The Dark Side of Being Self Employed

Now that I’m back in New Jersey, I’m excited to be working like crazy on the Steve Scott Site. I’m also apartment-hunting this week, and Melissa (who writes some of the articles for this site) just let me know that her work schedule is a bit crazy lately too, because her family is also getting ready to move.

She’s been running into some problems securing a new lease. Despite submitting everything that her real estate agent required, then handing over more bank statements and more paperwork, the home owner (landlord) ultimately decided that being self employed made her too “risky” of a tenant– even though her current landlord submitted a wonderful review that shows she has never made a late payment. The unemployment rates in this country are sky-high, but some people really do think that “self employed” translates into “unemployed.” I almost think of it as the dark side of being self employed.

People Might Not Like You for Being Self Employed

Many of my readers are here because they’d like to figure out how to escape the whole 9-to-5 rat race and run their own businesses, like I do (and like Melissa does.) The thought of being your own boss, doing things your way, and being completely in control of your business and your income potential is pretty great. Even so, some people might not like you for being self employed.

No, I don’t mean they think you’re smelly or annoying … but when making major purchases, getting credit cards or applying for leases, being self employed sometimes works against you. You may be asked to submit extra paperwork or bank statements to prove that you really do earn a living from your job (many people tend to think of it as a “hobby” instead of a career.) You might even have to cough up larger down payments, even if you have a great credit score. I’ve run into similar problems myself. It’s especially difficult if you don’t run a brick-and-mortar business and work from home.

Even if You Like Being Self Employed …

Even if you like being self employed, you need to be aware of these challenges. Things may be slightly easier for you if your spouse or a co-signer has a “regular” job, but in today’s day and age “dependable employment” isn’t even dependable. (One of Melissa’s relatives was laid off from her “stable” job just last week.)

I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade because I definitely, 100% love working for myself. Just warning you that these things can and do happen—I’ve been getting plenty of funny looks during my apartment search when I explain that I run my own businesses and just came back from spending most of the year travelling through Europe.

Take Action. Get Results.

35 thoughts on “The Dark Side of Being Self Employed”

  1. Steve,

    I can so relate to this. I agree this mindset really exists in people. When I was a freelance web designer, I had the same problem with my landlord. He straight up asked me how reliable my income was after I told him that me and my wife didn’t have a typical 9-5 job.

    So what does it feel like to be back home brother? How’s New Jersey by the way?

    Later on Steve.

    • It definitely feels good to be back home. I haven’t really been buckling down yet. I have been recovering from jet lag, meeting with friends and even doing a little apartment and car hunting.

      I have to remember my own words from yesterday and not complain about there not being enough time!

  2. Ah, never thought about that aspect of it Steve; I’m looking for apartments as well this weekend and when I think about it – if I didn’t have my normal job, it would be very hard to show full documentation of my current online income.

    I guess the biggest thing to do would be to keep invoices of everything you work on, bank statements and more. Just build that file of your work so you can pass it off to people that might be a little reluctant on giving you the thumbs up.

    Best of luck on finding your place 😀

    • Yeah saving up some documentation showing a steady stream of income should help most apartment managers. It is a pain to have to go through that though, but such is life!

      With a little organization it should be hard to put your hands on that information. It could be worse…could you imagine being a professional gambler trying to get a place.

      “…But i win… a lot!”

  3. Huh. That’s fascinating! I’ve never had that problem before or even thought about that before. And it’s probably a good thing, because I’d be pretty pissed!

    Hope you’re enjoying life back in the States! I know whenever I get back to the country it’s a very mixed bag of emotions. It’s nice to be home and have a solid place to live, but it’s just not as exciting! But it’s great that now you can devote yourself full-time to the blog. Sweet!

  4. I like being back in the States for now. No “itchy feet” yet. I still have to buckle down some and get more work done though. It has been too easy to work like I was still on vacation. Not going to get much accomplished if I keep that up!

  5. Hi Steve,

    Excellent points here.

    I do keep these things in mind and have run up against resistance myself. As you note some think self-employed means unemployed. Others think that what we do isn’t a “real job”, while they’re ignorant of the fact that many of these people work for a company that was founded by someone who didn’t have a “real job.” Virtually every empire started with one person who worked for themselves and went through much of the same stuff we experience at one time in their lives.

