October 9, 2018 News en_US A recent study by QuickBooks Self-Employed reveals the good and bad of being your own boss. Flexible hours, working weekends, and how often the self-employed take vacations are only some of the insights revealed. https://quickbooks.intuit.com/cas/dam/IMAGE/A4KWPSNne/426300d48cd56ddbccb939ad8b4beeb2.jpg https://quickbooks.intuit.com/r/news/work-life-balance-still-a-struggle-for-self-employed-workers Work/Life Balance Still a Struggle for Self-Employed Workers

Work/Life Balance Still a Struggle for Self-Employed Workers

By Megan Sullivan October 9, 2018

Survey reveals that making your life your work doesn’t always lead to more balance. In a recent study by QuickBooks Self-Employed, 500 self-employed individuals revealed the good and bad related to being their own boss. While many entrepreneurs often look to self-employment as a way to gain more flexibility for personal and work-related tasks, the truth might be a bit more stark than they initially thought.
In the online survey, QuickBooks Self-Employed asked respondents questions regarding the realities of being self-employed. These questions included hours worked per week, how often social events have been missed and what self-employed workers consider their biggest struggle. Perhaps not surprisingly, personal sacrifices, like vacation time, sick days and family events were the first things to go for many entrepreneurs.

Over one-third of all respondents (33.4%) reported working 40 hours per week on average. Perhaps even more encouraging, 23 percent stated they work 30 hours per week or less. To round out the responses, 16.4 percent stated they worked an average of 30 hours per week, 14.8 percent 50 hours per week, 6 percent 60 hours per week, 3.8 percent 80 hours or more, and 2.6 percent 70 hours per week.

Everybody’s Working on the Weekend

While a majority of respondents are seemingly working between 30 and 40 hours per week, it appears that Monday-Friday may not be their prime office hours. According to the survey more than one-third state they work every weekend, while another quarter state they work every other weekend.

Friends & Family Sacrifice too

Aside from working on the weekend – or perhaps because of it – many self-employed workers state that they have had to miss family events or social engagements because of work. The good news is that 22.2 percent of respondents say they only miss out a few times a year. The bad news is a very close 19.4 percent reported they miss out every week. In addition, 18 percent say they miss out every other month, 16.4 percent once a month, 7.2 percent once every 2 months and 16.8 percent say they never miss an event.

It appears that being self-employed not only requires personal sacrifices, but a very understanding group of family and friends. The most common event to miss is a friend’s birthday (49.76 percent), followed by a spouse/partner’s birthday (38.22 percent), and a child’s birthday (37.50 percent). For more once-in-a-lifetime events, the attendance numbers are a bit better: only a little under 30 percent of respondents said they’ve missed out on a wedding due to work, while 34.86 percent and 33.65 percent have missed a reunion or vacation, respectively. Over 6 percent of respondents deserve a gold star – they report to not missing any of these events due to work.

Rest and Relaxation are hard to come by

Perhaps one of the biggest sacrifices that self-employed individuals make is to their own health and wellness. When asked if work keeps them up at night, 23.4 percent stated often or several times per week. This was followed by rarely at 17 percent, once a month at 16.8 percent, regularly at 16.6 percent, always (every night) at 13.2 percent and never at 13 percent. So, it would appear that if you’re a freelancer you can expect a few fitful nights of sleep at least.

However, vacation appears to be a priority for many entrepreneurs. Over 31 percent (31.8) of respondents stated they take a vacation once a year and more than a quarter (25.51%) said they only work occasionally while on vacation.

Lastly, many self-employed workers (28.4%) state they only occasionally take time off when they are sick. Working while you’re sick might be an occupational hazard of running your own business: 27.2 percent state they rarely take time off when they were sick, while 16 percent almost never take time, 10.8 regularly take time, and 6.8 percent often take time. Another 10.8 percent say they never take time off when they are sick.

Average Self-Employed Worker

As part of its survey, QuickBooks Self-Employed wanted to get a general picture of the average demographics for current freelancers. Here’s what they found:

  • Fifty-seven percent of the respondents were female. Of this group, the majority were white, married and had at least one child.
  • Forty-three percent of the respondents were male. Of this group, the majority were white, and single with no kids.

Of their worries and concerns, self-employed workers rate cash flow problems (24.37%) and uncertainty about the future (20.08%) as their biggest pain points. Coming in third is getting paid on time (15.69%), followed by finding or retaining new clients (15.17%), understanding self-employed tax deductions (10.36%), and making sure they are compliant with any regulations (8.37%).

And small business owners are early risers. Over 62 percent state they wake up between 5 A.M. and 7 A.M., with the sweet spot at 6 A.M. (25 percent of small business owners say that’s when their alarm is set).

However, closing time is more spread out. Forty percent of respondents said they manage to stop working between 4 P.M. and 6 P.M. every night, but another 38 percent state they may work all the way up until 11 P.M. before calling it quits.

On average, what time do you stop working?

Overall, this study demonstrated that freelancers see value in having control over their schedule and while sacrifices are necessary, it’s not as dire as perhaps some outsiders would assume. It’s still possible to be your own boss, get enough sleep at night and take a vacation about once a year. Plus the flexibility that comes with working from home has its advantages.

If you would like to download the raw Excel data, please click here.


QuickBooks Self-Employed surveyed 500 self-employed people throughout the US in May 2018. The sample was selected by Pollfish. QuickBooks Self-Employed welcomes the re-use of this data under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original source is cited with attribution to http://quickbooks.intuit.com/self-employed/

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Megan Sullivan is a writer with experience in the advertising and digital media space. Read more