Want to be your own boss? Here’s what Gen Z should know about self-employment and start-ups
By Emanuel Molla, Brielle Dunbar and Tabusom Marzi
In the past, people never dreamed of having the option to work for themselves. Working a 9-to-5 job at an established company has always been the norm.
But in this economy, and with the accessibility that comes with social media and wider access to resources, working for yourself has never been easier. But there are downsides that should be considered.
Gen Z seems to be behind this push towards self-employment with “almost ⅔ of Gen Z [saying they] would prefer to work for themselves in a start-up” according to the World Economic Forum.
Working for Yourself
Self employment is pretty self explanatory. You work for yourself, dictate your own hours, and get to pursue your personal interests.
Ka’Vonte Brown, the owner of Beanie Blends, a barbershop in District Heights, Maryland, said he didn’t plan to open his business. But it’s helped him build his social media presence, which is his ultimate goal.
“Barbering isn't something I woke up as a kid and said, 'Oh, I want to be a barber'. It's just something I've picked up along the way,” he said “I'm gonna just use the funds from that to like, fund my YouTube stuff.”
Kathy Kristof, founder and CEO of SideHusl.com, said that self employment works particularly well for people who don’t like the idea of a traditional 9 to 5.
“Not everybody's life fits into that neat box that allows for a corporate job,” she said. “And what we're finding is this online community where you can work for yourself, really, in your own time and your own place works really well.”
Striking out on your own is not for everyone, though, and there are also many setbacks that could potentially affect your decision to be an entrepreneur.
Kristof and Susan Beacham, a financial literacy expert and founder of Money Savvy Generation, helped explain some of the pros and cons of starting your own business:
PRO: You get to be your own boss : When entering the workforce, many people dread the possibility of having a “bad boss” which can make any job unpleasant, or even intolerable. As an entrepreneur, you have control over your schedule, you can make all the decisions, and you overall have autonomy in how your business is run.
CON: Success rates for businesses are really inconsistent: According to the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 45% of businesses fail within the first five years. “When you start a business the money that you take home often fluctuates based on the popularity of the business,” said Beacham. “Working a corporate job would make you more money in the beginning stages, you’d honestly just have to wait out the rocky part.”
PRO: You decide how your money is spent: When you’re working for yourself, you get to see a lot more of the money you worked for and dictate how that money is used. Gen Z also has shown an increased desire to work for companies that share their values. By working for yourself, you’re able to guarantee that your company shares your values, and choose to donate to causes you believe in.
CON: Big gambles can backfire: Dropping everything to go work for yourself can backfire. When you put in long hours and still you don't see the money coming in, you dedicate all your time and effort into one thing and it’s not going the way you expected even though you have a plan, it can feel very discouraging.
PRO: You can pursue your personal interests: People generally choose and apply for jobs that pay the most money, rather than jobs that they enjoy. Because of this, many people don’t like their jobs, and even dread the idea of going to work. With working for yourself, you get to follow your passions and make money off of it. A lot of people have hobbies but they don’t realize that it could potentially be a lucrative business.
CON: You have to provide your own employment benefits: Corporate jobs provide retirement benefits (401k, pension, etc.), health insurance, and more. But as you take on the responsibility of starting your own business, you have to take on the responsibility of worrying about how to craft your future financial safety net. “When you become an entrepreneur, there's things you have to take care of that the corporate environment used to take care of – long term disability, things like insurance, health insurance, life insurance, things that are just oh so boring,” said Beacham.
Working for Somebody Else
Working for somebody else is far more common than striking out as an entrepreneur. And for many, it’s perfectly satisfying and brings its own benefits.
“I enjoy working at Fairfax County Public Schools because I am able to collaborate with my colleagues,” said Annandale High School college career counselor Brian Yeagley. “If I worked independently I would not have the opportunity to hear other professionals' insights and perspectives on various topics.”
There’s nothing wrong with starting out in the corporate world, said Beacham. Even if you plan to start your own business, the security of working for a steady paycheck can provide a good backstop.
Here are some of the things Kristof and Beacham recommend considering about working for someone else.
PRO: You receive consistent benefits: Many employers provide benefits for their employees like health insurance, retirement programs, and more. “When you work for a company, you get paid time Off, which you don’t get as a freelancer,” said Kristof. “And that's really valuable… these are really significant benefits you don’t get when you work for yourself.”
CON: Limited creativity and innovation, sometimes: For Beacham, the tendency of corporate employers to want to minimize risk led to stifled creativity. “ [I] listened to people tell me all day long ‘no, no, your ideas are great [but] we want mediocrity because that feels safer in a corporate environment,” she said. “Your ideas, they're going to take a lot more vision and energy. We're doing fine right here.”
PRO: Flexibility in the corporate environment has grown: During the COVID-19 pandemic, workplaces throughout the country became more lenient and switched to working from home and flexible schedules to provide safety for the employee and the company.
CON: Your boss may be unpredictable: Your manager can affect your work ethic, performance and how you view going to work. Your manager facilitates the environment of the workplace, creating a positive or negative space for the employees and their work. But having the unpredictability of not knowing what your boss will be like can discourage a lot of potential workers from entering the workforce.
Emanuel Molla, Brielle Dunbar and Tabusom Marzi are 10th grade students at Annandale High School in Annandale, Va., and reported and wrote this story in collaboration with Youthcast Media Group’s team of mentoring reporters.