Entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs

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I'm thinking about making the transition to self-employment.Minneapolis, MN
Insight: The work environment is helping me to consider self employment.

I have an associate degree in Psychology with Child Development as a major consideration.

The recession. Outsourcing jobs. The work environment.

I am interested in the resources available and tax information to become self-employed.

-- Sheryl Skoglund
I'm self-employed.St. Paul, MN
Insight: While most of my work life was in public policy, my undergrad degree was in fine art. In 2006, I started work as a full time artist.

I am a Norske (Norwegian American) and began exploring figurative folk art and sagas from 800 to 1800. I have taken some of these older forms to make new narratives from the naive and archaic imagery of Nordic folk artists. Everything about the business of art has been new to me. Most of what I am doing in business, I am doing for the first - or second time. I make many mistakes - some costly in time, others costly in money.

The department I was in was eliminated and I felt the need to be away from public policy for a while.

90% of the work of an artist is done alone and I like being able to pursue exactly what interests me (and work that I would like others to see) but I miss having colleagues. I had a goal of breaking even last year but did not succeed as my expenses were higher than I had hoped. I made another expensive mistake this year so don't know if I will break even this year even though I am trying many new avenues to sell my work.

-- Claire Thoen
I'm thinking about making the transition to self-employment.Vadnais Heights, MN
Insight: For the past two years I worked as a paraprofessional for the St. Paul Public schools. Prior to this I was a stay-at-home mom. Although I found it rewarding working with special needs children, I realized I am much too independent and creative to be under the domain of an institution, like the school system. I do not find it inspiring to work for everyone else's agenda, especially if I do not agree with it. I realized after working a "real" job, I need to focus on my long term goal of developing an independent career. We are moving from MN to CA in August, therefore it is my opportunity to think outside the institutional box and begin creating that career.

I do have a small business now, offering classes and services in the personal/spiritual growth industry. I also write, and would like to freelance my work.

I explained above my reasons in my answer to the first question, but again it is because of moving to California, a state suffering economically, yet where people are creative and ambitious. Also I realized corporate America and the rest of our institutions are way too confining for who I am and what I want to do in the world, therefore I am motivated to create my own vision and work toward it.

What I like best about being self-employed is the creative control and the choice to use my time the way I want to use my time. The downside of course is it is often more work, but if you love it, it won't feel like something you just get through until Friday. Because chances are you will be working on Saturday too.

-- Nikki Di Virgilio
I'm self-employed.Arden Hill, MN
Insight: I have been self-employed since 1999.

My husband and I have 3 businesses. My husband and I own a Management Consulting and Coaching Firm, a Real Estate Investment Firm and a Wellness Company.

We saw that we could make more money if we owned our own businesses. Each of us were top sales producers in the companies we worked for and when we calculated what we could be making if we went on our own, we decided to take the leap. It has been so worth it. We earn more than we ever imagined possible.

It takes something to keep a balanced life and to confront everyday where the next client is coming from. On the other hand, the rewards make it worthwhile. We have complete flexibility with our schedules and have always been able to be there for our daughter. We can work the hours that support our wellbeing. We can take vacations when we want to. We are in charge of our destiny and we are nurtured by our ability to succeed.

-- Patti Lustig
I have a small business in addition to other work.Brooklyn Park, MN
Insight: I have a small on-line wood carving business called Viking Wood Carving: Creative Works in Wood. The URL is www.vikingwoodcarving.com. As a full time job I work in medical research at the University of Minnesota. Although I enjoy my full-time job, my passion is in wood carving.

Viking Wood Carving: Creative Works in Wood is an online business, but most of my sales come from word of mouth. I will start doing carving demonstrations at Norway Day at Minnehaha Falls and the Viking Village Event in Moorhead, MN. Both of these will be in July this year. I hope to drum up business from these demos.

After I came back from Iraq I really delved into my wood carving as a hobby. I had been carving since the age of 12 when my grandmother taught me. However, it really helped me with my transition back to civilian life in that I was able to relax and focus on creating something, rather than breaking/destroying something. During my transition, someone stated that many vets coming home start their own businesses, because they want to be in control of their own work lives, rather than doing some other person's bidding. Someone in my family suggested I start selling my carvings, so going online was the logical next step. It required very little in terms of start up costs, as I already had most of my tools already. Registering my business with the state was easy, too, particularly since it is via the web. Paying sales tax is easy through the Department of Revenues web portal.

This business does not sustain me, but really helps support my wood carving. My dream job would be to open up a shop on the North Shore and carve full time. However, with the economy the way it is I really have no illusions that someone buying something artistic is much lower on the totem pole.

-- Philip Lacher
I'm thinking about making the transition to self-employment.Apple Valley, MN
Insight: I am a very young 61-year-old woman (also a five-year cancer survivor) whose job in publishing was eliminated 13 months ago. In addition to seeking a job in a time when years of experience seem more a detriment than asset, I am exhibiting my paintings at weekend local art fairs, attempting to see if I can make my hobby, my passion, my living.

At age 3 my replication of a Little Lulu cartoon set in motion a lifetime love of drawing and, later, painting -- though always as a sideline because, of course, I had to actually earn money for a living. My oil landscapes usually contain architecture (I lived in Northfield for 17 years and have (and continue to) documented many of its icons). I paint small oils and pastels en plein air and finish the larger ones in my basement studio (if I can call it that). Comments are: "amazing," "beautiful," I love that," I want that," but I need people to actually buy my work. (I did recently sell a large painting at the Northfield Arts Guild, for $900. (They, of course, take a commission.)

The company suffered financial loss due to the downturn in the economy in late 2008, adversely affecting advertising revenue. I was the last of the higher-paid employees to be let go due to its inability to pay for my position, which I had held for 14 years. So, timing, I guess.

I truly thought I would find another job quickly. I mean, I was known as the person who "ran the show." Silly me. Each month I've been unemployed makes me more unemployable. So that's what it's like to be non-employed. I will let you know what it's like to be self-employed when that actually happens!

-- Marsha Kitchel
I'm self-employed.Saint Paul, MN
Insight: Just under 90 days ago, I quit my full-time job and became a self-employed / socially-conscious / solo-preneur. I took my background in on-air promotions and transitioned into a career in "personal branding."

I design rockstar resumes, lead personal branding jam sessions, write marketing copy for individuals and small businesses, and teach wallflowers how to network with confidence. Put simply: I help people sell their skills, without selling their souls. I can work from anywhere with a decent Wifi connection. And I do. ;) For the first time in my life, I feel like I've found my professional niche. I can't imagine ever spending 8 hours a day in a cubicle again!

I was working for a terrific company, but I felt like my personal and professional development was creeping along at a snail's pace. I hated being restricted to 2 weeks of vacation per year, and I found the "cube farm" environment to be aesthetically stifling. I've always been extremely self-disciplined, so making the shift from "employee" to "entrepreneur" didn't feel like an outrageous leap. After working with a career coach and saving up six months of living expenses, I decided to take the plunge.

