Make life better: Work for yourself

Leaving corporate American jobs is a path to economic freedom and greater happiness in careers
Life is better when you are in control

Today, April 17, is my birthday. Today is also the 17th anniversary of my decision to strike out on my own as an independent IT consultant, specialized in AWS and Azure infrastructure.

The bottom line: I wish I’d done it much, much earlier.

This post was motivated by an episode of the Daily Drive podcast featuring an interview with United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain. In the interview, which is mostly about the UAW’s attempts to unionize a VW factory in Chattanooga, TN, Fain uses strident, angry language to attack automakers for their treatment of workers. Feckless isn’t strong enough for what he thinks of them.

Still, he’s right: business sees labor as an input, a cost. All the BS about “stakeholders” and “corporate responsibility” is just that: hooey. Business is in business for profit, pure and simple.

So, if you have the skills, background and moxy to strike out on your own, here’re some observations from the years I’ve been working for myself:

  • Try to catch a wave early. Starting in the mid-2000s, the massive shift from on-prem data centers to the public cloud was just getting underway. It was there for anyone in enterprise IT to see and leverage. Today, maybe AI. But for sure cybersecurity.
  • Incorporate. Create a single-member LLC — easy to do in most states — so you can take advantage of Solo 401(k) plans. This is not only tax-efficient it also allows you to save much more of your income for retirement. A career in corporate America essentially depends on you saving for your own retirement anyway. Why not maximize the opportunity to save for yourself?
  • Build up over time. You will probably have to start with less than desirable clients. One of my first was a broken-down importer of machine tools. The owner, nice as he was, stiffed me regularly. (That’s always a risk: a current client pays slowly and reluctantly despite being a multinational with tens of thousands of employees.) Use that client to get references and experience.

These three simple steps — distilled from about 50 I wanted to share — will deliver what you most want in an IT career: control over your life, steady and interesting work and a sense of accomplishment that’s unobtanium in corporate America.



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