    Thanks for sharing and have a great weekend!


    • Well, a real job for me is a job where you are happy doing it and if you are not happy to your work anymore meaning that you are not doing a real job you are just like a robot that is doing what is said to be done. Whatever you do, even you are self employed or working on a company as long as you are happy to what are you doing you are already doing a real job.

  6. Awesome pos Steve! An Employee’s future is not always secure because he or she can get laid off at any time. Well i guess in my country, the landlord do cherish the self employed. Welcome back. Hope you get some pringles for me? Have fun.

    • It is wierd because here it is almost assumed that you have no means. It is sort of like landlords have a “broke until proven solvent” policy.

      Maybe because eviction can be a really long and drawn out process here, where landlords may lose a lot of money.

  7. I have had people look at me strange when I tell them I am self employed. Then they ask for how long, and I tell them since 2002. If they thought that self employed meant unemployed, they didn’t when I told them that. Then they ask “how?”.

    • LOL, When you say “self employed” for 8 years that may help to make the point that real money is earned. I think you would have to be pretty dedicated to go 8 years without having any sort of a “real” job.

    • That very long period of being self employed is a really amazing and I guest you are just one of the very few people who are successful on their chosen field. People who are like you are surely sacrifice a lot of things.

  8. Hi Steve:

    Hi Steve and read about Mellisa, how she is having problems. I am overwhelmed, is there any kind of life that does not bring up problems. As everyone self, people get confused and thing self employed is unemployed may be. Melissa should make it clear and say she has a business.

    I hope you will not get into this knid of confusion renting your place.

    Have a great Sunday.
    Fran A

  9. This is a bummer of a position to be in but it is the reality of the economic conditions of today. Many tend to disregard the efforts of those who make a living from working online, as if what takes place is unrelated to having a real job.

    I agree, some people will unlike you because of this approach to business, but this is related to the long-standing mindset of working 40 years and receiving a gold watch.

    I’m glad you pointed this out for those who may be unaware.

    Wishing you and Mellisa the best of luck and good fortune moving forward.

  10. Hi Steve,

    Many people have a negative view of things they know little about or have never experienced, not because there is a solid reason for them to feel this way, but because it is something unknown. It could well be the fear of the unknown that cause people to look at you in a funny way when you tell them you are self-employed. It is really nothing more that a projection of their fears. (If I were you I would have told them that I just came back from a learning stint in Europe. Since most people can only understand jargon that is familiar, it doesn’t hurt to reframe what happened in words they can understand. How you deliver your message counts. ;))

    I agree that in this day and age, there is no such thing as a dependable job. If you depend on something like that, you will be extremely vulnerable in the long run. When change happens, and it will, you find yourself unable to deal with it in an effective manner.

    Thanks for pointing out the dark side of being self employed. It is something that people seeking self-employment should be aware of.

  11. Never ever thought of that before, probably because my husband is retired from a ‘real job’ (the same ‘real job’ I left in 1995 when we started out family).

    Very good points to consider and I agree – in this day and age, there really is no guarantees for continued corporate employment.

  12. I don’t know how is in the States but here in Romania, the owner doesn’t really care were you get the money as long as you get them. And the eviction laws are pretty strict, they can’t evict you unless they a prior 30-40 days eviction warning(or demonstrates that the tenant has found an other place to live) and i think we even have a law where the tenant can’t be evicted for larger periods of time if it’s cold outside.
    About getting a credit, that is impossible you can’t get one without a “real” job, here they don’t trust any self employed people although some can earn way more then someone working a 9-9 (yeah we work longer periods :D)

    By the way, funny that one with the gambler :). “But..but..I always win…I swear…”

  13. Yes, I also experience this kind of dilemma. There are also times when a clerk at the bank asking a monthly payslip from me. On the other hand, of course I am more enjoying the positive things being self employed bring. I feel free and more independent and that’s the best part of it.

    • I really want to feel the same thing with you Andy. There are more good things when you are self- employed like your time is yours and no pressures, isn’t? I think it is really better to be self employed but make sure you know the work you will do when you want to work on your own.