As a regular employee, your "goals" are externally imposed. Your boss assigns you a series of tasks, you do them, and if you do them well, you might receive some praise (or a raise). As a self-employed employee, all of your goals are self-created. No one is telling you what to do -- YOU generate your own task list, YOU seek out your clients, YOU plot your promotional plan. YOU are your boss, your marketing team, your IT staff, your finance department. If you spend half the day goofing off on YouTube, YOU suffer the direct consequences. Holding yourself accountable for your own professional progress is terrifying -- but so, so worth it. It's not for everyone, but it's definitely for me!

-- Alexandra Franzen
I'm self-employed.St. Paul, MN
Insight: I was laid off last year from a 15-year job. Spent 8 months unemployed and looking for work. The only offers were to be brought on as an independent contractor. I did not wish to nor seek to be self-employed.

I am a physician; my practice has been limited to reproductive and sexual health care in a commnity clinic, where I was the medical director. I got a degree in public health (MPH) a couple of years ago, and was laid off about a year later. Right now I have two, and soon to be three, different contract jobs. I am the medical director at a teen clinic 12 hours/wk; this is similar to the work I did before. I am an outside contract investigator at a research foundation working on studies related to vaccine safety and pregnancy, up to 8 hours/wk. And I will be contracting with the MN Dept of Health on a project (related to certification of health care homes). I don't know (!) how much time that will offer.

The only options that opened up after I was laid off were to work as an independent contractor. Some agencies can't afford to hire new employees, or don't have the security to commit to an employee. I don't blame the agencies offering work this way, but it is more difficult. I am hoping to find good things about this set-up. I think I may find that I feel more independent and confident as a professional

I hadn't realized all the implications of not being an employee: not only no health insurance, vacation time or sick time, but no taxes withheld, having to learn to file Estimated Payments (they are NOT quarterly!), having to manage individual health insurance, find a bank for an HSA and keep track of all receipts, consider retirement planning, budget money for vacations and sick time. It takes a lot of time to manage all these things, and there's no "employee manual" for being self-employed. It makes me appreciate the work of the HR people! As I become more attached to the work I'm doing now, it will not be easy to move into employment with another organization. I have very little guess about my long-term prospects.

-- Amy Gilbert
I'm thinking about making the transition to self-employment.Merrifield, MN
Insight: I was self employed. My fish farm was doubling production and sales for the first 4 years. Then I made a fatal mistake and filed a complaint against a MN DNR official for giving false testimony to the legislature. Six weeks later the DNR cancelled most of my license citing 2 provably false reasons. They said. 1. My farm is in the 25-year floodplain. It's out of the 100-yr floodplain and there is an internal DNR memo that states that. 2. My farm wasn't licensed. I have 5 years of licenses that show it was licensed. I also have copies of the new pond approvals signed by the regional manager who claimed they were not licensed. That happened in 2001 and to this date the DNR refuses to tell me the justification they had for cancelling most of my license.

My business was raising fish in manmade levee type ponds. I had 7 acres of ponds with about 1/2 mile of dike. I had water supply lines run to each pond with the water supplied by a 6" well. I had electricity run to each pond to power pumps and aerators. I designed the farm and had a contractor build the dikes. I designed and installed the electric and water supplies. I also had a 90' x 20' artificial river built to spawn redtail chubs. The current was supplied by a 5' paddlewheel and the bottom of the river was covered with 75,000 lbs of crushed rock for nest building. I bought sucker and walleye fry but I produced my own smallmouth and largemouth bass, yellow perch, crappies, sunfish, rosyred, and buffalo fry by providing the right conditions for spawning. The fish were sold for restocking, food fish grow-out, bait and native aquarium fish.

I like raising fish and animals. Life fascinates me. I also like making the decisions and working hard. I worked hard in school and graduated with honor from the top aquaculture program in the US. I thought I could do anything if I worked hard enough.

Despite the tremendous potential MN has to develop a major aquaculture industry do NOT attempt fish farming in MN because the DNR is openly hostile towards private aquaculture. I am moving my farm to another state.

-- John Reynolds
I'm self-employed.Minneapolis, MN
Insight: I have been a glass artist for 15 years with other jobs to supplement that income. I made my income through custom windows, selling on consignment, shows & festivals and teaching classes.

I opened a storefront 3 weeks ago featuring my work and consignment from other artists. I will change the inventory out completely every 2 months offering fresh new selections for my clientele.

I wanted to do my business my way. There aren't many jobs out there for glass artists.

I work harder for myself than I ever have at any job. I put in lots of hours with all the marketing, bookkeeping, etc., on top of creating the artwork that I sell.

-- Connie Beckers
I have a small business in addition to other work.ROCHESTER, MN
Insight: I started a small structural engineering consulting business (myself only) in 1998. It went modestly up until 2007, when the econmy started to implode. Then I lost the 10 years worth of portfolio and started employment with the Minnesota Dept. of Transportation (Bridge Inspection) while still keeping my business on a part time basis or as needed.

My business provides structural consulting for mostly small business and organizations, with the exception of a few large clients. Services range from structural evaluations of FHA/HUD code home foundations for lenders/brokers, building remodeling, forensic testimony, R&D, and routine structural design of agricultural structures, segmental retaining walls and industrial steel.

Bitter experiences while employed in the private sector. Treatment by employers was apalling to say the least, but not surprising considering the vulnerability of the American worker.

Don't beldieve the infomercials ("be your own boss!, make your own hours!). While the experience gave me great freedom to be with my kids for 5 years, and every now and then a good kill made good money and a thrill, consultant's life can be defined as an ocean of uncertainty punctuated by brief moments of panic. All in all, I don't regret it and miss it. However, the relative certainty of a regular paycheck from the state, where protections for workers are maningful are a great relief.

I'm self-employed.St. Paul, MN
Insight: I'm a freelance writer and editor. Publications everywhere are cutting staff, yet the work still needs to be done. I hope that's where I fit in. I'm fortunate in that my wife has a good job with health coverage, so I can work strictly for money without having to worry about benefits.

I'm a freelance writer and editor.

My wife got a new job, and I wasn't happy where I was, so we basically swapped places.

It forces you to be organized, and to balance money-earning work with housework. The TV stays off until "Jeopardy" at 4:30.

-- Dan Heilman
I'm self-employed.Minneapolis, MN
Insight: Since the job market is still very tight, it makes the most sense to create a paying job for myself when my children are in school full-time. I'm currently the primary care-giver to my two children ages 6 and 2½. They are my full-time job. I quit a corporate job 6 years ago to stay home with our son who was born 8½ weeks premature. Prior to my corporate gig, I worked for myself for many years as an animator, designer and artist. I'm used to getting things done in an ever-changing environment with little or no structure.

