Are You Cut Out for Self-Employment?

Could you be your own boss? Or would you become a small-business casualty?

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Marty Nemko
Marty Nemko
Well-paying jobs are tough to find, so more people are considering self-employment. But are you cut out for it, or are you likely to become a small-business casualty? Your self-rating on these items can help you decide.

1. Business sense. You must intuit customer needs, know how to buy low, sell high and when it's worth spending more, less or not at all. You must have great instincts for how to market and advertise cost-effectively. You use data to guide decision-making only when it's sufficiently valid and cost-effective.

25 = You have excellent business sense.

0 = You have poor business sense.

Your score: ____

2. Ethics. When employed by an organization, just a single ethical lapse may get you fired. That keeps even most ethically challenged people in line. But when self-employed, the worst that usually happens is that you lose the wronged customers, and there always are other suckers. So your motivation to be ethical must come from an internal compass.

20 = You always prioritize ethics over expediency.

0 = You rarely prioritize ethics over expediency.

Your score: ____

3. Self-starting. Unlike when working for someone else, you must decide what needs to be done and when, and be motivated to get it all done without structure nor externally imposed deadlines. Your motivation must often continue into some evenings and weekends.

20 = You're an excellent self-starter.

0 = You're a poor self-starter.

Your score: ____

4. Sales ability. Whatever business you're in, you must sell. Even if you want to hire a salesperson, you need the ability to convince him or her to work for you. And you may need, for example, to convince investors to invest, vendors to let you delay payment and usually, customers to buy. Plus, good salespeople are rarely reluctant to cold-call or email.

15 = Excellent sales ability.

0 = Poor sales ability.

Your score: ____

5. Problem-solving ability. Businesses face new problems all the time: supply chain disruption, disgruntled customers, new government regulations, etc. You can't afford to outsource the solving of all that.

20 = Excellent problem-solving ability.

0 = Poor problem-solving ability.

Your score: ____

6. Resilience. Nearly all businesses face setbacks, especially at the beginning while you're honing your system. But setbacks can occur any time, for example, when a competitor is taking ever more of your business.

10 = You respond crisply and effectively when faced with nearly all challenges.

0 = You get overwhelmed and inert when faced with all but simple challenges.

Your score: ____

7. Objectivity. Good businesspeople know when to cut their losses: not too early, not too late. They sense when it is and isn't worth the costs of continuing a product or service, or even the entire business.

10 = You have an almost unfailing knack of knowing when to persist, when to quit.

0 = You usually quit too early or hang on too long.

Your score: ____

8. The idea. Having a great idea for a business may be the least important of this self-assessment's nine items. Most successful business owners don't start an innovative business. They simply replicate someone else's successful business in a new location or do it in the same location but cheaper or with better service or marketing. Nonetheless, it can't hurt to have a great idea so:

10 = You have one or more low-risk, high-payoff ideas.

0 = You have no idea what business to start and have a poor history of coming up with successful business ideas.

Your score: ____

9 .The resources. Many businesses offering excellent risk/reward ratio require little money to start, but having a financial cushion provides cash for the nearly inevitable revisions and simply to pay for the months or even years it may take to generate sufficient income.

10 = You have or could easily acquire the money needed to start and run your business.

0 = All your ideas for a business require much more money than you could generate.

Your score: ____

Utterly Unvalidated Scoring Key

120 - 140: You're a solid bet.

100 - 120: You're a reasonable bet.

80 - 100: Think three times before starting your own business.

< 80: Improve or you're probably wise to try to get someone else to employ you.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian called Dr. Nemko "The Bay Area's Best Career Coach." His latest books are How to Do Life: What They Didn't Teach You in School and What's the Big Idea? 39 Disruptive Proposals for a Better America. He writes weekly for AOL.com as well as for USNews.com. More than 1,000 of his published writings are free on www.martynemko.com.