Hanging Out Your Shingle — The Upside

Breaking out on my own, as many other people would tell you, was the most frightening and most rewarding thing I have ever done in my career thus far. I know that everyone has their own story about why and how they made the jump. For me, I always had it in the back of my mind that it was something I would like to try. And to this day, things have worked out pretty well.

When considering whether to make the plunge, simple economics make a good point. When you work at a firm, generally about one third of the revenue for your work goes into your pocket. The remaining amount goes for overhead and to pay the partners. When you work for yourself, you collect the whole amount, but you still have to pay your overhead.

Thankfully, patent work does not require large conference rooms or offices to entertain and impress clients. Over 2/3 of my clients are out of state and I handle them purely with phone, fax, email, and FedEx. A cell phone and laptop (with internet connection) and I am in business.

But look again at the economics. Rather than doing $3 of work to make $1, you do $3 of work to make $3. Looking at it the other way, to keep the same income, you only need to do 1/3 the amount of work. I look at it in the second manner. 1/3 the work for the same amount of money. (This does not hold up in practice, however. It is more like 1/2 of the work for the same money, once things are up and running.)

What does this really mean? For me, I am no longer under a huge time constraint to handle a client matter. Because I am not being pounded to make my billable hours, I can spend the extra time on each issue, chat with the clients longer, pay them a personal visit every so often, and concentrate on giving the highest quality job possible.

Oh by the way, since I have miniscule overhead, I can also charge less than the big firms and still give superior results and faster turn around. Not a bad value proposition.

Tomorrow I look at the downside, which is not insignificant.