For some new business owners, the journey to being self-employed began when their employers cut positions at the onset of the pandemic.
Joshua Nelson of Amarillo, Texas, spent several months unemployed due to COVID-19. He then decided to start his own company, Allstate Bail Bonds. As a side hustle, he carries out home remodeling projects.
Walker decided to shift after losing a position in human resources she had at her previous employer. Rather than looking for another HR job, she took a four-month break to explore other possibilities.
“I decided to try my hand at candle making,” Walker, who is based in Edgewood, Maryland, said. “The process itself was so therapeutic for me, just being in a zone with music playing in the background.”
After making a few candles, she decided to look for ways to make the fragrant products available to others.
“The response has been overwhelming from those who have bought or even had a chance to smell my candles,” Walker said. With today’s technology, she can easily communicate with customers and ship products internationally.
For many, the freedom to leave set working hours behind is a significant attraction.
“You are not restricted to earning a pre-decided amount. Your own business can be expanded as and when you see fit. For example, you may want to expand in a direction that allows you to generate passive income.”
While the sky is the limit for earning potential, one also faces the risk of financial uncertainty.
“In the case that losses are incurred, the owner has to bear them personally,” Kroeger said.
In addition, extra hours may need to be added to workdays and weekends to generate the revenue required to maintain your lifestyle.
Walker said, “There are times when I am up late into the night working on orders, answering emails, and checking on inventory.”
The operating costs can add up quickly too. Walker currently has health insurance through her husband’s plan, but notes that if she hires help in the future, she’ll need to offer health insurance to employees.
“I must be extremely careful of my spending in ordering supplies because I do not have funding coming in from an outside source,” she said. She orders some materials in bulk to keep costs as low as possible.
On your own, the task list can be endless.
“In a corporate job, your role and tasks are clearly defined,” Kroeger said. “In your own business, this is often not the case, especially if you have a new startup. You may have to partake in a wide range of operations, such as shelf-keeping, accounting, customer relations ... this can become overwhelming.”
“I am the maker, the inventory specialist, the customer service rep, the PR person, everything,” Walker added. “I wear so many hats and it gets exhausting.”
As these new companies grow, the challenges—including dealing with a tight labor market—are not likely to subside.
“One of the most pressing challenges business owners today face is the difficulty of finding quality workers as a result of The Great Resignation,” Nelson said. “Businesses are having to be more competitive when it comes to offering employee wages and benefits. Additionally, many businesses today are striving to accommodate teleworking, which opens them up to a whole new set of obstacles surrounding the software solutions and productivity.”
This issue of finding solid workers may strike some as ironic, since workers are leaving companies to strike out in search of their own fortunes and look for ways to improve their pay and benefits. Still, the trend may develop to be a subsegment of new business owners setting the path for more flexible working conditions.
Despite the tough sides of being self-employed, Walker says she wouldn’t want it any other way. “If someone were to ask me why I won’t go back to a 9-to-5, I would simply say, ‘I’m so free.’ I truly love it here.”