An Online Business Or A Day Job: Which Income Source Is More Stable?

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Today, I wanted to talk about an interesting conversation that I had the other day with my good friend Rebecca (not her real name) about income stability. This past year, she was laid off from her job at a private consulting firm.

Leaning Tower Of PisaAnd it happened so suddenly that she didn’t really see it coming and was left completely unprepared. She didn’t have a backup plan. She didn’t have another job lined up.

And while she had a reasonable amount of savings in her bank account, her lifestyle was calibrated towards a high paying professional salary.

Because she was reluctant to cut back on her expenditures, her first instinct was to look for another job at a different firm but the economy was bad so there were very few jobs available.

Months went by and she still couldn’t find any employment and she eventually got to the point where she even considered getting a job as a sales clerk to make ends meet.

Then one day out of the blue, she got a call from a former business client who needed some consulting work done on the side. And for the first time, she experienced the sheer joy of receiving the full billable amount for her services instead of a flat salary.

At her previous firm, she was getting paid far less than what she was billing out to clients and it was a great feeling to keep all of that money for herself.

Low and behold, she discovered that she could work much fewer hours and still make a decent living as an independent consultant. And thus, she decided to start her own private practice.

Is Your Day Job More Stable?

handcuffs

Since her layoff, her practice has been doing reasonably well. While she still hasn’t made as much as her original salary, business has been fairly steady and she’s had a lot more free time to spend with her friends and family.

Recently, her sister gave birth to a daughter and she’s had the opportunity to spend a lot of priceless time with her niece. Overall, her lifestyle has been as good as it has ever been.

That’s why I was completely shocked when she told me that she was considering going back to work at a corporate firm, a job that would require her to work many more hours than she was working today.

When I asked her the reason for abandoning her private practice, here’s what she said.

The income from a job is so much more stable than running your own business. I need more work and monetary stability in my life.

While I didn’t agree with her opinion, her words did get me thinking. Do I consider my online businesses stable income? How does my J-O-B compare in terms of stability to my ecommerce store and/or my blog?

As it stands, I’m in a unique position to answer this question because I happen to work full time and operate 3 online businesses. Here’s my own personal take when I compare my job to each one of my online businesses.

My Ecommerce Store

Bumblebee Linens

Out of my blog, my job and my online store course, my online store is the most stable income source of them all. Sure, my traffic is somewhat dependent on Google and other external factors, but it’s been growing very steadily for the past 5-6 years.

At this point, my shop has enough word of mouth and a decent enough repeat customer rate to stand on its own. Recently, I checked my analytics data and discovered that almost 30% of my sales are from direct traffic alone which I’m pretty happy with!

Even if I were to lose out on all other forms of traffic, my family and I could still live on 30% of our current earnings.

To be fair though, my day job is pretty stable too since I carry proprietary knowledge over the design for the products that my company sells.

While I still could be laid off at any time, the company would have to be doing very poorly in order for something drastic to happen.

Anyways at a 20000 ft level, the reason I ultimately consider my online store to be my most stable income source is due to the following reasons:

  • I can never get laid off (though my wife could potentially fire me:))
  • I have decent visibility into future sales. Don’t get me wrong. My business could still go south, but I would be able to see the warning signs well before the apocalypse.
  • I’m in control of my own sales. If my revenues ever were to decrease, I could do something about it. The power is in my hands.

Also, I have a much higher monetary upside with my online store versus a steady paycheck from my day job. As it stands today, my online store makes many times my salary at work so even if things were to go bad, the profits would still be good enough to live comfortably.

My Blog

MyWifeQuitHerJob

Gauging the monetary stability of my blog is a little trickier since I earn most of my money from affiliate revenue and advertising. A good portion of my traffic does come from search which can fluctuate quite drastically at any given time.

However, one thing that Google can never take away from me is my email list. In fact, I would argue that my blog is as stable as my day job simply due to my email list alone.

Whenever I need some extra traffic, I can send out an email blast. If I have a new product for sale or if I want to bolster sales of an existing product, I can send out a mass email as well.

Furthermore, I have several affiliate arrangements with vendors where the payout is recurring on a per customer basis. This means that I get an ongoing percentage cut of the revenues for every customer that I sign up.

Earning a residual versus a lump sum payout tends to make my revenues more predictable from month to month. As a result, I consider my blog income to be pretty stable as well.

Overall however, I don’t consider the earnings from my blog to be on the same level of stability as my specific day job, but only because my blog has only been earning significant revenue for the past 2-3 years.

