On Our Own

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

We are often assured that self-employment is a battle against large odds. We hear discouraging statistics: Ninety-five percent of all new businesses fail, we are told, and fewer than three hundred freelance writers make a living at it. Dickson disagrees. His research, including statistics from the Census Bureau, the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Social Security Board, demonstrates that more than 10 million people are self-employed, and the number is on the rise. This is a reversal of a one-hundred-year trend away from the family-owned farm and business. A twenty-five-page appendix charts these statistics in a question-and-answer format.

In addition to his statistical research, Dickson conducted an informal survey of more than two hundred self-employed people, asking open-ended questions and eliciting many comments. From these responses, he has found some of the major reasons why people strike out on their own and the major problems they face. Advantages include being one’s own boss, flexible work hours, and freedom from the hassles of corporate decision-making. “Benefit shock” is the most serious problem; this is defined as the shock when the self-employed person realizes the impact of loss of group health insurance, paid holidays, and other corporate benefits. The average self-employed person works longer hours and makes less money than his corporate-employed counterpart. Other problems include loss of job security, credit difficulties, and the many laws and regulations which must be followed. Yet most of those who have chosen the independent path say they would not return to corporate life. The benefits outweigh the problems.

Although this is not intended as a scholarly work, the information compiled by Dickson will be valuable to researchers. Dickson clearly favors self-employment and persuasively celebrates the freedom it brings. His book is easy to read and will inspire not a few readers to venture out on their own.