Should I quit my job and start a business? (No)

dark early morningYou shouldn’t “should” anything.

After I googled “should I start a business,” it felt like the whole internet was trying to persuade me that indeed I should; that whatever job I had couldn’t possibly be better than running my own business, and that if I wasn’t working on a start-up already then obviously I had to “stop making excuses.”

My husband and I like the idea of having our own business one day. But currently, starting a business right now is not a good idea. We don’t have the money, and with a baby girl coming in Jan 2014, we’ll have a lot on our plate. We just recently got married (planned a wedding in three months which definitely soaked up all our energy during that time) and we’re still finishing up our apartment remodel. Don’t anyone dare tell me that we “should” be working on a startup or that if we’re not, we’re “making excuses.”

And what about you?

If you’re entertaining the idea of quitting your job to start a business, that idea didn’t come to you our of thin air.

Maybe you already had some side gig that was already gaining speed. If you have a promising side gig, and it’s growing at a rate that seriously makes you think you can make good money if you give it your full attention, then YES. YES, it would make sence to devote more time to it and develop it into a business. (Although quitting your job should probably wait a little more.)

Or maybe someone (Robert Kiyosaki, Ramit Sethi, your uncle?) planted it in your head. If you got the idea of starting your own business after a book, blogpost or YouTube video, and you feel hyper-excited about “independence,” “unlimited profit potential,” “making your own hours” or “no boss breathing down your neck”, the answer is NO. No, eagerly quitting your job to start a business is not a good idea.

I know because that’s exactly what I did after reading Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Within months of reading the book, I quit my job to start my own HR consulting company. I felt like I couldn’t do it fast enough! I got busy with the second-level stuff like finding financing, finding an office, setting up a website and ordering business cards. I was 24 when I started the company and 24 when I called it quits. Since I had rushed into it and didn’t bother to save up and finance myself, all I had left after the shut-down was debt. To pay it back, I spent the next 18 months living like a monk.

That’s not to say that independence or making your own hours is not possible. It is – but usually only after years of growing your business. (Although many businesses die out before they ever reach that sweet spot.) To adjust your expectations, take a note of this: You are starting a very young business, you’re not a corporation yet, so at first you will be really, really small. And all the sexy stuff doesn’t happen until you’re really, really big.

Think about the owner of that cute flower shop down town. Do you think she gets to make her own hours and only work when she feels like it? Do you think she really has “unlimited earning potential?” Her business is her livelihood, she is her own employee; and while no one actually tells her to be there each day at 7:00, she has to. Otherwise she won’t get paid. People with jobs get each weekend off, but that’s not the case for her – she has to be at her little flower shop each and every day. Again, no one’s forcing her to do it – she just can’t afford not to. As for her “unlimited earning potential,” yeah, that might be true if she opens a worldwide chain of flowershops. But that would be like me saying that you have unlimited earning potential at a job – which might be true if you get to be some really big-shot boss.

So the reality of the small business startup is that the owners have to work like they have nothing… because they really have nothing. The have to build everything from scratch. But many startup-owners don’t realize that; they start small yet act as if they are already big (e.g. working when they feel like it, buying expensive equipment, renting more space than they actually can afford). Maybe that’s why statistics say that over 90% of startups fail within the first year.

My point is not that no one should ever start a business. After all, there are people who make it and manage to grow their business to the point where they really do have independence and flexible hours and lots of money. I’m just saying, it takes a long while to get there.

But as I said in the beginning, it feels like the whole internet is trying to persuade you to start a business. I stumbled upon this one site that was a particularly good example. Here’s what they (http://www.paul-hurst.com/start-a-business.html ) had to say about starting your own business:

“Please seriously consider how running a business could change your life.

Even if you are currently very happy with your current employment, what would happen if you become ill, disabled or redundant?”

To which I would ask back – even if you had a small startup business right now, what would happen if you “become ill, disabled or reduntant?”

“You may be happy with your current income, but does your current job really excite you? Do you wake up each morning ready and rearing to go to work?”

Hell no! But why would you think that if you had a small startup business right now, you’d wake up each morning “ready and rearing” to go to work?

“Life is too short to stick in a job you hate,

True.

…especially if you can earn the same (and probably a huge amount more) doing something you love.”

Does anyone here think a business is all about “doing something you love?” No it’s not.

