Charle Hugh Smith is an author. He blogs at Of Two Minds.


The insecurity of self-employment can generate a far more resilient life and mindset. There are all sorts of “10 best companies to work for” lists, but I’ve assembled a slightly broader list: The Ten Best Employers To Work For. Without further ado, let’s go to number 1:

1. Yourself

Surprised? Expecting Google or Zappos? The National Security Agency? Nope, not even close. It’s you–yes, you, Bucko. You’re the best employer to work for. OK, on to the rest of the list:

2.  Yourself
3.  Yourself
4.  Yourself
5.  Yourself
6.  Yourself
7.  Yourself
8.  Yourself
9.  Yourself
10. Yourself

Aren’t you glad I didn’t make this a “100 best employers” list?

Before you start nitpicking the list: yes, there is only one of you, so the list is somewhat repetitive.

And yes, there are some downsides to working for yourself. For example:

1. There’s no point in leaving a snippy note on the fridge to the sneaky co-worker who stole your bagel: oops, you ate it during coffee break #3 without noticing. Dang, accepting responsibility sucks.

2. When you launch a full-blown rant against your psycho, control-freak, demanding boss, you’re doing so in front of a mirror. Sigh–it’s just no longer fun blaming the boss.

3. Excuses don’t fly too far with clients and customers.

4. Nobody cares when you show up or how productive you are except you.

5. Shouting “Take this job and shove it” isn’t quite as satisfying.

All those stupid regulations you chafed under: gone. All those impossible demands that stressed you out: gone. All those shiftless, incompetent co-workers: gone. Time cards: gone. Staff meetings: gone. People to blame for your troubles: gone. Paycheck: gone.

Do you really miss anything but the last item? But really, wasn’t that paycheck the chain that bound you to serfdom?

Here’s the dirty little secret of the U.S. economy: you’re already working for yourself now unless you’re in the Armed Forces or a civilian equivalent. The clock is ticking on all those promises of pensions and benefits for life you think separate you from the self-employed entrepreneur. Maybe the promises pay out for a few more years, maybe even a decade, but they are impermanent for the simple reason that the promises made (and the nation’s debts) far exceed the economy’s ability to pay those promises and debts in dollars retaining today’s purchasing power.

Either the promises will be broken/defaulted, or a $2,000/month pension will buy a loaf of bread and a gallon of gasoline. There is no other end-state other than default or inflate-away-the-debt/promises.

You already know how “valued” you are by your corporate/agency employer. All that rah-rah “team-building” stuff is nice for the younger employees who are still naive enough to believe the propaganda at face value, but once the layoffs start again (if they ever stopped), then all that rah-rah cheerleading loses its sparkle.

Many employees are waking up to find themselves in 1099 nation: no benefits, no tax withholding, no matching 401K, no status as an employee, just a contract and a 1099 statement at year end.

In a sense being self-employed simply means stripping away the artifice that somebody else is going to take care of you or give you “free money.” Once we understand the promised security is bogus, self-employment doesn’t feel so risky–it feels like embracing the risk that is hidden behind the flimsy facade of team-building, “guaranteed” pensions and all the rest of the unpayable promises.

The self-employed person generally trades “security” for job satisfaction. The compensation may be higher or lower, but it will likely be lower. The earnings will likely be more sporadic and uncertain.

People Are Beginning To Realize Self-Employment Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

But ironically, perhaps, the insecurity of self-employment can generate a far more resilient life and mindset. Instead of counting on Big Brother in one form or another to provide retirement, the self-employed person builds their own human, social and financial capital. Those who rely on Big Brother are terribly vulnerable should Big Brother fail to make good on on his extravagant promises to 310 million people.

Gaining power and control over your life doesn’t come cheap. Does anything really worthwhile come cheap? Knowledge, tradecraft, experience, networks of trusted suppliers, expertise: none of them come easy or cheap. All must be gained the hard way.

No wonder self-employment is down. It’s tough to scratch out a living as an entrepreneur. It can be wearisome, but never as wearisome as a job you loathe.
Fewer people choose to be self-employed (USA Today, 9/11)


In August, 14.5 million people were self-employed, down 2.1 million from the most recent peak in December 2006, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.The number of “incorporated” self-employed workers — those who incorporate to gain legal protection and other benefits — began its decline in 2008. Last month, 5.1 million people were in this category, down 726,000 from August 2008.

