It seems like everyone in IT eventually has the thought that they should start their own business or hang their shingle as a solo consultant, at least as a side job. You may think about it during a long job search, or when you tire of working for someone else or when you hear about someone making it big with a technical product you have the skills to create. And who wouldn't be tempted by the idea of being the next internet multimillionaire? And many of the people I know in the field, myself included, have been self-employed at one time or another. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of working for yourself? How do you know if you are better suited to being self-employed or working for others? Do you want to be a consultant in your area of specialization or start a business that uses your skills? (For instance, if you are a computer repair technician, do you want to start a business to fix people's computers or start a web site that helps people fix their own computers and sells them the parts and supplies they need?)
When you work for yourself, you are in control of your own destiny. If things go well with your business, you do well. If you don't get customers, you do poorly. Your risks are higher, but your rewards are also higher. When you work for someone else, you get a smaller share of the rewards, but you also get a smaller share of the risk. If there are no customers this month, you still get paid. When you work for yourself, you have to take care of all the aspects of the business – sales, marketing, customer service, business development, finance, taxes and the actual technical work (even if you hire it out, you still are responsible for it in the end.) When you work for someone else, you can focus on the technical work. If you don't like the non-technical work, it's likely that you will be unhappy having to do it. When you work for someone else, they control your schedule. When you work for yourself, you (and your customers) control your schedule. Working for yourself can be an excellent option if you have external time constraints like school or family.