Should you go freelance or set up your own business … and what are the two things you need to remember for both?

I set up my own business in 2016 having spent over 20 years working for other people. My drivers were a strong belief and a restless passion: I believed that, if a business has the right product/service, successful growth will come from its people and its culture; my passion was – and still is – to play an active role in supporting women to stay in the workplace, whatever their lifestage.

But the decision as to whether I would set up on my own or go freelance was taken out of my hands – I was offered a specific opportunity but, to take it, I had to set up a business.

Reflecting on whether this would have been my decision if it hadn’t been a required condition, my answer would still be yes as, putting aside the financial implications and whether both opportunities exist, I believe your path of choice is based on your mindset.

Clearly, there are key commonalities between the two routes … and we’ll come to those later. However, having coached and mentored a number of female entrepreneurs running their own businesses, I have observed a fundamental difference in mindset that sets them apart from their freelance contemporaries: they tend to be driven by a burning passion or vision based on a particular market problem that needs solving, whereas my experience with freelancers is that they tend to be motivated more by the need for flexibility and a desire for a better work/life balance.

Unsurprisingly, the decision as to which path to take tends to surface when a woman is experiencing a significant life change – typically following the birth of a baby, the children leaving home or the start of the menopause.

Returning to the question of the commonalities between the two paths, they include:

  1. Flexibility – you are your own boss in both scenarios; you can choose when you work, for how long and when you don’t.
  2. Personal growth – both paths require people management, financial management and sales capabilities.
  3. Financial anxiety – being employed may only offer you one month’s financial security however, as an employee, this isn’t something that tends to be at the forefront of your mind; as a freelancer or business owner, it’ll be a constant and key consideration.
  4. Self-motivation – motivation will come from your passion or the drive for the work/life balance you seek; either way, both paths will have their highs and lows.
  5. The need for boundaries – whichever path you choose, the need to set boundaries is critical … boundaries that allow you the time to strategise, reflect on your progress, pressure-test your thinking and focus your mindset.

My recommendation to anyone faced with the decision to go freelance or to set up their own business is to be clear about the nature of your motivation and to understand your mindset. The process of doing this will provide the clarity you’re looking for.

And remember two things: 1) be proud of the decision you make – it takes real courage to leave the financial security of an employed position. And 2) 39% of all CEOs have executive coaching as investment in their ongoing learning and development – be sure to invest in your own success by doing the same.

This article was written by Sue Payne, one of our partner coaches who is a coach and mentor with 20 years of leadership experience. Sue supports women to realise their full career potential at key life stages- returning to work, peri menopause, becoming an entrepreneur.  You can get in touch via her profile page.