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No boss, no breaks

Say goodbye to a boss; say hello to the never-ending workweek.

More and more people are handing in their brass name plates and striking out on their own.

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But it takes a lot to get a new business off the ground - a lot of money, energy, enterprise, and time.

This growing breed of workers, some economists say, could be a factor in why work hours are rising.

"An entrepreneurial lifestyle is one of work, work, work," says John Challenger of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas in Chicago. "They have to do everything from soup to nuts. And most entrepreneurs will work over 70 hours a week."

Take Michelle Devlin.

For the past three years, the Houston resident has worked as an independent contractor out of her home for a marketing research company.

To bring in a little more money, she, her sisters, and her mother started a business. They buy overstocked merchandise from manufacturers and find buyers for it.

It entails plenty of phone calls, research, meetings, and lots of hours. And she's doing it while still working for the marketing research company.

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She's now putting in 80 hours a week - 12-hour days, plus weekends.

"My goal is to be logged on to my computer for my real job by 8 a.m.," Ms. Devlin explains.

She works all morning. Takes a 30-minute lunch break, then spends all afternoon on her own business. She breaks for dinner with her husband, then goes back to her market-research work.

"I have to be logged off my computer by 10:30 [p.m.] Texas time. After that the main frame at the company shuts down," she says.

Once 10:30 p.m. rolls around, she goes back to work on her start-up business and usually doesn't close shop for another couple of hours. "One of my sisters came over and we were up until 2 in the morning," Devlin says.

Despite the hours, Devlin's business has yet to turn a profit. But she hopes that will change soon.

"I think it will be the kind of thing where all of a sudden it will happen."

And she says her hours are hardly unusual among her entrepreneurial friends. "Everybody's trying to make some more money - they're afraid of retirement - and they want to find some way to get out of the corporate world where they can be their own boss."

Americans work more . . .

Average annual

hours worked

Country per worker

1990 1995

United States 1,943 1,952

Japan* 2,031 1,898

Germany** 1,616 1,559

France 1,668 1,631

United Kingdom 1,773 1,735

Canada 1,738 1,737

Australia 1,869 1,876

Finland 1,764 1,775

New Zealand 1,820 1,843

Norway 1,432 1,424

Spain 1,829 1,807

Sweden 1,480 1,544

*Figure in 1995 column refers to 1994 data

** Western Germany

Source: OECD

. . . and play less

Legally mandated paid vacation in European countries

Days per year

Germany 15

Ireland 15

United States* 16

Switzerland 20

Netherlands 20

Belgium 20

Norway 21

France 25

Sweden 25

Finland 25

Austria 30

Spain 30

*Average, not legally mandated

Source: Economic Policy Institute, "State of Working America"

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