The Illusion of the (Self-Employed) 40 Hour Week


“I feel exhausted, but I’ve barely put in 30 hours this week!” I exclaimed to a fellow entrepreneur. “Is it just me, or does working 15 hours for myself feel like working 40+ for someone else?”

“Ha – I’m just shocked you’re actually getting to 30 hours, Hannah!” she exclaimed. “Everyone knows working for yourself is more taxing than working for someone else. I mean, let’s think about what you do…”

I start my self-employed day off at 5:00 or 5:30 AM most mornings. No commute, so my morning is filled with brisk runs, feeding horses, and reading inspirational biographies or psych books. 

Eat breakfast, watch all the neighbors load up and go to work from the comfort of my front porch nook, and then I get to work in my home office.

Once my butt hits my office chair, it’s intense. I don’t come up for air (much). I work until my alarm goes off at noon, reminding me to eat. I hurry back to put the final touches on a client’s marketing strategy, making it to 3:00 PM feeling like I’m going to collapse. 

My work days either involve highly focused office work or lots and lots on on-the-go networking. Every decision I make seems BIG – like the future of my business is hinging on it (and it often is…).

Let’s look at a few of the entrepreneurship elements that contribute to entrepreneurship exhaustion:

  • I started keeping up with the number of pressing decisions I make on a daily basis – decisions that directly influence my monthly income – and it’s a lot, lot more than I’d ever imagined.
  • I don’t have coworkers I can pass the buck to. I can’t feign ignorance and hope my boss will provide insight. Heck, I don’t even get to call in sick…it’s the pressure of endless responsibility 24/7.
  • I have no organizational “safety net”. I currently feed my entire family solely off a company that was started just a few years ago with nothing but $50 in a business account – I couldn’t even open a business account or incorporate the business until my first client had given me a deposit! Having bootstrapped your biz can be a great thing – it can also be a constant reminder of how little you had just a couple years ago and how soft the foundation your life is currently built on really is.

But what about full-time employees clocking the 40+ hour work week?

Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to be more tired than us entrepreneurs collapsing by 3 PM?

Not necessarily…

A recent study from Vouchercloud.com found that the average office worker is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes a day. A lot of time is spent checking social media accounts, consuming news, participating in water cooler chat, sitting in ineffective meetings, taking smoke breaks, and even looking for a new job.

Wow – the average office employee is clocking less than three hours of actual productive work time a day – that’s 15 hours a week!

Explains my 15 hour self-employment week feeling like 40 as an employee!

As any business owner can attest, spending 25 hours a week on social media, chit chatting with cubicle mates, and listening to board hogs drone on about some innovation proposal that will be obsolete when finally receiving the corporate clearance to get to market would do nothing for their profit margin.

And that’s what entrepreneurs are constantly tasked with protecting – their margin. For without consistently growing margins, there’s no reinvestment, there’s no expansion, and there’s no personal income.

Yeah – ouch. 

I’m still squeezing out the 30 a week as an entrepreneur.

When I get tired – no, exhausted – I take a break. I take the dog for a walk, chat with a friend, or plan my next vacay. I no longer beat myself up for not hitting the former target of 40, as I now recognize the output required of a business owner is much, much greater than that of the majority of employees. 

Entrepreneurship isn’t about clocking senseless hours – it’s about being productive.

Unlike being an employee, if you aren’t productive in the hours you invest, you won’t see a return. 

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply