It's official, self-employed people are happier

Self-employed Aussies talk about why they went out on their own and why they're loving it.

It took Yve Lavine six years into her freelance career before she was earning enough money to dump the short-term contract work.

"When I first started in 2005, I needed to undertake temp work such as secretarial and administrative jobs to help support my dream of a full-time freelance career as a photographer," she says.

"I even did some agency work taking photographs at schools and shopping centres, but that is not what I wanted to do long term. But after a lot of networking and social media activity, I have been able to pick and choose the jobs that I want and I love it."

Self-employed and loving it

Lavine is just one of the almost 4 million Australians who are self-employed and very happy. A survey provided by registered training organisation Upskilled revealed the happiest people are self-employed, with 92% saying they are happy.

"I don't think there is anything more satisfying than being your own boss," Lavine says. "Within reason I can choose clients and I love telling people's stories through photography. My work varies a lot too and I have found a lot of loyalty from clients over the years."

Lavine, whose income is under $100,000, says being self-employed was never about earning lots of money. "Working 9am-5pm was killing my soul," she says. "I wasn't born to do that. I needed to be free and I am."

Lag in starting companies

However only 13% of the 3,418 Australians surveyed were motivated to start their own company, while only 3% wanted to run the company they are currently at or leave a legacy.

"It is less encouraging to note the low level of entrepreneurial drive – particularly in this age of disruption and innovation, and with the increasing importance of start-ups," Jon Lang, chief executive of Upskilled, says.

But it would be fair to say that starting your own company and being self-employed are two different categories.

"Being self-employed gives me the freedom to be me and create something from nothing as I wish it to be," Carol Haffke, owner of The Shoe Garden, says.

"I can step outside the box and not feel constrained by an employer. I can nurture and guide and develop my business as I think it should be done. There are no compromises. That makes me incredibly happy."

Although Haffke has taken a drop in income to now earn only five figures a year, she has no regrets. "I used to earn in excess of $100,000 but I wasn't happy. Now I am. I spent 23 years as an employee and I would never go back!"

The survey also revealed happiness and making enough money (both at 28%) was the main goal of Australians.

The happiest industry to be in is arts and recreation followed by design and architecture. At the other end of the scale those employed in construction and home makers were the least happy.

Full-time employed are the next happiest

Of those surveyed, people in full-time employment came second in the happiest by employment status, with 86% reporting they were happy. This was followed by retirees, part-time employees, employers, casuals and finally the unemployed.

"I love my job because of the variety it offers," Emily Milner, a recruitment consultant at Kingfisher Recruitment, says. "I have been working full-time for seven years and the fulfillment of being able to help people find work and helping businesses find the perfect candidate is extremely rewarding."

Milner, who also earns under $100,000, loves the stability of full-time employment.

"It takes a lot of stress out of day to day knowing you can make your mortgage and pay your bills," she adds. "Then there is sick pay, holiday pay and all my taxes and my super is looked after."

Australians are generally really happy at work – 82% like their job and 29% love it, while only 3% dislike their job and 4% hate it.

Those living in the Northern Territory at 91% were the happiest by state, followed by South Australians at 86%.

Victorians came in last at 80%, while those earning between $110,000-$150,000 were the happiest by gross income. Those unfortunate enough to earn less than $30,000 per year were not happy at all.

So, who is the happiest person of all? A self-employed Australian (92%) residing in the Northern Territory (91%) who works in the arts and recreation services (93%) earning in excess of $150,000 per year (92%).


This article was originally published by the Sydney Morning Herald on 29 March 2017. It represents the views of the author only and does not necessarily reflect the views of AMP.

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