Are Self-Employed People Happier?

Have you ever been listening to the radio and the promo jingle for the station comes on, claiming their music selection can “make your workday go faster”? It’s the kind of thing that makes me feel incredibly sad whenever I hear it. Over our lifetimes, we spend a huge proportion of our waking hours at work. Do we really want to simply get through it faster? Grit our teeth and make it end as quickly as possible?

It’s like wishing your own life away.

Truth is, I see so many people who are miserable in their work. Of course they haven’t come to see me—their family doctor—for that issue, per se. Typically, they’ve booked an appointment to talk about their insomnia, depression, anxiety, stress, headaches, or other similar symptom. As we dig deeper, though, the problem so often at the heart of everything is a soul-sucking job.

But not everyone is like that.

Sometimes I meet people who have are different. They are calmer, more confident, more at ease. If they’re sick, they want to get better as quickly as possible—not because the boss is giving them a hard time, or because they’ll be forced to complete a disability form if their illness goes on much longer—but because they love their work. It’s fulfilling. It’s meaningful. It’s what they were called to do.

So what’s the difference? Why are some people fulfilled by their work, happy in their careers, uplifted by their jobs?

There are many possible reasons, of course, but one that commonly stands out for me is this: the fulfilled people are often the ones who are working for themselves, whether they’re freelancers or running their own business.

And this happiness difference is not just my own observation. Growing research has demonstrated the same thing.


Australian surveys have shown that self-employed people are the happiest, a result replicated by UK studies.

And the World Happiness Report, a comprehensive report presented to the UN every year for the past 5 years had this to say in their most recent report:

“Being self-employed tends to be associated with higher life evaluation and positive affect (as compared to being a full-time employee) across Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and East Asia.”

While they do conclude in this study that people who are self-employed are more satisfied with their lives than people who are traditionally employed, they do mention the downside. They comment that self-employed people report more stress and worry associated with running one’s own business. Which makes sense.

Being your own boss is not for everyone. There’s a dark side, of course, and it basically boils down to the Spiderman mantra: With great power comes great responsibility.

When the buck stops with you…well, there’s a certain stress and pressure that comes with that. Which means it’s important to look at the potential cost and benefit of being self-employed, and whether it works for you. Do the pros outweigh the cons? For many of us, they do. For many of us, self-employment is the true path to happiness and fulfillment. (Even if it’s not always an easy path.)

Click here to download a free copy of my miniguide: HOW TO BECOME A HEALTH COACH 


So what are the reasons self-employed people give for being happier, more fulfilled?

Improved flexibility of schedule

Keen to try that mid-afternoon yoga class or walk your kids to school before starting your workday? You’re in charge of that.

More creative freedom

As a freelancer or entrepreneur, you get to set your own goals and work on the projects that most excite you. No more catering to externally-mandated sales goals or tasks that you loathe.

Being your own boss

A boss you dislike or don’t respect can be a nightmare. One less thing to worry about when you’re self-employed!

Lack of negative office politics

Clashes with co-workers, toxic workplace culture, office drama…no thank you.

Overall greater autonomy

You get to set the priorities, the focus, and the pace. You get to decide when something’s not working. You get to shift a project’s timeline and budget, if you wish. It’s all up to you!


Are you considering making the jump from employed worker to self-employed freelancer or entrepreneur?

If you suspect your route to happiness involves starting your own business and/or working for yourself in some capacity, watch this space. I’m going to be talking much more on this website about job satisfaction, entrepreneurship, happiness, and the intersection of all those things.

AND, if your interest particularly lies in the wellness sphere, you might be interested in reading these next:

And if you’re feeling ready to take the next step, I invite you to download my free miniguide: How To Become A Health Coach



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