I am currently creating a personal motivation service that harnesses crowd-sourcing through a smart phone application. I am most interested in creating unique services delivered via social networks. While still an at-home parent I have focused my efforts on raising money for non-profit organizations. Since those are volunteer positions, I have the flexibility to assist as much time as circumstances allow. Even with both children in school, my time is still limited. That means I still need the flexibility of working for myself.

I don't much like the rigidity of the corporate culture. Being self-employed provides more variety of options. Job security is mostly non-existent these days. That's why I'm going to work for myself. It's not any less scary and I have a bit more control over my destiny.

There are peaks and valleys for the small business owner. It's important to plan accordingly. Working a desk job tends to lull me into a false sense of security.

-- Scott Moore
I'm self-employed.St. Anthony Village, MN
Insight: I am doing freelance / consulting on graphic design and web site development on a part-time basis while I went to school. I completed my undergrad program in 2008 and immediately started on my masters degree in Communication Studies. I have finished all my coursework and am hoping to complete my thesis over the summer.

I have two main clients. My "hook" to get my foot in the door is my experience with e-commerce, and it usually leads to opportunities to work on other types of marketing efforts, including graphic design on printed marketing materials and social media. I also have a few other clients that I do occasional work for, such as designing business cards or ads. But my focus is to keep the two primary clients satisfied. Once a relationship is established, I rarely meet with my clients in face-to-face meetings - maybe only 2 or 3 times per year. Most of our communication and collaborative work is done by email, with links to prototype web pages or PDFs for print work. The hard work on developing my relationship with clients is done up front. I really make an effort to understand a client's total business - not just the requirements of the specific task at hand. I also make sure they feel free to express dissatisfaction with my work. I am surprised at the number of clients that have had bad experiences with freelance/contract services. Doing the work is the easy part. Doing the administrative stuff like billing & accounting work takes a lot more time than I anticipated. Preparing proposals or presentations for potential clients is work for which you have no guarantee on return. Accounting and marketing yourself can take up 25% of your working hours (but are not billable). Sometimes a client will find themselves in a jam and you have to offer the option of spreading payments out for them. I really hate the process of marketing/selling myself. Some potential clients seem to demand a hard-sell approach. In those situations, it's easy to overhype your skills which can lead to problems down the road.

I made the leap about five years ago when I was frustrated by my relationship with my boss. I was making good money and I actually enjoyed the work, but that was not enough to overcome the negative aspects of working with my boss. That's really not a very good reason to start your own business, by the way. :-) As it turned out for me, though, it was a kind of grace or blessing. Within a couple of years of leaving my job, both my mom and my mom-in-law began needing a lot of support. My mom moved in with us 18 months after I left my regular job. The flexibility offered by self-employment was suddenly a necessity rather than a niceity.

It can be a roller-coaster from an emotional and motivational perspective. For example, if a client fails to pay you on time, you'll have to make changes in your personal finances. That is a challenge in itself, but how will that fact impact your motivational or emotional attitude? I haven't decided whether I will continue my self-employed status and continue work on a doctoral degree, or if I will look for full-time employment status. I've gone on a couple of interviews so far, and I perceive some skepticism over this most recent 5-year time period. I wonder if they are thinking that I'm looking for a job just because the economy is bad, and I may leave again when the economy recovers.

-- Debra Owens
St. Cloud, MN
Insight: I have been self-employed before, and am considering self -employment as a semi-retirement career change in the next few years.

I currently work as a construction project manager on industrial projects.

I've done it before, and the ability to truly set my own schedule and work when and if I want to are appealing. I don't want to quit working altogether, as long as my health allows me to continue. I think working part-time will be a good way to keep my mind active.

It's tough to find work when you're working. It's very hard to have the time necessary to sell your services to prospective clients when you're a one-man band. You need to stay working to generate revenue, and selling doesn't generate any immediate revenue.

-- Don Frey
St. Cloud, MN
Insight: I have been self-employed before, and am considering self -employment as a semi-retirement career change in the next few years.

I currently work as a construction project manager on industrial projects.

I've done it before, and the ability to truly set my own schedule and work when and if I want to are appealing. I don't want to quit working altogether, as long as my health allows me to continue. I think working part-time will be a good way to keep my mind active.

It's tough to find work when you're working. It's very hard to have the time necessary to sell your services to prospective clients when you're a one-man band. You need to stay working to generate revenue, and selling doesn't generate any immediate revenue.

-- Don Frey
St. Paul, MN
Insight: I'm currently freelancing, but am looking for a full-time position.

I have been in and out of freelance/self-employment for almost 10 years. In my line of work - web design and copywriting - it seems that employers are moving more and more to hiring contract workers rather than full timers. I started as a dedicated freelancer 10 years ago, but have been looking for a permanent gig for the last 5 years. Worked for a small design firm for a couple of years, but got laid off when business tailed off, then worked for a nonprofit for a while, but grant funding went away, so I'm back on the freelance/contract path. Fortunately, there seems to be work out there in my field.

After leaving a department in the State of Minnesota in the budget crunch of the early 2000s, I was encouraged by colleagues to hang out my own shingle. It worked well for me at the time because I am a single parent and both my children were in elementary school at the time. Self-employment gave me the flexibility to be there when they needed me and allowed me to avoid child care costs.

The freedom comes at a cost - I haven't been able to afford health care for most of the last 10 years and have been fortunate to keep my kids healthy through that time. The income instability is psychologically difficult, but all the work my parents did showing me how to save and control my lifestyle paid off.

-- Bob Style
I'm self-employed.Minneapolis, MN

It is pretty simple, I'm a freelance copywriter. I've written everything from financial market reviews to dating advice for single-fathers. My main focus has been on sports, my specialties are soccer, rugby and the Gaelic sports (Gaelic football and hurling). The first half of my time as self-employed was not as difficult as one would imagine. I had build a lot of business contacts and I was able to leverage that network to find significant work. However, that all began to change as did the economy. During the past two years my main, and for better parts of that time, only client has been a croup of Irish Pubs which have contracted with me to provide marketing products.

I have been self-employed for almost four years now. I started doing freelance copywrite work about six years ago and when my corporate policy writing position was relocated to Arizona during the middle of my divorce and custody battle, I was forced to turn a part-time deal into a full time gig.

It is very difficult to step away from work or separate your work from the rest of your life. This is much, much easier when you are in the corporate word and if your decision is to have a life outside the office. As a parent, and for part of this time a single-parent, that was not an option for me. The way I found to create that happy medium is to do what I love and I found a way to make money doing it.

-- John Haggerty
I'm thinking about making the transition to self-employment.Grand Marais, MN
Insight: I am creative and resourceful with a diverse background. I studied computer science at the University of Minnesota(~30 credits short of a degree). I have been recently employed with seasonal service jobs for 5 years.

I currently wait tables, tend bar, clean chimneys, and manage a long-term rental property.

Leaner economic times with no end in sight.

Sounds like it's the best way to grow personally, financially, and culturally.

-- David Mills
I'm self-employed.Saint Paul, MN
Insight: I am a lawyer and wedding photographer.

