Don’t give up your day job – part 2

Working for yourself is not an all-or-nothing proposition. If you have been able to accumulate enough money to live on for six months and additional funds to launch your new business, then you might very well abandon your day job and succeed as a self-employed business owner. Otherwise, you won’t.

Far too many of us have started a business with inadequate funds and hoped to make a go of our dream by working incredible hours, only to find that the law of gravity has not been repealed and that credit cards will only carry us so far.

There are an infinity of mistakes that can be made in any business and our chances of success are increased greatly if we have a decent financial cushion to recover from a few of them without going under. If you are spread so thin financially that one mistake will put you under, you are merely gambling, not investing in your future.

If you continue doing your best with your day job, your manager’s insanities, and the interminable bs staff meetings and useless reports, while developing a business of your own, you guarantee that your family will go on eating while you reach for a more rewarding game in life.

This is not for everyone, because you are essentially working two jobs at once and many companies expect you to work 150% on the job they hired you to do. They expect that because the organization spends too much of its working day in meetings and useless report writing to get much useful work done.

However, there are a few jobs that deserve 150% of your effort. If you have one of them, you probably think about work on a 24×7 basis because you are being allowed to create and use all of your abilities. You do not need another job. You probably have difficulty remembering that you have a family and a life outside of work. 🙂

If you have the all-too-common dead-end job in a company that is slowly losing ground, you owe it to yourself to look out for your future. You may not feel up to looking for another job in the same industry for fear of being discovered and dismissed, but you had better do something soon. You can see the handwriting on the wall, but you sit frozen in your cubicle hoping that you can make it through another quarter. You need to investigate a second job or the possibility of working for yourself.

The mere effort of investigating new opportunities will revitalize you and will get your creative juices flowing. Your efforts to develop or discover a viable business model may bring to light all sorts of skills you had forgotten about. It may take several tries to find a business model that works but you have the luxury to try and try again if you have a day job to support you.

You may also realize that your creativity has been stifled by a manager who does not want anyone to make waves. Fearing for his job, he does everything he can to stifle ideas that might require him to make a decision or worse, to propose a change to upper management.

Once you start making your own decisions and dealing with the repercussions and the successful results, your confidence will soar. When your self-employment starts generating real income, you will know when it is time to phase out the day job.

Even if you find that you eventually need to return to working for others, the freedom of being on your own is not forgotten. If you learn from your mistakes, you will be better prepared for the next time you go out on your own. The chances are that you will eventually make it. The freedom and responsibility of self-employment is almost impossible to resist.

How many of you made more than one attempt to develop your own business?

Of those that did so, how many found that each time was easier?

Did anyone try once, and having failed never tried again?

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0 Responses to Don’t give up your day job – part 2

  1. Carl says:

    I did try once. In the late 80’s I was in the IT consulting practice of a large accounting firm. We were implementing accounting systems for small to mid-size companies. My consulting rate and billable hours were off the charts. I was making a ton of money for the company and decided it was time to do it for myself. See anything missing here?

    Unfortunately, I looked only at the business side and not at the “what do I enjoy doing” side. In a gold rush we get gold fever, and the group’s fever keeps us all digging, and the gold keeps us motivated with rich re-enforcement. The momentum continued as I landed my first few contracts but as I solo’d, and went about my day without the background of my working group’s fevered pitch, I learned very quickly what it was that I did and did not enjoy doing. I discovered that installing, training, and digging clients out of messes, while financially rewarding and previously the rich fodder of war stories at the office, was something that I hated spending my time doing. What I loved was the intense creativity of software development and bringing the new creation to my client and watching it change their working lives.

    But that wasn’t the model that was making the money. Talk about a devastating epiphany! I did land some programming gigs, and so long as they were solo gigs and involved creating something from scratch I was happy. As I focused on what I liked and stopped marketing the less satisfying stuff that marketplace was so easily buying, I found my sales cycles getting longer, more complex and less fruitful. In the end I went back to the day job but with some very deep insights and very gratified for the experience to learn so much about myself.

    After several years I have distilled this self understanding into the simple and irrefutable knowledge that I enjoy independence and creativity. Using that self knowledge as a guiding principle has allowed me to look beyond the technology field and find a few other areas that are very appealing to me. For years I have been building, tinkering, and thought-testing a busines/life model around that insight and find that when “I try it on” it wears comfortably.

    The next step is to put it on and go back outside…

  2. Dave Opton says:

    I have been in my own business now for just under 18 years. I would love to say that this was all the result of a “grand plan” or finally getting up the courage to “try it,” but it wasn’t.

    If the company for which I had been working had not been bought and as a result my job eliminated, I would probably still be catching the 6:25 to New York and hating every click of the wheels on the tracks as we headed into Grand Central.

    As it turned out,when I found myself on the candidate side of the process, the unfairness I saw and the anger I felt at how people who were unemployed were treated in the marketplace led to what has evolved into the most exciting and rewarding work experience I have ever had.

    Every night no matter how tired I might be from dealing with whatever has happened I think to myself just how very fortunate I am to be involved in something where I can make my living doing something that helps people.

  3. Girish says:

    Great post David! You’ve hit it right on the spot. If I had to count every attempt I made at running my own show, I would never try that again. But if I look at how far I went each time, its been a great learning experience. But everytime a day job is a necessity as i have to feed my family and my current liabilities. What seems to work for me is to hold on to a day job (one that does’nt ask for my life, but may pay less), at the same time use it to lessen my liabilities and gradually make the switch to doing what pleases me.

  4. Tim says:

    Ouch! I did leap. I did crater. I am still at the introspection stage so I will let you know how it ends. I was totally unprepared, did not know my market and every other mistake that you can think of. I am working hard to recover the ground I lost, but it has not been easy. The sad thing is I wouldn’t have listened to myself before I started. Be prepared for the bottom to drop out and have a plan.

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