- Adison Landon, 31, quit her job in May to start a business in the same industry.
- Many Americans have bet on self-employment as a way to get ahead financially and gain flexibility.
- Nearly 17 million Americans are self-employed, the highest share of the workforce since 2008.
Adison Landon, a 31-year-old from Fort Collins, Colorado, first thought about starting her own business last October.
She was in her third year working as a service technician for a local aquarium store, where she installed and maintained fish tanks for homes and businesses. And she wasn’t happy with the pay.
“Nothing was getting cheaper,” she told Insider, alluding to record-high inflation. She decided $18 an hour wasn’t going to cut it if she ever wanted to achieve her dream of buying a home someday.
Landon decided to try for a
Mary: She asked for a raise to $27 an hour and no weekend shifts. When her employer couldn’t meet her demands, she put in her two weeks’ notice.
“I was just like, OK, I’m still not making enough money. I’m still not really satisfied with management here. I have a lot of clients who still love my work. Why not actually start my own business and just go on my own?” she told Insider.
Landon is among millions of Americans who’ve been drawn to self-employment over the past few years. Citing Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, Bloomberg estimated that there were roughly 16.8 million self-employed Americans as of June, accounting for over 10% of the workforce and representing the highest share since 2008. While the number of self-employed Americans fell to 12.7 million in 2020, it returned to prepandemic levels a year later.
Experts have pointed to several explanations for the rebound. As millions of people lost their jobs, many Americans in need of work started their own businesses. As childcare responsibilities pulled parents out of the labor force, self-employment offered some of the flexibility they needed. Others, like Landon, have wagered it is their best shot at getting ahead financially, particularly given that inflation-adjusted earnings are declining at their fastest rate in 40 years.
While many Americans have embraced the so-called Great Resignation and had success finding a role they desired, Landon says this wasn’t her experience. Before quitting, she’d tried to join this movement and take advantage of what’s been touted as a hot job market.
But she said she had a hard time even getting an interview for jobs she felt matched her skills and previous experience such as a legal assistant at a law firm and a cable-service technician. She said she sent out “countless” summaries and used a paid job-search service but could get noticed only by companies with “terrible” reviews on Glassdoor.
“I kept hearing about how easy it was to get a job, but I found that wasn’t the case,” she said.
Landon found that starting a business was her only option. “I can’t be the only person who has decided that in order to get ahead they had to take the risk and try to make things happen for themselves,” she said.
‘Bitten by the bug of self-employment’
After Landon quit, she established Fish Perfect and spent two weeks firming up the logo, insurance, and merchant services. She also purchased a van, which holds a 65-gallon water tank and a pump for mixing saltwater on the go. The business officially launched on June 1.
She’s the only full-time employee, but she took roughly half of the clients, she’d been servicing with her employer and added a few more, giving her 13 total customers.
In its first month, Fish Perfect generated sales of about $3,600. Landon said that after accounting for expenses, her take-home pay is a little less than she was making before, but she’s hopeful she can soon reach $4,000 to $5,000 in monthly revenue.
Landon said she believes aquariums are “more popular than ever,” partially because of the pandemic — she recalled some people spending their stimulus checks on them. But high gas prices have compressed margins, she said, adding that she can’t afford to lose any clients.
She said that while she’s aware of speculation that a
could be on the horizon, she has no regrets about taking the leap.
“I realized that I am not happy working for my employer, and why should I continue to be unhappy?” she said. “I am headstrong. I’m capable. I might as well try to make this work for myself.”
Landon hopes to save enough that she and her husband, who does the company’s bookkeeping in addition to working at an accounting firm, can buy a home — something they want to achieve before tackling their next goal: having children.
She said she’d been “bitten by the bug of self-employment” and is even formulating plans to start a second business.
“I have never felt so empowered,” she sad. “And I realized what I think I was really lacking was agency. I definitely feel the agency now that I know that I am the boss, the buck stops here; I can make the final decisions for the company.”