I have been a lawyer for 14 years, but self-employed for 4. The last year has been challenging, with both law and photo income off 80% or so.

Freedom to make my own decisions.

-- Matthew Brenengen
I'm self-employed.Minneapolis, MN
Insight: Since graduating from the College of St. Benedict/St. John's University in 2005, I have been freelance writing on the side. I did this during other employment and graduate school at the University of Minnesota. Upon graduating with a Master's last spring, I decided that rather than looking for a traditional job in such a grim market, I would try to do my own thing full time.

I am a freelance writer and editor, mostly focusing on magazine writing. I write for national publications, like Runner's World Magazine and Running Times Magazine, and local magazines published through Tiger Oak, in addition to a long list of other outlets. My website (www.mackenzielobby.com) has some examples.

Naivete. There simply wasn't anything else out there that looked as appealing to me as freelance journalism. While I had been learning the ropes as a very part time gig for five years, I didn't have a realistic grasp on what it meant to make the jump from an on-the-side-hobby to a full-time career. I just figured it would work out. Looking back, it was foolish not to run the numbers and figure out how much I'd need to make to support myself, but I've picked those things up one step at a time. I have learned that to be a freelancer, I can't just be a writer, I also have to be a secretary, accountant, and collections agency. I also figured that now was the time to take a risk and see what I could build. I'm young, rent rather than own, am not married, and don't have kids. It was definitely a 'seize the moment' kind of thing that has panned out really well.

One of the interesting things I've come to realize is that my peers oftentimes aren't able to grasp what it is I do. Since it doesn't fit into any traditional job category, they ask many questions and still seem perplexed. The thought of waking up and working at the dining room table sporting PJs or typing away on the laptop on a park bench on a nice summer day is just beyond some people's scope of understanding when it comes to work. The only downside is that it means work is always with me. I guarantee that I work many more hours for myself than I would work if I had a regular job. I am constantly aware that the sky is the limit and the harder I work, the further I'll get. There's something thrilling about the possibilities, which always keeps me coming back for more.

-- Mackenzie Lobby
I have a small business in addition to other work.Minnetonka, MN
Insight: I currently work full time as a mental health practitioner for a Twin Cities social services agency. I also have a small private therapy practice in Minnetonka that I am trying to grow.

As a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, I provide in-home therapy for those with mental health issues. I work with children and their families as well as adults. In my private practice I work with individuals and couples on various issues such as grief and loss, self-esteem, elder family members, divorce, communications, and other relational issues.

After a checkered career in various settings (church employment, small business, family owned business, and global corporation), I found I wanted to serve others - an altruism that cannot help but serve me as well. I am in my late 50's. This career change began for me about 12 years ago. After examining many other possible careers, I believe I have found the career that I was called to do. I am currently the primary bread winner in our home. It became evident that the 'retirement' our parents enjoyed would not be an option for us, the events of 911 having nearly destroyed the aviation industry. We felt, and continue to feel this personally because my husband was a long time aviation mechanic and mechanic instructor. He has not found similar employment since the school laid him off in 2004. Fortunately my career in IT with a large multinational corporation provided enough income while I returned to school for my Masters Degree. The therapy field is one that I believe i can do, and feel great satisfaction in doing, until I am well into my 70s.

I am currently an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. I was able to 'retire' this past March from my corporate job and now make about 45% of that corporate income in the social services industry. This employment is a path that leads finally to full self-employment. This post-graduate work will allow me to attain a full licensure as a Marriage & Family Therapist - something I should be able to complete by 2nd quarter 2011.

-- Cherylann Ganci
I'm self-employed.Minneapolis, MN
Insight: Actually both my husband and I are self employed. I helped start a music school in north Mpls. 5 years ago and my husband started his own histology business 3 years ago.

Starting a music school in north Mpls. where I grew up and live was a dream of mine for some 30 years. I met someone who had the same dream that I did, she became Owner and Executive Director and I told her I just wanted to teach. 5 years later, 13 teachers and about 200 students, we are still here in north Mpls.

After being cut in the 2nd round of layoffs in Mpls. Public Schools, I redid my resume, interviewed for jobs as far up as Elk River, but at age 50 I couldn't imagine starting anew and my mind and dream was on starting a music school. When the owner and I talked, it seemed like we needed to get started, so on a snowy January, we opened our doors with 3-4 teachers and 15 students. My husband was beginning to set up a small business for retirement, but when he was laid off 3 years ago, he decided to set it up earlier. His business is now in it's 3rd year, and starting to grow.

The biggest thing that is causing a major problem is health care for each of us. It seems as though that all we are doing is paying health care premiums. The premiums keep going up and up and we are trying not to use our health care unless we absolutely have to due to the high deductibles (2,000 for me and 5,000 for my husband) I do not understand why the exorbitant prices. Other than the health care, we seem to be holding our own. Due to the health care prices, we do not have a savings account which leaves us wide open in a crisis. That is scary. We are both working very hard essentially for health care, but consider ourselves lucky to be pulling in incomes.

-- Jaette Carpenter
I'm self-employed.Chanhassen, MN
Insight: I am a self employed Ballet Instructor, contracting my services out to private dance studios in the Metro area. I am doing this full time since 2006. I used to be a professional dancer, stopped performing in 2001, then took a day job and occasionally taught some classes in the evening. In 2006 I decided to quit the day job and teach full time. I should add that I do have a degree in dance education so in a way I have been uniquely prepared for doing this and branching out on my own.

I teach between 15 and 25 hours per week, usually more during the school year and a little less in the summer. I get paid per hour, and it does usually pay well but it certainly is hard work (it is very physical, and the classes all need a certain amount of preparation). I have between 8 and 10 weeks off per year, which can be great or not, depending if I have enough money to cover the free time! I get all the school vacations, but of course unpaid. I need to earn enough money up front to have savings for the unpaid time. In the summer I also try to go to certain continuing education seminars in New York.

The corporate job I was in offered little future perspective and became more and more boring. The pay wasn't enough for me to live off, raises were as little as 0.5% (!!), and I always had to teach on the side even to make a living, so I was essentially working two jobs. When I got a significant pay raise at the Dance Studio I worked for, I decided to quit the day job. But, since dance and dance education is my original profession and training, it not only made a lot of sense to do so, but I am actually able to do something I love.

It can be great because of the increased freedom one has. But it also can be nervewrecking if for some reason the income is not coming in, or it fluctuates too much. One certainly has to be able to live with a lot of risk and uncertainty. Self employment taxes can also be tricky and shockingly high. I am filing as an LLC now which helps with the tax burden but I am still financially recovering from two years where I had to pay an insane amount of taxes. Also, I don't have Health Insurance. A typical private insurance is either too expensive or pays for so little it is useless to have it. Hopefully the Health Care Reform will bring some better options down the road.

-- Sylvia Chandler
I'm self-employed.Champlin, MN
Insight: About 1 1/2 years ago, I left a major law firm to become self-employed. I am a public relations consultant for professional service firms (mainly in the legal industry).