Unincorporated self-employed — at 9.4 million last month — has changed little since last spring. It’s hovering at its lowest level in 25 years, says BLS economist Steven Hipple.

Working for others is a good idea while you’re building skills and networks. By all means, work for someone else while you’re learning the ropes, and give them 150% value on the paycheck they hand you. Heck, if you find a decent employer, work part-time for them while you build your own income streams/career. You might even work part-time for several like-minded people and yourself on the side.

Interestingly, this survey found that the self-employed often see their work as helping society. How many employees feel that? I mention this as an example of the intangible benefits of working for yourself.

Take this Job and Love It (Pew Research)

The Rise of The 1099 Economy: More Americans Are Becoming Their Own Bosses (Forbes, 7/12)


According to research by Economic Modeling Specialists International, the number of people who primarily work on their own has swelled by 1.3 million since 2001 to 10.6 million, a 14% increase.This rise is partially reflective of hard times, and many of the self-employed earn only modest livings in fields such as childcare and construction. However the shift to self-employment is likely to accelerate in the future, and into higher-paying professions, for reasons including the ubiquity of the Internet, which makes it easier for some types of business to use independent contractors, as well as the reluctance of large firms to hire full-time employees with benefits.

How can self-employment be falling and rising? It depends on how you count the self-employed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) divides the self-employed into two categories, incorporated (about 5 million) and unincorporated (about 10 million). Incorporated self-employed people are often professionals such as doctors, accountants and attorneys who value the legal benefits of a corporation or LLC (limited liability company).

To further confuse things, the BLS counts the incorporated self-employed as “wage earners” because they draw paychecks from themselves. So right off the bat we find a confusion between 14.5 million (total BLS self-employed) and the 10 million (the unincorporated self-employed) reported by the BLS as self-employed.

Self-employment in the United States (BLS)

The private research firm mentioned above clearly counted those getting 1099s as self-employed, even if they are contract workers laboring alongside employees, as is often the case in Corporate America. It appears there are about 7 million people in 1099 nation, hence the other total of self-employed you see in print, 22 million.

So the conventional self-employed may be declining while the involuntary self-employed (those getting a 1099 instead of a paycheck) is rising. Of course it’s rising: the ObamaCare neutron bomb is about to go off, making employee benefits unaffordable to businesses large and small.

ObamaCare: The Neutron Bomb That Will Decimate Employment (February 22, 2013)

Right now the self-employed–an enormously diverse mix of everything from micro-sized eBay businesses netting a few thousand dollars a year to professional corporations–comprise about 10% of the workforce (14.5 million self-employed, a total employed workforce of about 142 million). Add in those now getting 1099s instead of paychecks (7 million) and perhaps 14% of the workforce is self-employed (or at least responsible for paying their own quarterly taxes and healthcare insurance–slick move, Corporate America!).

For reasons I will discuss tomorrow, this number is very likely to rise.

But why, you ask, is working for yourself so great? I’ll tell you why. Where else will you find a boss who knows your foibles, flaws and strengths so well? Where will you find a more forgiving boss, one who really understands what makes you tick? What other employer will give you the day off to go fishing because you really need a break? What other employer is going to let you keep everything you earned for the enterprise? And best of all–where else can you be boss and not have to deal with employees?

Category: Corporate Management, Employment

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

16 Responses to “The Ten Best Employers To Work For”

  1. wally says:

    With all due respect to the author… I’ve worked for myself and for others and I have found that I’m not necessarily my best employer.

  2. Fredex says:

    I always looked on my employer as my client.

  3. RW says:

    Fun and the reality that many folks are “on their own” is probably true enough in this trickle down world but still the article was a bit too long on homilies, cliches and pseudo-libertarian mythology with a few crypto-reactionary (AKA the Republican Party these days) talking points tossed in for measure; e.g, the news that the Obamacare “neutron bomb” [LOL] is about to “go off” and make healthcare unaffordable to hoi palloi will doubtless astonish anyone who actually knows the numbers and understands why exactly the opposite is far more likely, assuming reactionaries don’t regain enough power to screw the pooch again of course.

