy if it is to satisfy over the long haul.

  16. I cannot wait to reach self-employment, for all these reasons and more! I’m definitely like you in that I don’t like being told what to do – I’d rather do things my own way (and definitely at my own pace). The flexibility of being able to set your own schedule and be able to work how and where you want to is another huge advantage. Hopefully I’ll be joining you in the ranks of the self-employed sooner rather than later! I certainly can’t wait to get there.

  17. As you know, I just recently became self-employed (around 2-3 weeks ago). It has been great, and I honestly don’t think I could ever go back to my day job. I love not having a commute, I love building my brand and my business, and my self-employment has changed my life for the better in so many other areas.

  18. I am not self-employed but the reasons you mentioned are things that I crave for my work life. I definitely think being self employed is a lot more motivating when you’re earning for yourself, not someone else. Well I work in government so it’s not really a “business” but there are also a lack of incentive for a job well done. Now with a family, I do crave more flexibility.

    • Flexibility is huge when you have a family. Money is less important as long as you can make ends meet. Time is a lot more important.

  19. Successfully self-employed for more than 4 years. What I love:
    1. flexible schedule and free time – when I want it, how I want it. If I want to work on Christmas day, I’ll work, if I want to take 3 weeks off, I’ll take them
    2. a lot of savings – am working in a t-shirt and some pants, eat at home, don’t drive the car too much. I’m saving A LOT of money this way
    3. work for myself and my clients
    4. happy and relaxed – I know how to handle my deadlines, so it’s all nice
    5. time with the family – am expecting a baby, she’ll grow with both of us, not the nanny

    • Thanks for sharing!
      Enjoy your baby. It will be a big adjustment, but it’s great.
      I haven’t been able to take 3 weeks off yet. 🙂

      • #5 time with family. I heartily agree with that. Back when I was working I was so tired from the long hours that all I wanted to do was sleep on the weekends. Having dinner with my parents and in-laws was a huge chore because I felt that they were cutting into my precious personal time.

        Nowadays, I have so much more time and I make sure to have dinners with family every week. They no longer are a chore and actually happy times.

  20. I’m self-employed, and I concur with all of these Joe. For me, flexibility and autonomy are probably the two biggies. As you point out, I also like that there’s a direct connection between my abilities and motivation and how much money I earn. I’m not working 40-50 hours a week mainly to make someone else wealthy(ier).

  21. Having a flexible schedule makes being self-employed very tempting, it means being able to do some things you probably won’t be able to do if you’re working in an office and being more productive because you can do more when you’re working.

    • If I’m in a time crunch, I’m definitely more productive. I can just do the essential stuff and cut out the unnecessary stuff until I have more time.

  22. So far what I haven’t liked of working for the man is performance evaluations (bosses don’t really evaluate you) and office politics. I hate office politics and they are everywhere in a corporate job. I really want to end up working for myself. Now I have to figure out how to get there.

    • Office politic was fine as long as I got along with my boss. When I got a boss who I didn’t like, the office politic got really bad… Good luck to you!

  23. I think autonomy and flexible schedule would be so nice. Sounds like a really good fit for you and your family. I agree that you can really see where your money goes and how you make it!

  24. All of these are good reasons for sure. For me, one of the reasons I like being self employed is that I don’t usually have to participate in or worry about office politics. As a contractor you generally keep a low profile while employees are all involved in power struggles, never-ending performance reviews and other similar BS that seems to permeate every company/business.

    • The office politic is ridiculous. It’s more important who is your manager than the work you did. I probably should have tried the contractor route when I was younger.

  25. Being able to understand your true worth to your employer (or yourself if you are self-employed) is a huge benefit of self-employment that I’ve never really thought about before.

    • Yeah, it’s great to see how much you’re really worth. If you work hard and are lucky, the business will grow and you’ll get a raise.

  26. I work with a lot of other people and some of them and a lot of my clients make me crazy. If I got to work at home I would miss the brain challenging rapid fire problem solving that I am required to do on a daily basis.

    Some days, like this weekend, I come home and my brain is fried and I can’t work on my writing because I am no longer capable of thought. Ideally I would love to go to work 3 days each week to keep my brain and skills sharp but with enough down time to be able to build my own business and work on my writing.

  27. Number 3 resonates most with me Joe. Having to be at meetings when I’d rather be surfing, mandatory conferences that run late so I can’t make it home in time for dinner. Sometimes I cover other teachers’ classes without being paid extra. Lately, the South American Olympics committee came to town and I was the translator for the Korean President of Tae Kwan Do, but no extra pay was involved even though I showed him around town for a day! Can’t wait to be “retired”…

    • Extra work should mean extra pay. I didn’t like working extra at all because I never got any overtime. It’s just expected because everyone did.

      • I would say it is better to work for yourself as companies don’t hire you out of the goodness of their hearts. They always pay you less than you are worth, otherwise how do they make a profit?

        I stopped working in 2008 and do not regret the move at all. I hated dressing up and putting on makeup to goto work and make small talk with everyone. It’s so freeing to wear sneakers, jeans, and to stick to my own schedule.

    • Good luck! By the end, I was pretty much working 40 hours/week. When I was young, I worked 60 hours/week pretty often though.

    • Thanks for that info. I was in the core CPU group so I’m sure my contribution would be like a million! They had a lot of labs and groups that didn’t make any money.

  28. These are some great reasons and I agree with all of them. I personally make more blogging than what I did when I was employed (but yet again, salaries in Romania are really low) so that makes things even better. I get the feeling that I keep less money than what I’d like to (about 25% goes towards tax and health insurance and mandatory pension payments) but overall, the fact that I still make more makes me feel great.

    As an unusual reason, for me the fact that I can take a day off whenever I want to really matters. I don’t do it often, but every now and then I will feel like not working and I can do it. That feels great!

    • Oops, I forgot about tax. This year I’m sending most of the income to the solo 401k though so I don’t have to pay much tax at all.
      The flexible timing is huge.

      • Curious as to why you chose the solo 401(k) route versus a SEP IRA? Greater amount of contributions? If I’m correct aren’t the tax implications the same, or is the 401(k) more advantageous?


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