Ask me this question again in few more years when I’ve established a longer track record and I might have a better answer for you.

My Online Store Course

Create a Profitable Online Store

Finally, I have my online store course. Out of all of my businesses, this one fluctuates the most but I still consider it steady enough to depend on the money coming in from month to month.

In many respects, the performance of my course is very closely tied with my blog. Because I funnel a lot of my readers over to my course, the more traffic my blog gets, the more course sales that I receive through my sales funnel.

And here’s the thing. At $600 a pop, I don’t really have to sell that many of these per month in order to make a living. If things ever got slow, I could go on a webinar frenzy in order to promote further sales.

Anyways as it stands, I don’t really push my course much at all and it still sells extremely well.

Conclusion

If you can tell from the tone of this article, I consider my online businesses to be as stable if not more stable than my day job. But in many respects, my situation is somewhat special.

I just happen to be working in a field that is very hot right now and has a scarcity of talent in the Silicon Valley. So even if I were to get laid off, I could probably find another job quite easily.

However when I think about my friend Rebecca, I honestly think she should give her private practice more of a chance. Getting another day job can wait and if anything, employers will be more likely to hire her in the future if they see that she can run a successful practice on her own.

Do you consider your online business to be more stable than a job? I’d love to hear your opinions.

photo credit: Connor Tarter

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35 thoughts on “An Online Business Or A Day Job: Which Income Source Is More Stable?”

  1. I have a friend that has her own IT consulting business with her husband. They have so much control over their time that they take two month long vacations to the most exotic places in the world. I asked her the same question about her view on owning a business vs holding a corporate job. She told me that owning a business is way more stable because she has 15 clients and the chances of all of them firing her is slim. When you work for corporate you effective have only one client. Diversification works for big and small business alike.

    1. That’s great to hear! My first thought was that they clearly they don’t have kids yet:) But there’s a lot of truth to your friend’s answer. Owning a business with many customers is a good form of diversification.

  2. I have been laid-off (or fired, same thing) three times. None of them made any sense and the last one the boss sold the company, got his fat payday and didn’t really care about the rest of us.

    Working for someone else is no more secure than working for yourself. The thing is, you have to wear more hats and work smarter if you’re doing your own thing.

    But the payoff is much greater!

    1. Hi Rus,

      I would definitely agree that you need to be able to wear more hats, but even more important, you need to have the necessary drive and willingness to learn. I don’t believe that selling things online is rocket science by any means.

  3. Steve,

    Thanks for reinforcing my belief in entrepreneurship! I have been working diligently on my consulting business and a consulting course. I get several calls from local recruiting firms every week :)
    As tempting as it is, I see the value in putting the work in. I have had about 600 visitors to both of my sites in the last 3 months. For someone who was entrenched in corporate and knew nothing about entrepreneurship until last Fall that’s not bad at all!
    I wish we could see a case study on Rebecca. In fact that’s something I want to present in my course. Case studies of IT consultants in the real world.
    Keep inspiring others!

    Best,
    Kay

    1. Hi Kay,

      Congratulations on your progress. Based on your comment, it sounds like you have a great attitude towards your business so I have confidence in your success:)

  4. Thanks Steve for another encouraging post. I’ve made the transition to being self-employed and while it’s been a slow start, having more flexibility has really improved my lifestyle.

    1. Thanks Derek. The funny thing about businesses is that they tend to grow exponentially so what is slow and small today has the potential to be something much bigger tomorrow.

  5. Renee M says:

    I am still in the early stages and just got my website name. I am still working at my job but I dont make a lot of money at my job as it is. Paycheck to paycheck is no fun. My question is about the medical insurance. I would assume your family is covered under your work plan. What did your friend do about insurance. Do you have any suggestions. That is the only thing that gives me pause. Thank you so much for inspiring me.

    1. Hi Renee,

      We’ll have to see how Obamacare works out, but I’ve done some research for health insurance for my family and it’s not that bad. Before you starting worrying about it, you should go out and get some quotes. The price will vary wildly depending on the level of coverage but you should be able to find something that meets your needs.

  6. Whitney says:

    Hi Steve,
    I love this sort of topic. Makes me feel great for having my own business!

    It is a common thought that having your own business is “risky”, and having a job is more “secure”. But when you think about it, it is just the opposite.

    I was underemployed and couldn’t get a job for a whole year. I got rejected from so many interviews. I’m now running a business and making more money than I ever could. And a business is actually worth money to sell! You can’t sell your job.

