becoming self employed – 12 questions that keep you from it and how I answered them

This week, after ten years of being an employee, I’ve started my new career as an independent agile coach and kanban trainer. While I feel way more motivated and super positive we all know our weaker self. These are the questions I had to answer “it”.
(It is known, that our weaker self starts questions with a BUT and oftentimes ends them with a ! instead of a ?)

But Markus, think about the safety you had with your previous employer!
A quote from “the matrix” comes to mind: „try to realize the truth! there is no spoon“ – the same is true for job security. In case of a consultancy, if you’re not „sold“ to a customer, there is a limited amount of undesirable jobs you can do – not more, and not less. You have to see the fact, that you are employed to create value for your employer. As soon as you’re not doing that, you’re out.

But Markus, you won’t get paid when you’re ill!
Let’s boil it down to money then.. how many days per year don’t you have a cold? The amount of money you make on these days hopefully far exceeded your sick leave.

But Markus, what if you get too many customers and just can’t handle all of them?
Well, the good thing in the agile (and most other) communities is, that you can always get help if you choose to ask for it. If indeed, you have too much on your plate, ask a fellow peer if she wants to help out or knows other coaches, facilitators or trainers that are looking for contracts at the moment.

You might even find the perfect fit for a customer you could only halfheartedly help.

But Markus, what if your customer doesn’t pay you?
Same thing as with every other aspects of your life. It is wise to have a legal costs insurance.

But Markus, nobody will pay for your education/trainings!
You are right, weaker self. There is no boss interested in my education.
And there shouldn’t be. Nobody should be more interested in my personal development than myself! It helps to set aside some (or a lot of) money to pay for the trainings I (or my fellow peers) deem useful for me.
A good friend of mine has set a minimum of 10.000eur/year for his own advancement. He knows that knowledge – and the application of it – distinguishes him from the competition.

I will set aside a similar sum per year for sharpening my mind. Maybe 10% of my income?

But Markus, you as a one man show don’t scale!
Indeed. If I wanted to „scale“, I would take a closer look at companies like crisp, oose, it-agile or kegon. These companies chose to reinvent themselves, thereby creating happier employees and also happier customers.

But Markus, what if your customers are abroad/want you to travel?
Then, my dear weaker self, it is totally up to me, if that customer fits into my current style of living.

But Markus, how can you survive in a market so full of amazing agile coaches?
Most colleagues of mine have their unique selling point. The same is true for me.
If you want to know more about it, just klick here.
For my german speaking readers: There is an amazing 3min youtube video called “Das Pinguin Prinzip”. Take a look if you understand some german.

But Markus, how can you possibly manage your time without a boss, a bonus or goals to drive you?
Weaker self, we both have read “Drive” by Daniel Pink. You should know how little I think of monetary bonuses or performance appraisals for skillful or creative work.

But Markus, are you not scared you won’t find a “real” Job, if you ever decided to go “corporate” again?
You are right, some companies don’t accept CV’s of candidates that have been self-employed. The question you should ask yourself is:

  • Why would an employer not want candidates with an entrepreneurial spirit?
  • Would you want to work for a company like that?

I will combine the next four questions…
But Markus, how will you acquire new clients if you’re working all the time?
But Markus, what if you can’t work with big firms for legal reasons? (payrolling)
But Markus, what about your retirement plans?
But Markus, won’t you hate doing tax reports and all the other back office stuff?
Now we’re looking at the „real“ problems, that need real solutions.
At the moment, I’m handling my customers through a supplier/provider.
What does that mean? I’m basically employed by them and get my hourly rates on the 10th of the next month with some percentage for back office, contract creation, retirement plans, taxes and so on.
I will invest more time at conferences, meetups and so on to reinvent myself as a „product“ and find new customers. Already some of my previous customers are helping me to spread the word, which I’m very thankful for.

But Markus, is it really worth the trouble?
I can only speak from the experience I got from the last three days.
So far my answer is: „Yes, yes, yes! I should have done it earlier.“

I’d love to hear read your comments on being self employed, or why you think it is a bad idea after all!