When Gallup asked a representative sample of Americans recently if they wanted to be their own boss, a whopping 61 percent said yes. No surprise there. Freelancers report being wildly happier and even healthier than the conventionally employed. Studies also show that, on average, independent workers out-earn regular employees.
But while being your own boss has big upsides, it also puts serious demands on those who take the leap. Self-sufficiency, a capacity for alone time, and the resilience to manage financial and professional ups and downs are required. Not everyone has these skills.
Do you? You can read a million listicles on the subject, including here on Inc.com, but if you're looking for a more scientific answer to the question, three business school professors want to help.
The skills you need to make it as your own boss.
To figure out just what skills are necessary if you want to hack it as an independent worker, this team of professors partnered with consultancy Eden McCallum and London Business School to conduct a survey of 307 independent consultants in Europe and North America.
Like just about every other study out there, the poll found that by and large freelancers were wildly happy with their work situation. Still, they acknowledged, thriving as your own boss requires overcoming significant challenges, like:
Managing unpredictability. "When asked about the biggest challenge they face, half of the independent consultants we surveyed mentioned unpredictability, insecurity, and volatility," report the professors on HBR.com.
Managing "backroom" tasks. If you're too good at chasing invoices and arranging meetings, freelancing is probably not going to work out well for you.
Tolerating being alone. You won't have a boss anymore, but neither will you have built-in lunch buddies and gossip partners.
Brand savvy. As a freelancer, no one is going to brand you but you. "Working on your own means that you alone are tasked with developing, sustaining, and communicating your professional identity," note the professors.
Do you have these essential skills? A bullet-point list to ponder is a great place to start, but this team of researchers wanted to go further. They developed an actual scored quiz that can assess these capabilities and give you a straightforward answer about your readiness to hang up your own slate. It consists of a simple statement along the lines of:
I spend time developing knowledge and skills that may not be required now but could be critical to my future work.
I tend to bounce back quickly after hard times.
I can communicate an idea in many different ways.
To take the test, you decide whether each statement is true for you most of the time, some of the time, or almost never. Points are awarded based on which option you choose and tallying them up reveals your final score, and with it the verdict on whether you're currently ready to set up shop on your own.
Take the full quiz on HBR, which also offers tips on how to improve the essential skills of independent pros if you discover you don't yet pass muster.