I work with law firms and professional service firms to help raise awareness, build credibility, and increase business through proactive communications and media relations.

I wanted some "work-life balance." Raising two children and working downtown at a stressful job was difficult. Working from home gives me flexibility. My family loves it; and I love it! I can get my kids off to school in the morning and with my coffee in hand, plop down in my little home office to work. I am home when my kids return from school and can hear all about their day, which is so important!

There's nothing better than being your own boss. I am responsible for bring clients in the door and keeping them happy. Now if I only had health benefits, it would be perfect!

-- Jacquie Bystrom
I'm self-employed.Duluth, MN
Insight: My wife and I are both retired teachers. I worked at the College of St. Scholastica as an exercise physiology and physical therapy faculty. She was a special education teacher. Although neither of us has had a business class, we realize that most college teachers have never had an education class either.

My wife and I have trademarked "Minnesota Nice" and are placing this unique feature of Minnesotans on t-shirts, mugs, magnets, etc. We believe that what people read on t-shirts impacts their thinking and thus it can change their behavior. This is especially true for messages of hope.

We found a niche that melded with our curiosity.

It's fun to be your own boss. There's no body you can complain about. Also when people say they will get right back to you, don't wait by the phone. A neighbor of ours from graduate school caught a fish with "our name on it" in 1982. We are still waiting for that fish. We learned to not expect people to follow through, but to be pleasantly surprised and grateful when they do. We also learned that it is important to treat those who can do nothing for you with as much respect as folks who can make a difference in your lives.

-- Gary Gordon
I'm self-employed.hugo, MN
Insight: I left my last job because the organization wasn't prepared to do what it needed to to be successful. After 5 changes in leadership in 9 years it was clear that without stability and I couldn't do what they had hired me to do. At age 59 my chances of being hired permanently were slim even though my technical and organizational skills were still very current and analytical skills had increased.

I am an analyst of quantitative and qualitative data that can be used to solve problems, and identify opportunities for both businesses and governments. I can objectively evaluate secondary data of all types and collect primary data, organize it in such a way so that it can be understood by a variety of audiences and report back to those audiences from the individual level all the way up to U.S. Presidential appointees. I can work with people and groups to help identify what is important to them and work with them to make a decision and move forward. I have a Masters in Economics and a minor in Statistics from the University of Minnesota and 30 years of experience working at all levels of government including Presidential appointees. My work has included everything from doing farm visits for U of M extension to benefit cost analysis, least costly alternative analysis, return on investment, policy analysis for things ranging from religious practices in correctional facilities to international water resource solutions, park funding options, market analysis and developing recruiting and education brochures for a major federal agency, developing, recruiting, and monitoring architectural and engineering services.

There were four considerations: 1. I am 59 a hard age to find permanent work, and I would like to continue to use and develop my skills well into the future. 2. My package of quantitative and qualitative skills are hard to find in the marketplace without buying an entire package of services. I am the resource that is there only when you need it. 3. I like to work on a variety of issues. 4. I had successfully done contract work before and am good at working alone for long stretches of time.

It is difficult to identify work opportunities. The key is to network, network, network and I am an introvert and task oriented. I absolutely hate that part of the job and because I haven't focused on developing a marketing strategy for myself that has both a task and networking component. Therefore I have not had as much work as I would like but what I should expect because it has been commensurate with my effort. My period of mourning for the job that I left is just about over and then I can focus on which aspects of my skills I want to market first. I am also hesitant because one of my strengths has always been to be the technical specialist who understands all of the implications of strategies and actions. Once you start marketing you tend to be pigeonholed. Being able to work alone in the quiet of your home requires disciple and focus. The key is having a great work space and equipment, a full list of resource contacts and a good dog.

-- Jody Rooney
I'm self-employed.St. Paul, MN
Insight: For the last 2 years I've been building a business as a freelance illustrator.

Katie Parke Illustration is my design and illustration business, specializing in whimsical images for children. (See www.katieparke.com.) Most of my work has been featured in print (greeting cards, business cards and logos, magazine articles) but I've also done some original work (paintings, a mural) and hope to establish myself into surface design (textiles, paper products, home decor, etc.). I have a lovely staff of three: a cat and two dogs who model for me and remind me to take breaks.

My husband is a teacher and his schedule is not at all flexible--he has to be at school during very definite hours. I figured I had to have a job with a flexible schedule so if there's a sick kid, a during-school-hours event, a doctor's appointment, it's not a hassle for a parent to be there. I've always been very self-motivated. I don't need someone looking over my shoulder and I don't mind working weekends or late into the night. And one more very important reason: after being out of the workforce for several years to care for my kids, I knew that would be seen as a liability and I'd have a huge problem trying to prove myself to get back. I just didn't want to play by the rules of what I considered to be an unfair game. I knew I'd either have to re-train for a new career or do my own thing.

The hard parts: especially in the beginning, people you talk to just socially often treat the term "self-employed" as code for unemployed. It's hard to find a way of talking about a job that isn't well-defined in other people's minds. And sometimes it's hard to *do* a job that's not well-defined...you always are thinking there's more you can be doing 24/7 and you have to become an expert in everything related to the business (contracts, marketing, etc). But the lack of definition is a great thing about it too--you get to decide what direction the business is going and how you're going to get there; you're not blindly following someone else's questionable leadership. But the best part is it's a lifestyle in which family and work are more complementary than compartmentalized.

-- Katie Parke-Reimer
Hasting, MN
Insight: I work in technology, the companies in the field have been switching to outsourcing. Mainly to India. And it has little to do with skill, as us tech workers are VASTLY more skilled then anyone in india. 3 times already my job has been eliminated and moved to contractor work. You have a lot less protection and oddly enough even less pay, and any benefits you have to pay yourself. And you pay a lot more for them. My problem with it is I am thinking about (worrying) my next gig more then the job at hand. The quality of work reflects this. This was a move forced upon me. And its all because a clueless CEO wants his bonus and cares a crap about the actual work being done.

Initially I was a web designer, being hard to find steady permanent postitions I moved to Web Developer. That too also has little stability. Finally went to become a PC Technician. And there just seems to be no jobs. So back to web designer, and I am not happy with contract work.

Forced. Cheap ass CEO's and them wanting bonus. Especially when you consider the quality drops.... There really is no choice in my field.

I am not the competitive type. So the whole negotiating pay I fail at. Yet I can not work below a set costs. If I were to get into the dislocated worker program I would consider a different line of work. Or finish my 4 year degree, 2 requirements left. But I have been waiting OVER a year to get into that. Its a employer's market for Technology, and more so with the economy...

-- Kevin McColl
I'm self-employed.Minnetonka, MN
Insight: I am an independent IT consultant and I took the leap to self employment in May of 2008. I have worked for fortune 100 and 500 companies along with a 3 person start up during the last 2+ years and it has been quite rewarding. There have been bouts of bench time but the great projects and pay have certainly more than compensated for this.