  4. Malachi says:

    I’ve been self employed for ten years. For five years I was a contractor and work was funneled toward me from one company – relatively stress free and lots of independence. Last five years I only eat what I hunt and it is both more satisfying and more stressful. Building and maintaining a successful service business takes talent, a lot of energy, and resilience in the face of ups and downs. My wife works for a big corporate part time and sometimes that steady generous paycheck amazes me. I’m the one creating financial independence (that slippery fish) but she is the one whose paycheck we can count on if I’m having a dip.

  5. Greg0658 says:

    nice animal spirits piece .. now go ahead and make some banks* day – sign on the line .. borrow at best 1.75% over prime thats about 5% until resets kick in (money the big guys get at 1/4 of 1%) .. 90% of new businesses fail (if you can believe MSM) .. but what’a’ya gonna do – we all can’t peddle cash for a living

    * and anyone else that is fabricating something you buy to make that new business

  6. Thomaspin says:

    Outstanding. I’m coming up on a decade of self-employment and the very best thing about it is that I only have to report to one p**ck.

  7. key-bit says:

    Most civilians (feds) I know have side businesses, it gives them something to do during the day.

  8. MidlifeNocrisis says:

    Most civilian fed employees I know have to follow very detailed policies and procedures with a picky micromanager looking over their shoulders and threatening dismissal if they fail to dot an “i” or leave a “t” uncrossed. I am also married to one (the employee, not the micromanager).

    • georgieporgie says:

      My boss is a stickler for detail, a micromanager, can’t make design decisions quickly, always makes mistakes and drives me f…n crazy. He and I go way back. I wouldn’t work for anybody else.

  9. James Cameron says:

    I’ve been on my own since the early 90s, in time to see the Internet take off (which was a key part of my business at the time). The experience has been very well worth it for a number of reasons, not the least of which are the wide range of skills and experience that I picked up along the way including . . . how to survive.

  10. willid3 says:

    if your are actually self employed, you actually work for all of your customers. and they dont have rules that they treat you nice. because you are nothing but an expenses to them. which they want to cut

  11. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Cool. I think I’ll challenge the Koch brothers by doing a formaldehyde start-up.

    Self employment is very difficult, even in the best of times. Starting a company (or, I suppose, becoming a franchisee), OTOH, can be very fulfilling — providing you are very smart or lucky in your choice of business to begin with, and depending on the economy’s ability or willingness to support it (lots of small, formerly successful construction trades businesses have gone teats up over the past 5 or 6 years).

    Taking all of that into account still doesn’t do shit for those who are not entrepreneurial, or who don’t have, and will most likely never develop, the skills they need to be self-employed (including the hard-hit administrative class — from assistants to mid level managers). This demographic is large, and on its way to becoming huge.

    THOSE are the people we don’t think about anymore. They are the disenfranchised, former middle class consumers, and they will either be put to use at a living wage, or they will be as big a social problem as this country has ever known.

    On a related note:

    “The private research firm mentioned above clearly counted those getting 1099s as self-employed, even if they are contract workers laboring alongside employees, as is often the case in Corporate America.”

    This simply points out another failure of law enforcement (labor laws, to be specific, although I’ll be damned if I’m going to cite chapter and verse). A contract worker along side an employee doing the same job, but without the perks and security that comes from “employee” status is a recent development (“recent” being the era of deregulation and refusal of government to uphold the law). This paradigm shift of questionable legality (actually blatant illegality), and is the primary tool responsible for both the disenfranchisement of the middle class, and the wage gap.

  12. stonedwino says:

    You nail it again BR. I ventured out on my own in 2008…

    Rough? Like few would imagine. Can you actually do it all alone? Doubtful, we all need some help along the way, since it takes twice as long and twice much as you think to “make it”. Am I happier making sacrifices and working on my own? Hell yes! I would rather have to deal with the boss I know and leave all workplace politics aside…I do miss a steady paycheck, but not that much that I would go back and work for someone else again…

  13. James Shannon says:

    On the Money!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!