Why It’s Okay to Be Small

Lots of freelancers go to great lengths to disguise the fact that they’re a one-man (or one-woman) operation.

They may refer to their business decisions in plural (“we decided to…“), give themselves a fancy title (Chief of Operations), or even create a fake persona to screen phone calls. It’s almost as though they are ashamed of being a freelancer.

However, being a small business isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Freelancers should not feel that being a solo professional is something they need to hide.

In this post, I’ll explore what it really means to be a small business. Next, I’ll list some advantages that small businesses offer that large companies usually cannot offer.

What Being Small Is Really Like

Picture two businesses in your town. As a skilled professional, you could choose to work at either. Here’s what you could expect as a work environment from each business.

Business A is your typical large business. It hires several thousand employees, including several dozen in your profession. As an employee here you would enjoy a regular paycheck, average benefits, and a paid vacation.

However, as the newbie on the professional team at Business A, you can also expect to get the least challenging projects or possibly the projects that no one else wanted. You’ll have to do those projects in exactly the way the company specifies. (If you want to try something different, you’ll need to get permission from your boss who may need to get permission from her boss.) You’re also expected to work regular business hours and required to adhere to the corporate dress code.

Business B is an independent freelancer. She works alone at your profession, mostly from her home. She earns a good income, but also experiences some gaps between projects when she is not paid. It’s up to her to plan her expenditures so that she can cover benefits like insurance or paid vacation.

However, as an independent professional, Business B interacts directly with the clients. She can decide whether or not to take a given project based on her interest level and abilities. Plus, if she wants to handle a project differently she’s free to innovate as she sees fit. She’s adjusted her work schedule so that she gets most of her work done in the early morning when she’s fresh and she takes most afternoons off. She only dresses up if she has a face-to-face meeting with a client.

Of course there’s no right or wrong answer, but let me ask you–as a business professional, which environment would you prefer work in?

7 Advantages of Being Small

As you probably picked up from the previous examples, there are some definite advantages that solo professionals (a.k.a. freelancers) can offer their clients that traditional companies usually cannot.

Here are seven of those advantages:

  1. Quick decision-making. A freelancer is able to make decisions very quickly. In fact, he or she is the decision-maker. In contrast, large corporations may have multiple layers of approval that must be obtained before a final decision can be made.
  2. More innovative. A freelancer is free to try new things as he or she sees fit. A corporation, on the other hand, is great about setting up procedures that must be followed–but not so great about adjusting or deviating from those procedures.
  3. Less overhead. A freelancer can often charge a lower price than a corporation and still earn a good income. This is because the freelancer doesn’t have as much overhead as a large business, which must also cover expenses not directly related to the project.
  4. More flexible. Freelancers enjoy a more flexible schedule, but they’re often more flexible about scheduling new projects as well. A large company may have a large list of projects that must be completed before a new one can be started.
  5. More accountable. A freelancer is more accountable because his or her livelihood depends on it. He or she knows that if something goes wrong, there’s no one else to blame. In a corporation, employees often play the “blame game,” trying to shift the responsibility for a mistake to someone else.
  6. More personal. Doing business with a freelancer often adds a level of service to a project that is simply unavailable from a larger entity. Since you will deal with the same individual each time, they can really get to understand you and your needs.
  7. A higher level of motivation. While it’s not always true, freelancers often have a higher level of motivation than traditional employees. That’s because if they didn’t love what they were doing they wouldn’t be doing it. In contrast, how many employees do you know who hate their job?

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a place in the market for big business, but there’s also no reason any freelancer should be ashamed of being a small business.

Your Turn

Are you a solo professional? Have you ever been ashamed of being a one-person show or tried to hide it?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image by Ivan Mlinaric