More myths about going independent

independent business owners

Some time ago, I wrote about my career path from librarian to business owner and the top three myths about going independent. A recent encounter with a new acquaintance highlighted even more misconceptions about what it’s like working for myself, so I decided to revisit the topic.

This time I checked with my fellow AIIP members (Association of Independent Information Professionals), who, like me, own small information-related businesses. Think independent researchers/analysts, writers/editors, library consultants, knowledge management experts, and more. Many thanks to all of my AIIP colleagues for sharing your insights. As usual, they were there to help.

Here’s is a summary of the responses, which shows the variety of misconceptions and biases we encounter on a daily basis:

We consider ourselves freelancers – No, we don’t actually make a living by stringing together together a series of gigs or one-off, quick, and cheap projects. We’re entrepreneurs, following a strategic path to long-term client relationships that translate into regular, high-valued work.

We work fewer hours – Running a  business and keeping your skills up-to-date takes a lot of time. To be successful, independents put in long hours – often forgoing weekends, holidays, or vacations. Clients don’t care about your work/life balance when they have an emergency or suddenly rearrange their priorities.

We make millions – We make a good living, but it’s unlikely that our businesses will ever translate into huge estates for our heirs. While our rates might seem high, we have expenses usually covered by an employer – and we’re worth it. It also depends on how you define “riches.” Not needing a committee to make changes to my strategic plan? Priceless.

Build it and they will come – Since my first client found me, I assumed the rest would follow. They didn’t, and I quickly wised  up. Even after nearly 18 years in business, I spend a good part of my week working on marketing and getting out to meet people face-to-face.

We’re free in the middle of the day to help friends and family with (fill in the blank) – I may set my own hours, but I still have more than a full-time job. So don’t just drop by or assume I’m at your beck and call. I’m happy to help out, but after work hours, please!

We work from home in our jammies – Actually, many work from outside offices or shared work spaces. And those of us who work from home generally wake up at a reasonable hour, shower, and dress up like the rest of you. We’re professionals, too, and often out and about, meeting clients and other connections.

It’s a hobby – We’re not collecting retirement checks or relying on spouses with healthy paychecks while we “run our little business.” It’s also not a side hustle. We’re serious and passionate entrepreneurs with successful businesses – thanks to years of of hard work and dedication.

We work alone – Some of us have employees, while others work with subcontractors. We consider ourselves part of the team and often collaborate with clients and their teams. Rarely is a solopreneur truly solo.

It’s easy. It’s intuitive. It’s for everyone – No, no, and no. Again, it’s hard work, and they don’t teach this at home or in school. There’s a steep learning curve, and change is constant. I’ve mentored many over the years, and not everyone is cut out for it.

So what kinds of people are cut out for running an independent business? According to Mary Ellen Bates, fellow AIIP member and long-time business coach, “It takes someone willing to get out of their comfort zone every single day.”

Interested in becoming an independent information professional? Check out AIIP, with its tremendous collection of resources, including it’s members.

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