When Is It Time To Give Up?

March 8, 2009

I get to talk to a lot of people who are just starting a small business on the side, some who are self-employed in one field and trying to transition to another, and some who have a small business and are trying to grow it. When they’re running low on clients and the marketing they’re trying doesn’t work, many will wonder if it’s time to let go of the dream and find a job. When is it time to give up?

This gets even more pressing during a distressed economy like we have now. People who are starting businesses are concerned that tighter spending makes it harder to find clients. On the other hand, increasing unemployment makes it harder to find a job.

Someone who has spent enough time in self-employment, even part-time without earning much profit, knows the difference between being an employee and being his or her own boss. It’s hard to have the creative freedom and be handling multiple responsibilities one day and then settle for a narrow job description the next day. That’s probably why self-employment makes some people “unemployable.”

The answer lies where most true answers about career are found. It’s in the “why.” What is your purpose for being self-employed? Why are you trying this? To what end?

Unfortunately, a lot of business and self-employment opportunities are pitched appealing to greed and desires for autonomy. Be your own boss, set your own hours, and finally earn what you’re worth. People sign up to train as marketing consultants or to lead corporate training groups or to become coaches with these sorts of promises.

It takes marketing to get clients, which means it takes a systematic way of delivering the message about your business’ products and services. Many who are looking for a way out of the job-box want the higher pay a business owner receives without the risks the business owner takes or the responsibility the business owner assumes for marketing.

When someone realizes his or her “why” for being self-employed was simply to keep more of the money the client pays, that’s probably not big enough. A twenty-percent raise or a chance for large bonuses would end the desire for self-employment.

When someone realizes his or her “why” for being self-employed is mainly a flexible schedule, that’s probably not big enough. An employer that negotiates tele-commuting or variable hours could entice that person to give up self-employment.

When someone realizes his or her “why” for being self-employed is about being able to provide a product or service in a way no one else does, that’s a good beginning. When the motivation is meeting other people’s needs and serving them in a way that will benefit them, the desires for a flexible schedule and creative freedom and being paid what one is worth all intersect.

The desire to give people something uniquely beneficial is the key motivator that gets solo entrepreneurs through the struggles. It’s the spark that keeps them thinking creatively and encourages them to be open to adapting to a changing market. It’s the source of their respect for the products or services they provide. That respect helps them value what they do, charge a reasonable fee, and feel proud that they deserve the money they earn.

I would love for everyone to find that kind of “why” and experience some level of self-employment. It’s fulfilling to serve people in such an authentic way, and it leads to a different view of personal responsibility and personal power. But not all people are ready at the same point in their lives for that kind of commitment.

So when people are struggling with the decision to continue working at building a small business or to find a job, I ask them to look at their “why.” If the “why” gives a voice to the core self, it’s worth it to find a way to pursue it, even if it’s at a slower pace while working a job that pays the bills. If the “why” doesn’t have deep roots, it’s not strong enough to resist the turbulence of tough economic times, marketing struggles, or the pressure of friends and family to conform and get a job.

It’s the “why” that won’t be silenced that propels the solo entrepreneur to success.

May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,

Steve Coxsey
Life Work & Self-Employment Advocate


6 Responses to “When Is It Time To Give Up?”

  1. Barbara Winter on March 9th, 2009 11:50 am

    Bravo! This showed up in my Google alerts. So glad I didn’t miss it. Nicely done, Steve.

  2. Ken on March 9th, 2009 3:55 pm

    On pursuing a goal at a slower pace, I’ve learned that getting somewhere slowly is way better than getting nowhere fast.

  3. March 10, 2009 : On The Twisting Road on March 10th, 2009 7:26 pm

    […] When Is It Time To Give Up? […]

  4. Dee Relyea on March 11th, 2009 10:19 pm

    Steve, This is one of the best articles I’ve read on passion and self employment. As a Solo E coach/consultant/small biz startup specialist, I sincerely appreciate your words. Might I quote you in my blog or share yours with others? As Barbara states, “bravo”!

  5. Steve Coxsey on March 12th, 2009 8:40 am

    Thank you for your encouraging words. What started as a knee-jerk reaction to hearing a couple of frustrated people turned into a (somewhat) more deliberate response. I needed to give a clear response to a couple of people and decided to do it in a way that might help others, too.

  6. Shaun Kieran on March 24th, 2009 7:10 am

    I’m increasingly impressed with your approach, Steve, including the notion of Coaching being only a PART of a multi-pronged approach to doing what we’re meant to be doing.

    Thanks again for your encouragement.

    To be continued ….


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