Stress of Running Your Own Business


I always like to have confirmed what I already know. Article in The Register has an article on stresses of running your own business. Mind you, the stresses are probably less than working for someone else.

"The perception that it's 'lonely at the top' has never been so true," ....

"Business owners in the UK face constant change, ever-increasing regulation, a global competitive environment, and pressure on margins, which all lead to higher stress. Owners need to develop strategies to deal with stress, and they need to work smarter, not harder."

So work smarter, not harder then.


Smarter not harder?

With my intellect, working harder seems like a better strategy for me :).

I find certain things stressful, mostly to do with ensuring my employees have long term good paying jobs. The idea of someone's family and living depending on me weighs heavily.

Other than that, what stress? When I worked in corporate Canada it was rush rush rush, broke all the time, no time for kids or wife, unreasonable demands, idiot coworkers, and no prospects of moving up. Now I have a leisurely family breakfast every day, drive the kids to school, spend the day with my wife and sometimes take a 2:00 dip in the hot tub and have time to help my kids with their homework after school. My customers are content and I don't have deadlines that I didn't set myself (and can thus meet).

It took me two years after quitting the corporate world for my stress levels to return to the point where I was a normal individual again. 5-6 years after starting my own business, I don't have any stress. The odd time it crops up, I resolve whatever issue was causing it. And because I know I'm in control, I'm confident I have the tools to fix whatever the problem is, and thus problems don't cause me stress any more.

>> work smarter, not harder

>> work smarter, not harder

Very True, this is why some make 7 digits/yr with just 2-3 hr work (stat checking?) a day :)

ROI Metric: percentage effort dedicated to the cause

Work for someone else:

10% effort to keep job
10% effort to advance in job
10% effort to play well with others in the office
10% effort to find a better job elsewhere
10% effort fending off the officemates doing all those things above for themselves
20% effort commuting
10% effort earning back taxes lost to your employer (who recovered them)
20% effort dedicated to your job (and I suspect that is a MAXIMUM possible..higher than average).

Working for yourself (has a family, kids, house, etc):

First Year:
50% effort stressing about money, doubting future
30% effort building business, contacts, savvy, etc
50% effort dedicated to doing the work of your "job" in the business
(notice total is 130% effort... you certainly work alot harder)

Nth year:
30% effort doing your job
25% effort maintaining business contacts, savvy

Time Time Time

Like anything, it takes time to have huge payoff's.

One thing that I see an awesome trend in is college students using their Extra time in college to really come up with some awesome buiness plans. I know several recent grads that have their own business up and running due to their extra time that they spent while in college. This is pretty cool!

I found a list of business ideas for college students as well as a list of well known companies that were started while the founder was in college.

Closed Shop

Shut down the shop a while ago, sent the employees away, fired the clients, no stress.

Just me and my own websites, couldn't be happier!

Just me and my own websites

And me too, Bill. Lovely day here in Spain, not a lot of stress apart from trying to learn Spanish.

Stress UK?

To be honest I dont see so much of it here in the UK. We seem pretty laid back compared with Norh America. Not quite the manyana lifestyle that cornwalls used to but not gutrenchingly stressful either.

I'm stressed

I'm pretty stressed these days. But then I don't make my living from my sites. I'm still a do-stuff-for-clients type of guy - aka. consultant. Don't have any employees though, that would be even more stressful.

Judging from you guys I should probably develop more sites of my own in stead of helping clients. And/or monetize them better. It's just hard getting time for that.

Sofar I've been struggling for four months implementing a redesign on one site of mine because client work takes too much time.

I'm stressed. :) Normal work

I'm stressed. :)

Normal work is a stress I can handle and deal with - it's the stupid uninvited stresses that bog me down:

- when the internet banking fouls up and staff give you the wrong solution for 2 weeks;

- when the accountants increase your tax liabilities, then fail to prepare your accounts on time;

- when you get embroiled in legal issues either because the company you're dealing with is plain incompetent or simply aggressive;

- 1001 stupid little things that over-complicate your work routine;


Australian tax ain't the best, I work hard and give too much away. I am with claus, no time for my sites, too much time spent consulting. To me I can achieve more this way (for now) and move into the appropriate channels later when I have the spare time. Stress is a state of mind. Less is more.


Now you mention it... I paid more in taxes last year than total turnover(!) due to the year before being a whole lot better than expected, but still, for every cent I invoiced last year I paid more than a cent in taxes... That's basically the reason I'm stressed these days - taxman almost killed my firm. I'm glad I have a very low cost level, otherwise I'd have to be an employee now.


One of the things about client work in today's technology market is coverage (excuses) for errors and ommissions by vendors of software and technology products/services. More and more it seems technology is marketed and sold deceptively: it says it does this or that but it really doesn't. The consumers (clients) believe it to be true, yet the technologists know first hand how much additional work is required just to meet the claims. Who pays for that work?

If you consult to top tier clients, the clients pay for the work. You are being paid for your time, not just for the success of the project.

If you consult to lesser clients, the project may depend on someone funding that work. Consultants may spend time covering their behinds if the project cannot overcome the unexpected costs.

If you have your own sites, and know about this stuff, you simply avoid the trap at the strategy stage and move on... your savvy became a competitive advantage in the market.

If you have your own sites and don't know about it, you get stress. Nobody to blame.

My current example is website hosting. They all say the provide PHP/MySQL and some even pre-install apps. Sounds good, right? Now how many of you know how hosting provider X implements PHP security? Is it php as cgi? globals off? fopen disabled? php exec()? Chrooted? Jails? is the MySQL on same server or separate server? Is PHP running as the same nobody as every other process? And even if you can determine that, what will you find when you go in with your hands? .htaccess pre-processing? Lockout from php.ini? mod_security...customized?

