3 reasons to go independent

It’s nearly bedtime, but you find yourself sitting at your laptop finishing a report the boss expects in the morning.

Your daughter’s soccer game starts in five minutes, but you’re a 30-minute commute away.

More and more, the modern work world infringes on home life as professionals try to balance their career needs against personal time, and end up feeling dissatisfied, frustrated and exhausted.

“In our modern culture, we are time poor, with too much focus on work and not nearly enough time for life,” says Aaron Zwas, an independent consultant and author of “Transition to Independence” (www.t2iplan.com).  That’s all the more reason to take the reigns of your career, becoming your own boss and adding flexibility to your work-life balance, he says. It all adds up to a new level of freedom to pursue the things that matter to you most.

Zwas knows from experience. He once worked as a technical writer for a computer-software company, but a series of events led him to make the break from his corporate job and venture out as an independent consultant. That allowed him to set his own schedule and work from home, all the while increasing his income by an average of 25 percent a year.

Plenty of people can benefit from working independently, though for reasons as varied as their circumstances, he says. They include the 20-something college graduate; the mother or father with young children who wants more flexibility; a stay-at-home mom returning to the workforce; or a middle manager recently laid off in the company’s latest down-sizing move, just to name a few.

Zwas offers three reasons why going independent could be a good career move in 2016:

• Career stability isn’t what it once was. Macro-economic trends are changing how we work and those changes are coming quickly, Zwas says. Those trends include both blue-collar and white-collar jobs moving overseas; higher value being placed on ideas, giving those who can articulate their expertise in a consulting capacity an advantage; and employers trying to minimize their costs by shifting from fulltime employees to a mix of independents. “They want to hire you only when they need you, just like you are a utility like water or electricity,” Zwas says. 

• Commuting can become a thing of the past. The average American spends about 50 minutes a day commuting to and from work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Beyond the usual stress of being in traffic, that’s time lost from the day that could be devoted to family, leisure activities or whatever you choose, Zwas says. “That’s nearly an hour a day spent commuting,” he says. “What could you do with that extra hour if you had it back? Over the course of a year, that commute time becomes significant.”

• The timing has never been better. At no time in history has the barrier to entry for a new business been lower, Zwas says. For example, he doesn’t need a physical store, inventory or employees. He says his annual costs of running a consultancy from his home range from $2,000 to $5,000 annually, and the only time it reaches the high end of that range is when he buys a new laptop every three years or creates a new website every five.

Technology also makes it easier for an individual to accomplish what once required a small team, he says. And if there’s something you can’t do, there are plenty of specialists – such as web designers, social-media experts, researchers and others – available at reasonable per-hour rates.

There’s money to be made by going the independent route – sometimes very good money in the six-figure range – but that’s not the primary reason to make the transition, he says.

“This is not about making $1 million,” Zwas says. “This is about improving your quality of life. It’s about pursuing your passions, whatever they might be, while still being able to pay the rent.”

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