    Love love love running a business. I think everyone should invest their time in learning how to run a business, and definitely teach their kids about business.

    1. Congrats Whitney!

      You touched on something that I forgot to mention and it completely slipped my mind that my web properties are all assets that can be sold later on down the line.

  7. Mary says:

    I can take early retirement in 2 years. I am considering opening an online
    business now while I’m still employed to see how it goes.
    My main concern is being on my own for insurance benefits – that could
    be quite costly on my own.

    1. Hi Mary,
      There’s really nothing to lose in starting an online business because it is so inexpensive. Let me know if you need instructions on how to get started.

  8. I choose my own business rather than working to another company.
    The main reason is passion and challenge.
    I can have unlimited opportunities with my own business rather than as employee.
    But that just my personal opinion. :)

  9. Hi Steve,

    Full time online guy here so no comparison, but you make some great points! I like the idea of being responsible for it all. Also, the illusion of job stability has crippled more than one person; people forget that those in charge can terminate their position immediately; no such thing as a steady paycheck until you build a sustainable business which grows like clockwork.

    This is why I prefer my online businesses. I went through lean years for sure but I at least know that if I move into specific acts each day, I will prosper, and I am in charge of it all. Like you said, Google cannot take away your list and they cannot take away or self hosted blogs either 😉

    Thanks for sharing Steve!

    Ryan

    1. I think it largely depends on what you do for your day job as certain professions are more stable than others. For example, I think doctors in general have pretty good job stability.

      But in most cases, your own business will provide more stability once it’s off its feet

  10. Hey Steve,

    I’m in the same boat as yourself and Ryan. My friends and sometimes family ask me why I won’t or don’t want to work for a stable company? I’ve seen it over and over again that a company uses an employee like a pond in a game of chess until they get what they need out of them. I don’t ever want to feel like someone else has control of my “job” but rather that I take it completely into my own hands.

    1. Hey Russell,

      I’ve also found that most people including friends and family who are used to working a day job tend not to be able to comprehend the entrepreneurial route. That’s why the best way to become an entrepreneur is to hang out with other like minded entrepreneurs.

  11. Nice article. You have described everything very clearly. I have quit my daily job. Now, I am working as a full time freelancer from past 1.5 years. And, I really enjoyed it :-)

  12. Great article and a real eye opener. I don’t work full-time online yet…although am working towards my goal of working for myself.

    I think most people are geared to getting a JOB because that is what society teaches us. While I don’t think that a job is more stable…people tend to think it is.

    The bad thing about a job is that you can lose it without even knowing it’s going to happen. YOU are at the mercy of others are in control. Which in my opinion is never a good thing.

    There’s nothing wrong with holding a job if you do something you love. But I think you should always have something in your backup for any unforeseen issues…like getting laid off. Great article, thanks for sharing.

  13. Hello, Steve, I’m pleased that I recently discovered your site. I found that freelancing was an effective way to transition from full-time work to self-employment. (I was an advertising copywriter.) As a freelancer, you’re working in the office with the full-time staff, but you only remain for the duration of the assignment or pitch and then you have to seek out the next opportunity. It’s kind of like training wheels that prepare you for the volatility and uncertainty of self-employment. You learn the practical details, e.g. shopping for your own health insurance, and you also get a sense if you’re sufficiently self-reliant to cut yourself loose from the corporate world and if you’re emotionally comfortable handling unpredictability, self-doubt, spending money without seeing any immediate returns, etc. etc.

  14. A job is usually more stable, as the income is concerned, since you have a paycheck every month. The problem with jobs is they can sometimes ‘vanish’ and it’s painful to get back on the saddle.

    I’ve been a small business owner for 4 years now. While my income is not ‘stable’, I do earn 3-4 times more than when I was employed and have more personal time than I did previously.

    If you are SUCCESSFUL with freelancing/business then you’ll be better, otherwise the stability won’t be there and you’d probably do better with a job.

  15. Hey man – Great post. I see you have “Big” ticket items that. Are these yours or did you license them? Do you participate in any affiliate networks? Will be great to know. Thanks – Felix

  16. Vins says:

    Hello Steve,

    I came across your story and was highly inspired by all the information you have published on your site so methodically about opening an online store. I aspire set up an online store too and have been researching on it since a while. I have some great connections (my family members and friends) in India who can send me some very scarcely available (in US) products in a very competitive price. All that’s been worked out.