Top tier clients provide dedicated server and support. Mid-tier provide staff to work with hosting tech support. If you manage your own sites, how many different hosting companies are you willing to work with (if any)? Do you desire dispersed hosting, etc etc etc. All potential stressors/headaches. it all depends on how the blame is laid out.


If you consult to top tier clients, the clients pay for the work. You are being paid for your time, not just for the success of the project.

If you consult to lesser clients, the project may depend on someone funding that work. Consultants may spend time covering their behinds if the project cannot overcome the unexpected costs.

Here, every client pays. Big or small. With one exception only, that is if they go legally bankrupt before they pay the bill. That has happened only once for me in 3 years+ and it was a very small bill (US$ 400 or so). Of course I do some amount of pro bono work as well, but naturally I don't expect payment for that.

I guess I just don't understand what you mean with the "lesser clients" paragraph?

Anyway, yesterday I managed to strike a deal that saves my own firm for the time being. So, stress levels are back to normal again. Some cliffhanger experience that was.

However, that was also about "big vs small clients" (or rather "projects"). The year before I simply got a project which was way larger than I had imagined, and hence my tax level was set too low for that year (2004). The following year I got a major extra tax bill on top of the tax for 2005, so in fact I had to pay taxes for what amounts to three normal years out of one year's income (2004 was double as good as a normal year).

The lesson from this: Beware of the taxman. He's pretty dangerous. Stress inducing, even.


I don't mind taxes. I just

I don't mind taxes. I just would love to be able to opt out of paying for things that I think are huge scams.

Would citizens feel better about paying taxes if they could opt into what they felt was worth paying?

Good to hear u are doing well again Claus :)

No opt out

You can't have an opt out or opt in system with taxes. There's a difference between public good and private good, such a system would have private good dictating the public good. And that's a way to end up with no public good at all. Don't like how much is spent on roads? All of a sudden road maintenance is horrible. Public education goes by the wayside. And so on.

It's like democracy. Not perfect, but the best system that's available. The proper way to correct improper tax spending is to vote. And if you want to leverage that vote, help candidates with their campaign.

Interesting idea

Interesting idea with a system that would allow for a greater deal of flexibility. I know my economics as well, but most of those theories are from the last century or even older, where you just did not have the technical possibilities that you have today.

I think at some point the internet-savvy generation might be demanding something flexible like that as they are used to everything being opt-in, and checking checkboxes to adjust for personal preferences.

Where I live you have the common church taxes which are "optional". If you get baptised as a child you get enrolled as a member of the church, and hence you pay those taxes for the rest of your life. Unless you terminate your membership, then you no longer have to pay church taxes.

Come to think of it, it's the same with political parties. I haven't met a party yet where I agree with 100% of their politics, so if I could vote for selected portions of policy, perhaps from more than one party, then it would better reflect my opinions.

Being an analytical person, representativity like that would be better than the current majority rule, as it would be more fine-grained and accurate. It would require some degree of technical infrastructure, and elections would be more like surveys.

I'm sure that you could technically make a "tax-survey". It wouldn't be extremely complicated to do, as every expense item is already grouped in logical groups on the state budget, so it's just a question of finding an appropriate level of detail and asking the questions. Surveying non-people (taxable legal entities, like firms) would be the most demanding part of that task.

I'm not sure what the result would be like, but if you do it as a survey then the politicians can still choose to listen or ignore, just as always.


I think if you collected

I think if you collected more data from citizens about what they wanted then you would create an atmosphere where politicians either had to work harder to match it (since what was desired would be documented) or politicians would quickly be cycled out of power because new politicians could have another point to argue out the old politicians and how bad they were at serving the needs of citizens.

collected more data from citizens

Don't know about that, they have a referendum most weekends in Switzerland

Through referenda, citizens may challenge any law voted by federal parliament and through initiatives introduce amendments to the federal constitution, making Switzerland a direct democracy.

Having lived there in my time, I have seen the drawbacks, and I don't think any other countries have rushed to follow Switzerland's lead with anything similar

Swiss drawbacks?

What are the drawbacks, then? Getting out of the couch too often? *lol* just kidding, but seriously, I don't know the Swiss system - what do they do wrong?

IMHO private companies are

IMHO private companies are and increasingly will assume responsibilities formerly associated with governments. example: google and earthlink and free wifi.

fast forward a few decades (centuries?) when technology allows for the cost of housing to drop significantly, to the point where it's actually a wise investment for a company to offer free housing in exchange for the commercial infrastructure it would provide.

and, if we ever colonize other planets, who will stake the claim? probably private companies that invest in making such colonization possible.

in such a world we'll be voting with our dollars/euros/pesos or whatever is the currency of the times. but i suppose that's not too different from how the real votes are cast today anyway.

clarifying big and small (trying...)

if you analyse uncompleted projects,you often find a failure to plan on additional costs of gotchas, yet all the money got billed/spent. The players got paid... no one covered the issues, and the client lost. Happens more with smaller clients in my experience (small cap). Larger clients seem to recognize and fund or kill, rather than let them fail at full expense.

Oh, because the small

Oh, because the small clients choose contractors that are more cheap than flexible -- not knowing that this is what they do?

The cheaper contractors are often cheap for a reason -- lack of flexibility -- and that's pretty cool if you only want the exact thing they want to offer you. Personally I love that stuff - buy specialized services at a fair price, knowing that "it will do exactly that and no more". Then again, I never expect it to include the kitchen sink.

I don't know - I think "gotchas" are the rule more than the exception. Something always shows up. So, ideally you should set your price level a fair bit higher than you would otherwise do in order to account for that. And, if you bill by the hour, of course add extra time to your extimates beforehand (that may be a multiple, not an addition. The figure "pi" comes up often.)

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