Is Self-Employment Making You Happier?

Struggling to find happiness and joy in running your own business? Do this.

happiness business owner in apron

While you may have started your business for various reasons such as the ability to do work you love, autonomy, better work-life balance, and location independence—the one idea that underpins them all is the belief you will be happier.

But, once your business gains momentum, it’s easy to fall into the trap of working yourself to death, chasing one goal to the next, and pursuing aggressive growth at the expense of your happiness. The good news is that if you follow your own internal compass you can rediscover and maintain joy in your work.

5 Ways to Find and Maintain Happiness in Self-Employment

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    1. Define Happiness for Yourself *Today*

    While your motivations for starting your business may still drive you, things evolve, and so do your motivations. It’s perfectly reasonable for new goals and desires to take hold of you. Your business, for example, might be growing faster than you could imagine and you’re happy spending more time on it than you planned.

    In my case, being my own boss and having the ability to live and work from anywhere was a big factor that drove me toward starting a business. While I still value these things two years on, I now crave more connection and collaboration—something I actually miss from my days working in a corporate environment. So, my goal now is to make more of an effort to connect with people, whether this is at coffee shops or even at a co-working space.

    The point is: Keep tabs on your ever-evolving goals and motivations and don’t be afraid to update them by adding new ones or removing others altogether—you’re not constrained by past versions of happiness, which may be outdated.

    work life balance

    2. Determine Exactly How Much Money Is Really Enough

    You see it everywhere in the entrepreneurial community and in articles you read online— people talk about hustling, about growth, and about making more money. Even when they blow their income targets out the water, they’re shifting their attention to loftier goals.

    There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this if it makes you happy, and no one denies that money is essential to survive, pay the bills and buy those luxuries.

    But, if all you’re doing is chasing money because everyone else is doing it, and not because it makes you happy, it may be time to sit down, take stock and determine precisely how much money you want to earn each month. In that way, when you do hit that target, you won’t work your butt off to make more money at the expense of your happiness.

    3. Find Happiness with Your Own Personal Balance

    I’m not a fan of the word work-life balance—it implies that a perfect harmony exists between work and personal life. Taken literally, it suggests you spend equal parts of time on both. But, viewing balance this way only sets you up for disappointment as you’re always struggling to find this elusive equilibrium, which is next to impossible.

    The better approach is to find your own unique balance by embracing the concept of work-life integration: All the elements in your life don’t have to be divided into equal parts—instead, they should dovetail off each other and work together to achieve harmony.

    Sure, sometimes the scales will tip more heavily toward an element at the expense of another. Perhaps, you have several work deadlines looming, and you have no other option but to put in the extra hours? That’s totally understandable, but the key is to be mindful and know when to pull in the reigns to avoid burnout.

    Here are a few ways to protect you against this burnout and achieve a work-life balance that’s sustainable—again, the key is to find what works for you:

    • Prioritize: Achieving balance doesn’t just happen; you need to make an effort to book time for important things like family
    • Reflect: Look back at your day, briefly analyze how you spent it, and rebalance as needed
    • Connect with others in-person and see what advice they have to share on the topic
    • Disconnect from the fast-paced technological world. Sometimes you simply need time alone—away from email, your laptop, and social media. This doesn’t have to be an extended break—it can be a small portion of time each day
    • Incorporate exercise into your daily routine. You don’t have to adopt the “all-or-nothing” mentality where you only exercise if you can dedicate a considerable chunk of time to it. Something as simple as a short walk helps
    • Designate space: If you work from home, create a separate office space in the house. This will help you separate work from the rest of your life. Work at a coworking space to infuse the social element into your workday
    • Track time: Become mindful of your working hours and stick to those hours otherwise, you risk only working

    4. Avoid the Comparison Game

    Your business goals and what you value are very different from another business owner. You’re also likely at a different stage in your business. Perhaps your business is new, and you’re looking at ways to get better clients and grow your income so you can hit your monthly revenue targets? Or maybe you’re well-established, with a client portfolio that others could only dream of?

    Regardless of your goals, values, and the stage you’re in, avoid comparing your reality to someone else’s, where you wish you could earn as much as them, have a lucrative client list like theirs, travel as much, have as much free time and so on. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Everyone has their challenges…and, making these comparisons only causes unhappiness with your current reality.

    Instead, be grateful for your situation, move at your own pace, accept that you’re at a different stage, and focus on how you can make changes to your business today. Changes that will move you closer to the lifestyle YOU want—not the lifestyle others have and you think you want.

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    5. Regularly Reignite Your Passion

    Starting your business was likely driven by a core passion, whether that be taking photographs, writing, or working with others to help them succeed. But, as your business grows, you get pulled into many other areas out of necessity. These areas include managing finances, filing taxes, and dealing with daily admin.

    You’re spending so much time running the business that you have very little time for your passion and may even feel that you’ve lost it altogether. Because passion is so crucial if you want your business to succeed, it’s important that you regularly reignite it.

    Consider dedicating time slots during the week or even the weekend to rediscover it or find new and exciting ways to re-engage with it, ways that don’t involve work. For example, writing is one of my passions and I often find time to write only for myself and not my clients.


    The allure of running a business is undeniable. But, self-employment isn’t without its pitfalls: It brings its own set of challenges, and if you’re not careful you’ll only work and chase money at the expense of your happiness!

    Luckily, though, you can avoid these pitfalls and maintain the love for your work by:

    • Defining what happiness means to you
    • Determining how much money you need
    • Finding your own balance
    • Avoiding the comparison game, and
    • Regularly finding ways to rekindle your passion

    Have you struggled to maintain happiness in your business? How do you deal with it?

    Nick Darlington

    Written by Nick Darlington, Freelance Contributor

    Posted on November 5, 2018