When we talk about self-employment, we often focus on the freedom, opportunity, and flexibility that comes with running your own business.
What’s not often discussed however are the necessary, sometimes unpleasant realities; long hours, financial stress, and the time commitment that forces you to miss out on important events.
In a recent study conducted by QuickBooks Self-Employed, titled “The Realities of Self Employment,” we surveyed 500 self-employed individuals, age 18- 54+ to get a clearer picture of how working for yourself can impact daily life.
Our goal was to understand, from a high level, the sacrifice and reward that comes from being your own boss. We hope you find this as insightful as we have.
Nearly 55% of Self-Employed People Missed an Important Birthday Due to Work
In one area of the study, self-employed workers were asked, “Which of the following family or social occasions have you had to miss due to work?”
Here’s how they responded:
- Missed a child’s birthday – 16.30%
- Missed a spouse/partner’s birthday – 16.61%
- Missed a friend’s birthday – 21.63%
- Missed a wedding – 12.96%
- Missed a reunion – 15.15%
- Missed a vacation – 14.63%
Before we make any assumptions based on the broader sample, let’s dig deeper and hypothesize why “Friend’s birthdays” are being missed throughout each age group.
Here’s the breakdown:
- 18-24 – 50%
- 25-34 – 67.19%
- 35-44 – 65%
- 45-54 – 54.17%
- 54+ – 63.64%
Even though all self-employed people on average miss a friend’s birthday, it may be more important to the younger self-employed to prioritize a friend’s social events.
As they get older, particularly in the 25-44 range, friend’s birthdays are less of a priority due to work and immediate family obligations.
As time goes on, and the 45-54 year old cohort may have less of an obligation to older children, so attending a friend’s birthday is more viable, and over time, the 55+ cohort may end up working more simply to prepare for retirement.
There is evidence to support this hypothesis, when looking at the next question about missing important social events, the majority of responders, 22.2%, say they miss important social events only a few times each year.
- Every week – 19.4%
- Every two weeks – 18%
- Once a month – 16.4%
- Once every two months – 7.20%
- A few times a year – 22.2%
- Never – 16.8%
Where the research gets interesting however, is that the older a self-employed individual gets, the more likely they’ll be to miss family or social events weekly.
There are a few different conclusions that might be drawn from this information; people 45-54 have more social obligations in total or may view certain social obligations as as less important than others – with “missed” being a relative term.
It may also be understood that while an older self-employed individual will attend important days such as birthdays, they are simply spending more time working on their business which is why they’re missing out on other social events.
Self-Employed Individuals Aged 45+ Worry The Most About Cash Flow and Work Keeps Them Up At Night
There is evidence to support this.
The study also found that while every age category – with the exception of 18-24 year olds – worries about cash flow, 50% of 45-54 year olds state that cash flow is their biggest challenge, with “uncertainty about the future” listed as their second biggest concern.
This may be because 45-54 year olds are the second highest age group to have invested their own money into their business.
Likewise, while all self-employed workers said work keeps them up several nights per week, it’s the individuals aged 45+ who answered the highest (29% of 45-54 year olds, and 31.34% of 54+).
This coupled with the fact that 36.5% of the self-employed included in the survey saying they work every weekend, and 33.8% working every other weekend, makes you wonder.
With retirement age being right around the corner, maybe there’s a higher level of anxiety around retiring on time?
18-24 Year Olds Are Giving Up Most of Their Weekends
To be fair, 61.2% of all self-employed individuals state working every weekend or every other weekend.
However, over 43% of 18-24 year olds report working every weekend. That’s 4% higher than the 45-54 year olds, suggesting that younger self-employed workers are sacrificing weekends to kick-start their career.
This may also be why they’re the outlier, being the only group to answer “uncertainty about the future” as their biggest challenge at nearly 42%, 3 points higher than the 45-54 year olds.
Younger Freelancers Work Hard & Play Hard
What’s reassuring about the 18-24 category however is that the majority (61.41%) are taking vacation once or twice a year.
By comparison, this is 17 percentage points higher than the next age category – again the 45-54 year olds.
There could be a number of reasons:
- They may have more free time and disposable income.
- Freelancers may be taking “working” vacations more often.
- They may place a higher priority on vacationing.
That last assumption could be supported by the data stating younger freelancers are “concerned about the future,” and therefore taking more frequent vacations before additional life responsibilities, such as marriage and children, factor into their lives.
This is further supported by the evidence that nearly 53% of 18-24 year old freelancers report working occasionally, regularly or often.
The Majority of Freelancers Work While Vacationing & When They’re Sick
While 18-24 year olds spend more time working during vacation than their 45-54 year old counterparts, the truth is, 58.55% of freelancers across all age groups work while vacationing.
Illness won’t stop freelancers from blazing their own trail either.
With 81% of freelancers reporting they rarely to never take time off due to sickness, one thing becomes clear; freelancers are a dedicated, hard working bunch.
100% of Freelancers Are Driven Like No Other
If you’re a freelancer, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. The courage to work and live life on your terms does not go unacknowledged.
Betting on yourself is a risk most are unwilling to take and requires a special kind of strength, grit, and determination.
You deserve to be celebrated because you’re truly in a class of your own.