I teach dance class some evenings after work. I love dancing and I love teaching, but that doesn’t mean that I’m always in the mood for it at the scheduled time. I mean, it’s just like sex: you love it and the desire for it is hardwired into you. But how would you feel if you HAD TO have sex each and every day at 3 in the afternoon? Sure, sometimes the schedule and your mood would coincide and you’d have a blast. The rest of the time? It will feel much like any other task or obligation.

“you can earn the same (and probably a huge amount more)”

You might. Or you might not. Most likely – not, if you trust statistics.

I would definitely agree with paul-hurst.com on one thing, though:

“Music was a hobby for me, but the business took off slowly in the background, until I couldn’t ignore it any longer.”

Yep. That’s a very proper way to do it.

I think the safest way to start a business is to start it like a side-gig. See if it grows – particularly if it grows to the point where you “can’t ignore it any longer” – and then you can prepare to make the switch from employee to business owner.

It’s often advertised that having a business is the only way for you to have independence, make your own hours and work without a boss breathing down your neck. But I think that if you put as much effort into building your career as you would put into building a business, such things will be available to you through your job. Maybe you’ll have to do a little negotiation first, but you’d have to do the same if you ran a business. (See also 13 tips: How to negotiate a higher starting salary for a new job during interview )

The terms “job” and “business” are very relative. Mopping floors at McDonalds is a job. Mowing lawns is a business. Which one is better? Doing accounting of UPS services is a job. Running a clothes shop is a business. Which one is better? Hiring people at HP is a job. Writing ads is a business. Which one is better?

Which one is better depends on how happy you feel overall. You could make more money as an accountant at UPS than running a clothes shop, but just because you’d earn more doesn’t mean you’d be happier. And vice versa: you could make more money through your ad-writing business than as a hiring manager at HP, but what if your heart is at working in rectruitment?

There are good jobs and bad jobs, jobs that pay well and jobs that don’t, jobs that are inspiring and jobs that are not. Also, there is good business and bad business, business that pays well and business that doesn’t, business that’s inspiring and business that’s not.

You know what I want to have? More money and more family time. I don’t really care whether my schedule is flexible or not – what I care about is having more time with my family. And I don’t care whether I do something I love or not – I care about having more money. Besides, you can never love everything about what you do (whether you do it as a job or as a business). There will be things you love and things you don’t love, so make your peace with that now.

Again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t start a business and I’m not advocating that jobs are better than startups. My point is that whether you start a business or work a job, those are just means to an end. If the end is independence, does it really matter whether you get it through a job or through a business? If the end is more money, does it really matter whether you get it through a job or through a business?

Just remember: you shouldn’t “should” anything.

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2 thoughts on “Should I quit my job and start a business? (No)”

  1. Absolutely right.
    Yesterday I had a talk with a friend of mine and we talked about jobs.
    When I told him that I’ve had only two weeks of illness leave for 14 years working, he said that I’m crazy. And he couldn’t understand that I like my job and I don’t need to “work for myself”.
    My wife started a clothes shop four months ago and last month she didn’t sell enough to pay the rent and the salary of the other seller. Still the lady that owns the place earned 400 levs without doing anything. And the seller did get her salary (only 240 levs) without selling enough to make a profit at least equal to the salary. And my wife, who is happy “business owner” had to work in the shop and go to by clothes for the shop and as a result is 500 levs on the red side. Maybe a year later she will earn enough to have a 300 levs salary for her own and several years later she may earn 1000 and have a larger shop and so on. But now she works 6-7 days a week and doesn’t earn any money as a result.
    On the other side I am an employee and earn quite good money for 40 hours a week and I do only what I like – writing software all day. I don’t need to know how the employer finds clients or where the money come from. I just work and feel fine.

  2. Hey, what a perfect example of what I was trying to illustrate! :) Unfortunatelly, there are more people in this situation than we know about, because people are loud with success and quiet with mistakes. For every successful and well-known business story, there are at least 20 other stories that ended badly, but people don’t talk about those. We’re too proud.

    Like you said, your wife’s shop could really take off in a year. Or two years. Or never. You don’t know.

    So for me, there are two questions: 1) how much money you make and 2) how much time that costs you. If you make a lot of money with little work, then it doesn’t matter whether you got that through business or whether you got that through a job. There are some really sweet jobs where you do very little work and get paid lots of money. Then there are horrible jobs where you work your ass off and get paid just enough so you can eat and shower and show up for work again tomorrow.

    It’s not about what you do. It’s about what you GET.

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