What Musicians Teach Us About The Challenges of Being Your Own Boss is a fascinating article that covers a topic that hasn't gotten much attention - the existential anxiety of being self-employed.
Those who work at organizations are part of bigger whole and have bosses, coworkers and office settings to tell what they do is valuable.
Independent workers have much less external feedback and because of this are more likely to question the worth of themselves and what they are doing. Key quote on how independents feel:
Without external reminders of their worth, they find themselves pondering, “Is what I do valuable?” and “Why am I doing this?”
But my favorite quote is even deeper from a philosophical standpoint:
“The dark night of the soul is really the existential question of, you know, am I making a difference?”
According to the article, independent workers use a number of tactics to deal with this anxiety. Key quote:
Ashford’s team found that to make their work life psychologically sustainable, independent workers craft physical and social spaces that infuse their work lives with a sense of meaning. To ward off existential anxieties, they connect to place, routine, people and purpose.
I have to say we've never specifically looked at the issue of existential anxiety in our research.
But we've heard similar things in our work. In particular we often hear about the loneliness and fear associated with being self-employed. It's often described to us as working without a safety net.
We've also heard about the importance of place, routine, people and purpose.
We think these needs are a key reason coworking facilities have been so successful - they provide independents with supportive places and access to people.
Despite the "touchy-feely" aspects of this (I'm a data guy), I think this is an important topic that needs more research. It's exciting to see a University of Michigan team digging into it.