I specialize in IT project management in the retail and medical device industries. My projects range from extremely large to extremely small, from politically challenging to really fun. There is always good variety.

I spent 7 years at my last "permanent" job and have built up a large network in the Twin Cities so I thought I would give it a try. I am glad that I had no idea that the economy was going to take a turn for the worse, I think I might have been less likely to take the risk. I am quite glad that I did though.

For independent IT consulting, you need to prepare for extended periods of no income. The credit crisis made this even more difficult for me because credit options I thought I would have at my disposal dried up quite suddenly. Keeping the network strong and consistently following up with prospects requires some strong commitment as well.

-- Marc Ballbach
I'm self-employed.Hutchinson, MN
Insight: Back after the early 90's recession, I had been "downsized" from my advertising/marketing career. I had toyed with making pottery as a hobby and seemed to have a knack for it. The decision at the time was between going back into the corporate world, probably a long job search, or heading off on an entirely new career. New career won. It has interested me how much the current economic and employment picture resembles that of the 90's, albeit more severe and less likely to return to to old model.

I, and my partner Betsy, built a pottery making and selling business over the 16 years since my loss of job. We make about 4500 pots a year, mostly for making and serving food. We sell in our gallery, online, at art fairs, through wholesale and via special orders. It is essentially 7 day a week work, lots of customer contact. Wouldn't do anything else, after 25 plus years of being in the marketing end of corporate business.

After getting laid off, I assessed the skills and experience I had (marketing and business management (strategic planning), and considered how those might be applied to this new direction. At the time, typical unemployment for middle management was 6 months or more. So I set out on a new career. Now, 16 years later, we continue to make a living at making and selling pottery, have added a gallery of handmade art from all over the US and Canada. The key to success was taking stock of the work assets we had (experience and knowledge), assessed the things that seemed like we would interest us, and looked forward to interests

It may never be a get rich quick living, but gives us a consistent good quality of life. Besides establishing a new business, we found a new set of friends who share similar passions, found a smaller community and adjusted what we "need" to have a great life.

-- Tom Wirt
I'm self-employed.Minneapolis, MN
Insight: I struck out on my own 5 years ago. After a few years I expanded because I wasn't taking new clients and I felt that if I didn't grow the staff that I would "fall out" of the game because my name would no longer be referred. Now the business has 12 full-time employees.

When I went on my own I had a broader focus on internet marketing strategy. Now I only focus on planning and execution of a niche within that: specifically search engine marketing. I found that being "the expert" in one specific area helped me (and the business) to stand out in the crowd.

I was passionate about my work but had problems fitting into the political structure of different companies where I had worked. So when there was a turnover in my manager at my last job, I decided to quit to start my own business.

"The path of glory leads but to the grave" is what I joke. Meaning that it's a lot of stress and a lot of work. It's not going to work unless you are a dedicated and proven workaholic. In the consulting or advertising game you also need to do a lot of networking and you have to be able to clearly communicate results.

-- Nina Hale
North St. Paul, MN
Insight: I'd love to be self-employeed. Sadly I need health insurance!

-- Barbara Skoglund
I'm self-employed.guthrie, MN
Insight: I've been self employed since 2001. though business has always been a bit slow because of the area in which i live... rural northern Minnesotan....as well as being an artist. Artists are probably some of the lowest paid of our society and are susceptible to bad economies. I plan to keep plugging away in hopes that the economy gets better, sooner than later and people purchase hand made items in plenty.

Metal artist creating fine metal art. http://www.eartheagleforge.com/

have always been an artist....working for other people there is usually some sort of politics...which i've NEVER been any good at. being my own boss has it's pros and cons....but the pros out way the cons.

hang in there....feast or famine is part of the deal...i'm doing what i believe i was created to do....that's my story and i'm sticking to it.... (;

-- paula jensen
I'm self-employed.Minneapolis, MN
Insight: I was laid off at the end of 2007, the very beginning of the Great Recession. I had been a Creative Director at a small agency focusing on corporate communications and marketing work. Our largest client, a financial services organization focusing on home mortgages, pulled back severely on their need for our services during the subprime mortgage fallout, going from a million-dollar per year client to a $50,000 per year client. The agency went through several rounds of layoffs that year, including my position. After several calls from clients offering project work -- but not a position -- I made the commitment to self-employment. Although, initially, I fit the model of the reluctant entrepreneur, I am happy to say that it has gone very well. I have a diverse client base with steady monthly projects, as well as the larger one-off projects. My model works extremely well, putting together virtual teams of co-workers (freelancers) as I need them, but not hiring permanently. At this point, I do not foresee myself going back to a full-time, 9 - 5 desk job.

I specialize in corporate communications video production. I write scripts for videos, direct the videos, and oversee the post-production process. My videos are aimed at both internal and external audiences, for communications or marketing purposes. I also script and produce live corporate stage productions, coach senior corporate executives for live and on-camera presentations, and script for live events. My clients are primarily within the financial, manufacturing, and retail sectors.

It was an idea that I have toyed with for years, but never quite had the courage to act upon until my hand was, essentially, forced with the layoff. Within my industry, self-employment is a fairly common model.

Wonderful flexibility with schedules. I can do my writing when it works best for my family -- evenings, early mornings, or weekends. I needn't comply with the somewhat forced hours of work-a-day world. I work out of a very nice home office. There are many who say that working at home means you are always at work. That's problematic only if one doesn't like their work. I happen to thoroughly enjoy my work, so working late into the evenings or on weekends is not a concern for me. It is so closely tied in with my interests and passions, that it IS my life, not an annoying adjunct. It allows me to achieve a much healthier work-life balance than the 9-5 office life ever did.

-- Glenn Miller
Minneapolis, MN
Insight: My husband was laid off in September of 2009 from his construction project management role. He had great breadth and depth of experience in construction and project management. He wanted to get back into home construction and renovation. My mother who has an affinity for kitchen and bathroom design was also looking for a change. We partnered to create Properties Ideal LLC a company committed to reviving deteriorated houses to add value and rejuvenate neighborhoods.

Properties Ideal LLC purchases foreclosed, distressed homes and remodels them to make them safe, up to date aesthetically and add value to the neighborhood. My mother and husband work side by side with some help from myself, my father and father-in-law. We each bring a unique skill set!

My mother was looking to make a change and wanted to put her design skill sets to use. When my husband lost his job due to the downturn in 2009 they decided to create a mutually beneficial family business. There is always opportunity for those who seek it in any economy. We decided to take control of our fate instead of being jaded by mass job loss and the inevitable unfriendly business policies to come from tax increases and debt.

This has been a very liberating experience. It is so great to know your immanent success is based on the effort you put in and your ability to take calculated risk. Also, it has provided a renewed sense of self worth and affirmation. As a family we are able to work together and support each other. There is no vacation allotment, core hours or set sick days. We work hard as a team and are successful. I continue to work my corporate job so we can have health benefits and a steady paycheck. Ideally, someday I will be able to work full time with Properties Ideal!

