What Does “Being your Own Boss” Really Mean?

A Rarely Voiced Perspective on Personal and Professional Self-Governance

A split image that contrasts a traditional office environment with an entrepreneurial workspace.

“I want to be my own boss” is an aspiration that motivates so many people, both young and old — while also selling 1,000,000’s of mediocre books and drop-shipping master classes. Professionals working within hierarchical organizations often fantasize about attaining career autonomy, as if it were a state of enlightenment. They believe wholeheartedly that life would be better if “they didn’t have to answer to anyone.”

Here’s a less commonly voiced perspective on the matter, both from personal and professional standpoints.


First, ask yourself this question; are you not already your own boss? Contemplate the following:

  • Who is responsible for your affairs?
  • When you want something, who gives it to you?
  • When you face a problem, who solves it for you?

For any adult that’s able-bodied and sound-minded, the answers can — and possibly should — be, “me.” Unless you’re of the camp that considers freewill a hoax, every individual is their own steward, yet must endure and navigate the social and political consequences of their environment.

In the domain of self, being your “own boss” is acted out through the delegation — or attribution — of responsibility. Meaning that, should you take on the responsibility of not only your actions, but more importantly the handling of that which simply happens to you in life, only then can you embody the spirit of “being ones own boss.”

With this understanding, the professional implications can be considered more precisely.


It’s rarely, if ever, articulated this way. However, we can actually choose who we want our boss to be in a diverse economy. Here are the options:

  1. Employers
  2. Investors
  3. Boards of Directors
  4. Customers
  5. Clients
  6. Employees
  7. (Maybe I’m missing others…)

Regardless of your role, the symbiotic nature of any market will quickly assign a “boss” to every participant in it. So absolute is this dynamic that the only way to escape it is to abstain from participating altogether.

Should you become an e-commerce entrepreneur, your customers become your bosses. As a VC-funded startup founder, you’ll soon enjoy the politics and dynamics of working to please your investor “bosses”. As the CEO of a major company, you are beholden to a Board of Directors. As a freelancer, onboard your first few clients to quickly discover who is in charge. These examples can run on…

With this in mind, it becomes clear that the ideal of “being your own boss” is not about attaining a position nor self-constructing one; all positions — or roles — in a market or organization have a counterpart-boss, in appropriate form. Being subjugated by someone or some group is an inevitability when participating in an economy.

Being Your Own Boss

If you accept the logic and ideas I’ve shared, “being your own boss” can only be one thing; a mindset.

Whether your work directly serves managers, investors, boards, clients, customers, or employees, recognize that your work is always a service. Whomever that service is intended for is the boss, as they determine whether your work meets their standards. Their feedback, in its many forms, will either guide or compel your actions.

While this all may seem to be rocketing towards a terribly depressing conclusion, it’s not meant to be. Quite the opposite, in-fact.

Whether you’re an employee, entrepreneur, investor or consumer, “being your own boss” is as attainable professionally as it is personally. The key in professional endeavors is to commit to the following.

  • I am responsible for my work.
  • When I want something, I attain it.
  • When I have a problem, I solve it.