Money doesn't trump independence. At least not for the majority of American entrepreneurs. 

That was one of several conclusions drawn by a year's worth of Discover Small Business Watch surveys of 1,000 business owners with five or fewer employees.

Sixty-one percent of the small-business owners surveyed said they would not give up the independence of running their own business to make more money working for someone else. At the same time, 46 percent of entrepreneurs said they started their own business to have more freedom or more flexible work schedules, while only 19 percent of respondents admitted starting their own company to earn more. Additionally, about seven of 10 business owners said they do not want to grow their businesses much larger.

"When we look at it from the outside, the assumption is that all small-business owners want to grow," said Sastry Rachakonda, director of Discover's (NYSE:DFS) small-business card. "As we've gotten more familiar with small-business owners, we realize they care about independence more than anything else. Being larger may mean less independence and less freedom."

Still, even though running your own business may mean working when you want and on your own terms, it also often means keeping longer hours than the average American, the survey found. Twenty-eight percent of business owners work at least six days a week and 52 percent took off seven days or fewer for the year, compared with 36 percent of the overall population.

Futhermore, the poll found that only 36 percent of the small-business owners described a day off as "not working at all."

"Clearly, many small-business owners are working harder than the rest of us," Rachakonda said. "In turn, it shows in customer satisfaction surveys. Very few people think large businesses provide better service."

The study also found that health care is a major strain on small-business owners. Three out of four owners do not provide health benefits to their employees, while one out of three owners who do offer these benefits have considered curtailing coverage for themselves or employees because of cost.

"The sheer scale of [the impact of health care] was just amazing," Rachakonda said.