-- Lindsey Bauer
Hanska, MN
Insight: I'm hoping to pursue a hobby that becomes an occupation. Whether it does or not is frankly beyond my control. What I plan on doing is having a website created for me on which to publish my short fiction online in sort of a magazine format. Whether or not anyone will discover me, and that discovery will somehow turn into gainful employment, I don't know.

I recently finished school and I'm looking for a job. At the moment I'm considering things I didn't actually go to school for. I'm getting old enough so that if I want to pursue my dream (my dream was not what I actually went to school for. School was a matter of grubby survival) I'm going to have to try something adventurous.

The fact that the markets I would have sold to are drying up. I want to be a science fiction and fantasy writer when I grow up--or, better yet, before I grow up! It's getting harder and harder to sell science fiction becuase the publishers of both novels and short-stories are dealing with their own problems. They're not looking for new talent and, truth be told, they wouldn't guarentee you that they will be here in a few years. They have the same problems as the rest of publishing. The other problem with science fiction and fantasy is that themetically both a stuck in a rut. The magazines in particular are still printing the same, left-of-center, story that they have been printing for thirty years. The editors of these magazines know they have lost readers because of it--yet they continue to publish the same sort of story. I grew bored with this type of story thirty years ago. I want to do something else!

I can't think of anything else.

-- Brian Finstad
I have a small business in addition to other work.Milan, MN
Insight: We run a winter-only CSA operated out of a special greenhouse that I designed. My wife still has a full-time job, and I two part-time ones. In the next few years we intend to transition to complete self-employment.

Our business is unique, offering fresh Minnesota vegetables in the winter. We also have published a book on our efforts, and have spoken widely in the Mid west and Canada on our techniques. We plan to greatly expand our efforts- it's just a matter of time, funding and effort.

We saw a need that wasn't being met, and realized that it was our task to meet it.

Everything, from insurance to supplies, assumes that a person is in effect indentured to some big corporation. We can work around this, but it's annoying.

-- Chuck Waibel
I'm self-employed.maple grove, MN
Insight: I left corporate America several years ago and created a financial services company, a small business consulting company and am now involved with a new boat manufacturing start up company.

I work all the time, in that I have my phone and laptop with me constantly. I do take time off and do control my schedule, but it is like herding cats sometimes to get everything done.

I wanted to work for myself and wanted to get away from the office politics of a big company

I wake up happy and energized and I cannot say that for others I know who are working for the big corporations

-- bill mckechnie
I have a small business in addition to other work.Roseville, MN
Insight: Currently, music has always been a constant passion of mine, so I've been producing local music as well as starting up a small local music label.

Currently, its called Background Noise Crew, and we focus on making independent Hip-Hop music similar to the vein of Rhymesayers and Doomtree. It's been a thrilling ride so far, getting a lot of props, CD sales could be better but we're doing well otherwise.

I had been laid off twice from corporate work, so I wanted something to focus on full-time after work to get my mind off the stress of my current employment, and then have something to fall back on, should I get laid off a third time.

You absolutely have to have a plan of action and be passionate about what you're doing in your niche of self-employment. It's real easy to lose clients and fans alike, so keep yourself out there, and word of mouth is always the best form of advertisement, mention it to your friends and let it spread like wildfire.

-- Ali Elabbady
I have a small business in addition to other work.minneapolis, MN
Insight: I just started out in the professional world, but I was definitely more entrepreneurial when back in college and under someone else's health policy. It seems as though the health coverage divide is a big barrier to self-employment. There are people prepared to risk their possessions to get something off the ground, but they can't risk their health. The status quo locks people into jobs and out of self employment, and it especially favors large companies. Just something to consider.




-- matt steele
I'm self-employed.Minneapolis, MN
Insight: I lost my job last year in June. I wanted to do something different, as the industry I was left me burned out and not enjoying life any more. I wanted to do something but not sure what. Then my brother got married in July and his wife asked me to help with the wedding flowers. After the ceremony and during the reception I had some people asking me how long I had been doing it. I looked for classes in floral design and found a school 5 minutes from my house. I'm now a floral designer.

Floral designers do flowers for any occasion, including weddings, graduation, anniversary, and retirement parties, baby showers... you name it. Also restaurant, hotel and corporate decor. I am working out of my house but also have access to the school's studio if I want to use it. I would like to build onto my garage to have studio space and someday own a floral cooler. The floral industry has also taken a hit from the poor economy but I think it's pushing people to go to the smaller design studios like mine, instead of the bigger, more expensive shops. The business is largely word of mouth and while I've had a little work, things are slow. I don't have a huge budget for advertising and do most of it myself. For networking I am using Facebook and will get onto Twitter eventually, though it doesn't feel like my thing. I give my business card to anyone who will take one. In between my own gigs, I do freelance work with other floral designers for practice, experience and to learn. While they are my competitors, they've been around longer so I do what I can to learn from them.

I was so tired of working for people who are disrespectful and the stress was killing me. Working for myself, while I may not have the perks of paid vacation and the like, I can take time off everyday if I need to and work as late as I want. My hours are my own. There is nothing like the freedom of that.

I am still very new at this and still learning a great deal. Being self-employed you have to know the skill or the business that you're in, you have to be an accountant and manager, and you have to know sales; Sell yourself and your work. I am not a salesman, by nature, so this is a struggle.

-- Katie Zook Hegge
I'm self-employed.Orono, MN
Insight: I have been the owner of an insurance agency with 5 employees for 12 years. Before that I was an employee for 3 1/2. Before that i was self employed as insurance agency with 1 employee for 3 1/2 year right out of college.

We are paid a commission for the policies we sell and service.

It was a great opportunity at the time for a weak job market in 1992 for a new college grad. I had sold cars for a Honda dealer for 3 1/2 years and was married. But we were comming out of the recession in 1991 still.

The only way to be successful is to live your business. Those that go into it thinking they will have all the freedom to take time off will have troubles succeeding. You have to lead by example with your work effort if you have employees, and you are always on the clock if you own the business. The main reason we are here today is the tax increases looming. The average business owner does not see a return on risking money to expand. If they can put out money for expansion, and expect to get any return cut in half by taxes. We are in a confiscatory mode. In order to make expansion work, there is a higher level of ROI needed, and and that makes less projects affordable.

-- Jeffrey Mayhew
I have a small business in addition to other work.Holloway, MN
Insight: I have an office management business but currently have no clients. I also raise German Shepherds dogs but can't afford to buy a new male so there are puppies.

I work one day a month as a finance manager for a manufacturing company. Without social security and unemployment, I would not be able to live.

I can set my own hours.

You need clients.

-- Suzette Riches
I'm self-employed.Medford, MN
Insight: I own a small law firm.

Legal services - mostly bankruptcy and family law.

