Publisher John’s perspective on why not everyone is meant to be self-employed

By John Toth / Bulletin Publisher

It’s not for everyone, but many of us who have done it for a long time would not change back to the old ways.

It has its ups and downs, insecurities, dry spells, frustrations, rewards, pressures and long hours, to name a few characteristics. And, I cannot use the EZ form at tax time, which is a bummer.

Being self-employed is all this and everything else. That’s what I have been doing since 1995, which is when I walked away from my writing job at the Houston Chronicle.

I forgot. You also have to be a jack of all trades, including computer technology, which was my worst subject in college many years ago.

I don’t mean that you have to be able to take a laptop apart and put it back together – although that helps – but you have to know how to protect the product and switch gears on the fly so that the paper can still be published, regardless of what glitches you have.

I quit the Chronicle in 1995 after Sharon and I had our third child, and have not had an employer since. Actually, I have dozens of them each week, and whish I had more, but you know what I mean.

We started The Bulletin with a set of early day computers and printers, and we went at it thinking that if we fail, we can always go back to earning paychecks.

I often joke that when someone asks me where I work, sometimes I could say that I am unemployed, because there are some weeks when being self-employed and unemployed is the same thing. And when we get sick, well, that’s a whole other ballgame.

Which is why I am typing this column nursing itchy ears and a scratchy throat. Yes, I feel like dirt, but being self-employed, the show must go on.

I tried to call in sick, but nobody picked up the phone. I left a message, but nobody checked it. When I finally did, I told myself to get to work. Then I filed a complaint against myself for not providing sick days. Then I threw the complaint away.

It’s tough wearing multiple hats.

When my kids were in youth sports, I was frequently tagged to coach a team because I was the guy who didn’t have to go to work in the morning. John is self-employed, he has plenty of time. I did, but I made up the work at night. Then I stopped coaching because I needed some sleep.

I actually love what I do, otherwise I would not have been doing it since 1995. I have had plenty of chances to return to paychecks, but have stayed the course with The Bulletin. This is my dream paper, the one I wanted to start in college.

I started a couple of boring papers for different organizations, and was an editor of the campus paper, but I could never convince others that my concept would work. This is my concept, and it has been going on 18 years. Hey, college buddies, it works.

There is one more negative about self-employment that I have to mention – health insurance. I have been paying it since 1995, and it’s the hardest check I write each month. I feel like I am throwing it all away. When I go to the doctor, it always costs more than what the policy covers.

There is a positive to this, though. The premiums go against corporation profits, so I get a deduction each year. The negative is that I have no clue about how this tax stuff works and had to hire an accountant.

The positives so far outweigh the negatives. Oops, I just sneezed on the keyboard. I hope you don’t get sick. I sneezed again. How come sneezes usually come in pairs? There is another column idea. I never stop working.