    I’m basically a tech and have been working in software industry since last 15 years.. So setting up a site and developing a shopping cart would not be a challenge for me.

    The problem I have is I’m on H1B visa here and my wife is on H4 at the moment.. We have been contemplating on visiting an attorney’s office but before I do that I want to make sure I understand the online store business in its entirety.

    As I’ll not be having any physical address of my business (in the beginning at least), I still have to get it registered. Correct? Can you advise me what type of business I need to register it as?

    When my customers make a purchase online, do I need to have a “commercial” bank account in which the transaction will happen (from tax and IRS perspective) or I can have the money transferred in my personal account?

    Please advise.

    Thanks,
    Vins

    1. AB says:

      Vins, Being on H-1B/H-4 does not restrict you from being a business owner. As long as you maintain your status of H-1B, you are free to do other activities (abiding the civil law, of course!) That is what makes America great! My suggestion (and I am not an attorney) is you go with a proprietary business in your name (DBA – doing business as), but to be safe, and for a small fee (<$1000) you can go for an LLC route. This way you can have your wife also added as an owner and the income/loss can be pass through on your individual tax form.

      I suggest you check with an attorney for details, but congrats on the initiative, and all the best.

  17. It’s hard to say. When I was working in the highly cyclical financial services industry, there were a lot of booms and busts. People got fired all the time, but you could also be 30 years old and make $500,000+ for several years a swell.

    So I guess it depends on how much money are we talking about. If we are talking about making $50,000 a year online, that’s probably highly stable for those of us who’ve been around for a while. Just depends on income.

    Sam

  18. Aryei says:

    Hi Steve, I love your blog and have learnt a lot from it. I’m curious to know what your day job is (you mention it quite a bit without mentioning what it is), would you be so kind as to entertain my curiosity?

    Thanx in advance. Aryei

  19. D. Billy says:

    Let me shine some light on the other side for a change.

    I have had my own business but switched to being an employee again.
    The main reason was that it took me more time to run the business than to really do the things I loved. I had a webdesign firm and I also saw no difference in a boss telling me what to do or a customer. The only difference was that the boss would pay me regarding my opinion while most customers only paid after 120% satisfaction and then still waited for two months more.

    The freedom you have in your own business or employed job can be totally different depending on so many factors. In my job now as Marketing Manager of an Outdoor Firm I have far more freedom then I had in my own business.

    That said I have to agree that the idea of having my own business does tickle me again (or else I wouldn’t be on your website hihi). I have learned many things in my job now and also does my steady income provide me the backup to look around and try things without to much risk. I’m working 3 days now also to get some time to explore this further . And this brings me to my main point…

    For the sake of you own pleasure and that of the people around you please choose a webshop, website, blog or whatever that you are truly passionate about. Learning what that passion is though can be a lot more daunting then any business itself will ever be. If you have found your passion and read (and understood) Steve’s excellent articles then you are set to succeed.

  20. Javier says:

    Hi Steve. Thanks for taking the time to write your articles. They’d been very enlighting. Here’s the thing, my wife and I want to open our online shop. But we always find the same question. What will be the most profitable niche? Another issue is in which country to base our online store, because Venezuela is not the most reliable place to do it. Besides that we also want our income to be in dollars.
    Steve what can you recommend us? Big hug.

  21. I disagree Steve, at the minute my job is actually more stable and brings in more income than my side-business.

    1. That’s because it is a “side-business”. Anything you put first in your life or make a priority is going to prosper and show fruits than secondary activities.

  22. Online businesses are NOT more stable than a job. At a job, you do work and receive a set compensation per pay period. There are also other benefits like insurance, bonuses, and the like. Whether you work very hard or very little, your income will be stable.

    On the other hand, an online business is heavily dependent on the market and other external factors. Google could change an algorithm, your website could be hacked, you could receive a lot of charge backs/refund requests. You could also get featured in the media and receive an influx of new orders and traffic–no stability there.

    The key factor to achieve stability in the online world is to stick with it and focus primarily on one business at a time. Automation helps a lot. Online marketing is paramount.

    For anyone else who is just getting started in building their online business, you have to at least reach the point of getting feedback from prospects or customers.

    You’re not in business until you make your first sale.

    If you haven’t made your first sale, it’s probably because you don’t have a well written marketing plan. In fact, in the online world, just because you build it, doesn’t mean they will come.

    I hope to see in the near future you quitting your full time job once you realize you have no limits on income in regards to your online business.

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