I've been self-employed for 11 years, and I chose it because of personal and economic reasons. On the personal side, if someone wants to be self-employed, they have to understand themselves. They need to be comfortable working without a net, so to speak - no help. You are responsible for everything. You also need to be comfortable constantly marketing yourself and in not knowing when (or if) money is going to be coming in. You have to believe in yourself - that's key. That's why I did it. The economic realities of today are far worse than they were 10+ years ago - so more of a reason to try it, assuming you are the type of person who can do it.

Personality is key - you have to be the right kind of person to do it.

-- Michael Corbin
I'm self-employed.Minneapolis, MN
Insight: Laid off from my job at Minnesota Public Radio after giving it my all. I had my 5-year plan there, setup my 401k and everything. Luckily I had maintained a great network of contacts outside of my job, so a new line of work wasn't entirely out of reach.

I am a web developer, consulting for those in advertising, retail, arts and academic institutions, and those interested in interactive media.

Like many people in my age group, I have grown to distrust most employers, large bureaucracies, CEOs, government, and health care organizations.

Vacation and sick days are no longer an issue. Bureaucracy has less effect on my life and job decisions. I am never bored at work, or waiting for 5pm to roll around. Accounting and taxes are no fun, but worth it. I look forward to continuing with my self-employed status, and recommend it to anyone thinking about doing the same.

-- Paul Wenzel
I'm self-employed.St. Paul, MN
Insight: My position as Vice President of Marketing was eliminated in October 2009. As I looked at the job market, it became clear that a comparable position that was fulfilling (both financially and professionally) would be difficult, if not impossible to find. I reached out to my network for freelance work and have been keeping myself busy with work for the past 8 months. I am able to work with clients I really enjoy and I'm doing work that I like too. The variety, flexibility and freedom is unmatched. While the stress of cash flow, stability and benefits is certainly part of it, to me it is more manageable stress than working for an employer that can change the terms of work at will (either by eliminating your position, reducing your pay, decreasing your health benefits or consolidating multiple positions and putting all the work into your position). I'd be happy to speak more about my experience. I've had my ups and downs, but I am thrilled to be a free agent!

I am a marketing strategist and I work with small and mid-sized companies to help them define their brand, their market and their marketing strategies to achieve their business goals. I conduct market and competitor research, analyze website effectiveness, write and produce on-line and off-line marketing content, create and advise on social media strategies, implement customer relationship management systems and databases, create and implement direct mail, email and public relations campaigns, and help companies raise awareness in the right venues to build revenue.

I was laid off back in 2002 and worked as a freelance consultant for 9 months until I was recruited by a headhunter for an in-house marketing role. I have always known that if my full-time, in-house position changed or was eliminated that freelance consulting would be an option. In this case, I would not have pursued it on my own because 3 months prior to my lay off, my husband started his own law firm and the idea of both of us relying on self employment seemed unrealistic. But now that we are doing it, it is working out. We've had to adjust our expectations and our standard of living, but we are 100% happier with our new life.

Self employment is not easy. I have a strong background in marketing and I still find it difficult to promote myself, even though I help clients promote their brands every day. It is critical to find a few other people who are freelancing (preferably in your industry) because you can share advice, referrals and generally keep each other going when it gets tough. You also have to be willing to change your point of view and frame of reference about work. Our society promotes a view of the world that is based on full-time work - go to work, get a paycheck, wait for the weekend when you can enjoy your life. Self employment is a whole new paradigm, but I think it promotes a world view that gives you a more positive relationship with money, family, self and work.

-- Melanie Shirley
I'm self-employed.Minneapolis, MN
Insight: For 25 years I was a college hockey coach at Univ. of Alaska Fairbanks and Univ. of Notre Dame. After that I became the athletic director at Indiana Univ. South Bend for 6 years. After that I wanted to make some money so I went to work for Merrill Lynch to become a Financial Advisor. I completed all securities exams in August of 2001, one month before 9-11....5 months later that I decided to become self-employed.

I started Schafer long-term care LLC. My mission was helping folks to put plans into place while they are healthy that will give them control over what happens to them when they aren't. Less than 10% of the adult population has LTC insurance...I thought for sure that I would be able to make a decent living doing meaningful work.

Given the market conditions after 9-11....I knew that I was not long to be a financial advisor. Having taken insurance courses, I became intrigued by LTC planning. It also happened to coincide with my father's stroke and the subsequent caregiving by my mother.

I have entered a field, which I love, that is very challenging. Most people don't want to talk about something they don't want to talk about...long-term care. They have become de-sensitized to the issue thinking that....someone else will take care of me. And they will. LTC planning is not about you, as much as it about the affects it will have on the emotional wellbeing, physical wellbeing, and financial wellbeing of those who love them. Despite the overwhelming denial...I continue my pursuit of helping folks plan.

-- Richard Schafer
Duluth, MN
Insight: I retired as a teacher in 2003. After having cancer in 2004,I started a small business, Peggy Anderson Publishing to raise money for breast cancer. I wrote a book, Dear Auntie, Why Me? on breast cancer. It is actually letters to my aunt and letters back. The book was self published, involved a lot of research. Is full of pictures, diagrams, charts. The appeal probably is mostly to people who know me or those going through treatment for breast cancer.

I do craft shows, make crafts, and sell things to raise money for breast cancer. I have several organiztaions that I donate the money to in the breast cancer arena.

I am more a volunteer than being self employed. I started different groups. Many Faces of Breast Cancer Teams I and I0I started with two other women, Tammy Miller Graves and Peggy Ryberg. These are dragon boat teams. We raise money for team fees and to donate. Our teams are breast cancer survivors and supporters. I started on my own Circle of Support, a breast cancer support group that is community based for survivors and supporters. Most recently we are working on a non-profit, Circle of Hope to raise money for block grants to breast cancer patients for very specific verifiable needs and those with severe financial issues.

I work at my own pace. I have been offered other jobs this year, in fact three, all teaching related, one a proffessorship position, which I turned down. I feel the need to serve and help others. It's not really about money but I see gaps in how people are being served.

-- Peggy Anderson
I'm self-employed.eden prairie, MN
Insight: Freelance advertising writer.

I work for communications agencies when they have more work than they can handle or need a guy with my special experience in agriculture. I also work directly for companies that don't have an agency. I work by the hour. I try to get $100 an hour, but I've been discounting.

I was a creative director at an ad agency that closed their doors in 2002. At age 48, not upper, upper management, it was not likely I was going to get hired by another agency. It's a young people business. Plus, we were in a recession and advertising jobs were scarce. So I started freelancing. It went okay for awhile, but now we're back in a deeper tank than we were eight years ago. They say advertising is the first out and last back when times are tough. A lot of self-employed people are not doing it by choice. It's just that if you want a job, these days, you sometimes have to create it yourself.

At age 55 and having lost 40% of my retirement savings in the most recent recession, being self-employed is not fun. I have to put everything I make into checking or savings to make sure I will have enough money to get through the slow times. So I'm not able to add money back to my depleted IRA. I'm not getting back any of my losses.

-- james melzer
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