Pursuing the Dream of Self-Employment: is it Possible to Reduce Your Working Hours but Still Earn a Living?


The concept of self-employment is a tricky one to navigate in the modern world. Although many employees may feel dissatisfied with the management team they work with or the company that they work for, it can be scary to think about going it alone and leaving the relative safety of the employed workforce.

For some people, the potential rewards outweigh the potential risks and they choose to do something a little outside the norm, with varying results. Whether you have dreams of setting up your own business, following a less conventional career path, or simply want to have more time to dedicate to what you enjoy, read on for a look at the realities of self-employment, and whether it’s worth the risk.

The Allure of More Time, More Money

The publication of Timothy Ferriss’ self-help book The 4-Hour Workweek in 2007 sent shockwaves through the worldwide workforce; his promise of reduced working hours, increased income and plenty of time to pursue passion projects resonated with a lot of people stuck in monotonous jobs. However, is everything that Ferriss promised actually possible?

Working at home
Working at home

The answer to this question depends entirely on the individual, their personal circumstances, skill set, dreams and financial security. It might be the key to reaching your biggest goals or it might not be a viable option for you. Beyond the Ferriss way of addressing your work/life balance though, there has been a marked increase in interest around self-employment across different countries, careers and demographics. More and more people are rejecting the usual 8 hour workday, 40 hour work week, in favour of something more flexible and with differing priorities.

One of the key principles set out in Ferriss’ book is re-examining the concept of wealth. A person who earns a substantial salary but has no time to enjoy it is not necessarily wealthy; a person who earns a lower, yet still respectable, salary and has more time to enjoy the fruits of their labour is much better off in life. Self-employment can, potentially, offer this golden opportunity to find a better work/life balance without answering to a line manager or board director.

Making Your Job Work For You

Stepping outside of the workforce opens up a whole vista of alternative career paths and jobs to get involved with. Due to their peripheral nature, some of these can require special skills or involve atypical methods of working. Unusual or unconventional career paths sometimes require different working hours and schedules; they also tend to leave more space for extracurricular activities, including hobbies, studying, socialising and secondary income streams.

Whether your favourite way to relax is playing a few hands at PokerStarsCasino or browsing new recipe ideas on MyRecipes, pursuing a different career pathway has the potential to unlock more spare time during which you can indulge in these interests. Alternatively, you could use this increased free time to lock down a secondary income stream; for example, streaming on Twitch, or writing a regular blog. The possibilities are endless now that the internet plays such a big part in almost everybody’s lives. You could even go back to school and make use of one of the many free MOOCs available online through platforms like FutureLearn or the Open University.

The main idea behind self-employment is to put you in greater control of your life and the decisions that you have to make. Having more time to dedicate to the maintenance of good physical and mental health, to pursue interests and hobbies, and to spend time with your loved ones can only be a good thing. Work can sometimes take up so much of our precious time that it’s no wonder people are eagerly looking for an alternative to the conventional working week.

Taking the First Step

So, you’ve decided that you’re interested in stepping out into self-employment – congrats! But before you quit your job, install a home office and print 1000 new business cards, take the time to ask yourself whether you’re really set up for this. Whilst being self-employed means that you have much greater control over what hours you’re working, you still need to balance this with the income that you’re generating. If, like many people, you have regular monthly outgoings for bills, rent, food and lifestyle, you need to make sure that you can still cover these costs once you leave your current employment.

Home office
Home office

Going full time self-employed takes a lot of forward planning, some clever number juggling and quite a lot of courage. Whether you decide to be a copywriter, social media influencer, blogger, virtual assistant, or have your own business idea, make sure that you’ve crunched the numbers and finalised the practicalities before stepping out on your own. The potential for a more positive and fulfilling lifeway could be right there in front of you, but it’s wise to take a well-considered approach rather than running headfirst into easily avoided problems.