  14. Growing up with my father as an entrepreneur taught me that lesson early on. People are naturally against entrepreneurs in every step of the way. Society crushes creativity or spirit often, they come in the form of a dream-stealer who tells you your business can’t work or is impossible to do.

    Or they come in as credit card debt and no leasing due to your business-owner status.

    One thing I’ve learned most is, don’t let your credit score be your lease on life. I try never to use my card, and I dislike the credit score. But then I am also in a different situation, I am not really renting, I just couchsurf everywhere while traveling.

    I am not looking forward to this problem, but hopefully I’ll have so much money I will never have to really worry about it haha.

  15. You present some very good points. I also like to add that some ppl are insecure and will look down on you if you’re self employed because deep down some of them wish they were self employed too.

  16. I’ve been self-employed and working from my home office for nearly 10 years and had some problems with it within the family. People really tend to think that if you are at home all day, you are not working. So, they would constantly ask you to help with something they cannot do because they have ‘real’ work (like sit with a baby). It’s very hard to explain that you really work and need to concentrate.

  17. I’m glad you mentioned this because people rarely talk about it. She isn’t the first person I’ve heard of that had problems because they were self-employed. It’s usually been when they’re trying to buy a home instead of renting though.

  18. Absolutely… boyfriend runs his own construction business for 5+ years and he still has trouble with things like this. And telling someone you have an online biz is a lot worse then that – many people don’t know what internet marketing or blogging is and can’t see how it can afford anyone to live – and maybe they are right. What % of people who intend to make money online actually do? It’s hard. I make a fun little second paycheck now and hope to improve upon that, but it is nowhere close to being able to support myself.

    And I have the same work at home issues as Dennis. :=-)

  19. Strange world we live in these days. At least by being self employed we are in charge of our own destiny rather than in the hands of others whom generally only care for their own self protection and will cut you loose at any given moment.

  20. I’m self employed as well so I know the difficulties of it. Though I have lots of supporters, I still have that set that says “so when are you going to get a real job?” If they only knew that I work way more hours than they do, which is kind of the downfall, but I chose this life. We just got financing for a couple of new windows and I was surprised to learn that the company wouldn’t accept proof of my income because they only used W-2’s to decide who got financing; not fair, but what can you do?

    • Mitch, you make a really great point. I have heard a few, “get a real job” qoutes from time to time myself. One big mistake many people make, from both people looking at the job to people starting it, is that it is easy. I totally agree with you. Specifically starting out there are a lot of really long hours.

      I just got back from a long trip, where is “took it easy” work wise. But for my first few years as an affiliate marketer, i had more than my share of 18 hour days to get it going.

  21. I made the transition to being fully self employed 2 months ago and so far so good. Any trouble I’ve had has been with friends and random people. Explaining to people what I actually do can tricky so depending on who it is I sometimes simplify it down to “I make websites” rather than saying explaining the whole thing.

    • Yeah, I have been living this way for many years now and I agree. Having people ask you “what do you do” and being incredulous is a big part of it. Some people assume you mean that you are just “jobless” some assume that you don’t make any “real” money and other want to know everything about how you can do it.

  22. This is exactly correct, Steve. The economy is in the toilet, and people are still losing their REAL (aka working for the man) jobs, but being self employed seems to be shunned. It is everyone’s dream, but when we achieve this dream we have to work 2x as hard to prove that yes, we pay our bills, and yes, there is money in the bank. Seems to be a bit prejudicial.

  23. For me, being a self- employed is such a wonderful experience and chance cause you dont have to undergo pressure as well as you can do things on your own and your own decision. You don’t have to think about what others may think about you the most important thing to do is to you are earning in a legal way.

  24. Being self- employed is an honor for me cause you will have more time to your family and bond with them without even forgetting that your responsibilities and work. How I wish I could be self- employed also..

  25. I am quite familiar with the “self employed means unemployed” line. Or that I fell for one of those “work at home” scams. For eight years I was a business partner in a company that serviced the energy industry (refining and pipeline), specialty chemicals, and the biomedical industries. Two projects got featured in industry publications. Along with other items, highly visible in the industrial automation and process control world. But of course this was not a “real job”.

Comments are closed.