What Everyone Should Know About Starting A Business Vs Working A Day Job

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If you read a lot of business and entrepreneurship blogs like I do, you’ve probably noticed that almost every article out there glorifies quitting your day job.

Quit that soul sucking job of yours and call your own shots!
Why work for someone else when you can be your own boss?
Fire your boss and live happily ever after.

What Everyone Should Know About Starting A Business Vs Working A Day Job

Here’s the thing. Even though my blog is called “My Wife Quit Her Job”, I’m actually not “anti day job” at all. In fact, I’m a strong proponent of working full time for someone else if that’s what makes you happy.

And I can definitely see the merits of working for someone else versus being your boss.

If you’ve followed my blog for the past several years, you’re probably aware that I work a full time job as a microprocessor designer and I run 3 online businesses at the same time.

In fact, I’m kind of in this unique position to talk about the pros and cons of being self employed versus working for someone else because I do both every single day.

And here’s the truth. There are some days where I think entrepreneurship sucks and there are other days where I think working for someone else sucks. And then there are days where I think both suck:)

Anyway, because there is so much anti day job sentiment out there, I thought that I’d chime in and provide my own take of the pros and cons of working a day job versus running your own business from the perspective of someone who does both simultaneously.

The Pros Of Working A Day Job

cubicle
One thing that I truly enjoy about my day job is that it allows me to do things that I would probably not be able to do as a small business owner.

Designing computer hardware and microprocessors requires a lot of up front capital to start. And not only is it challenging from a technical perspective, but the large scale projects that I work on often require a lot of infrastructure and collaboration.

In fact, the scope of my hardware design projects are so large that there’s no way that I could afford to do them on my own without a huge infusion of capital and manpower.

The other thing that I like about working for someone else is that I can almost completely check myself out when I’m not in the office. For example when I go on vacation from work, I’m truly on vacation. I don’t feel obligated to do any work and I can fully relax and enjoy myself.

And of course there are always the other perks associated with working for a large corporation such as health insurance, benefits, a consistent paycheck and a whole gaggle of coworkers to hang out with.

The Cons Of Working A Day Job

Pink Slip
But on the flip side, relying on your day job as your only source of income is not only risky but nerve wracking as well. Recently, we had a small layoff at my company and one of my friends/coworkers was one of the victims.

Here’s the sad thing. A few weeks ago, this coworker and I just had this long conversation about the skyrocketing costs of going to college. His daughter was starting college in the fall and he was barely going to be able to scrape by with the large quarterly tuition payments.

And then BAAM! One morning he showed up to work and noticed that the door to his office was locked and then he was promptly escorted out of the building.

His steady paycheck instantly vanished just like that. He went from earning a healthy salary with benefits to ZERO INCOME!

The reality of any day job is that you can be released at any time. And you are at the mercy of your boss when it comes time to get evaluated for raises and bonuses.

So far, I have been extremely lucky to have great bosses as long as I’ve been working but I’ve heard many horror stories from other less fortunate employees.

The reality is that when you work a day job, you have very little control and your situation can instantly go from good to bad at the flip of a switch.

The Pros Of Self-Employment

money
The best part about running your own business is the potential money to be made. In fact, every one of my businesses makes a lot more money than my J-O-B today.

Unlike a day job where you get a constant paycheck and puny raises every year, the amount you can earn with your business is directly proportional to the amount of work you put into it. And that’s why I love it so much!

With a day job, you’re always going to be paid roughly the same amount whether you bust your ass or not whereas you get to reap 100% of the fruits of your labor with your own business.

Most importantly, running your own business forces you to learn how to sell and make money on your own without the help of a large company infrastructure.

Plus, a nice byproduct of all this learning is that it boosts your confidence and self-esteem.

Here’s a little secret. Even if I lost everything tomorrow, I can confidently say that I could pick myself back up and get back to where I am today within a few short years.

Why do I feel that way? It’s because running my businesses has taught me how to sell and market myself effectively which are skills that you WILL NOT learn at your day job.

In fact this is why most people who get laid off and can’t find another job often struggle to make ends meet. The same people who thrive in a large company environment with lots of infrastructure often find themselves helpless without it.

Running my own business has taught me how to make do with very few resources and unlike a day job, I know that my revenue will not disappear over night because I can not be fired.

The Cons Of Owning Your Own Business

Stress
Now that you’ve heard the good things about running your own business, here’s the sucky part.

I’m always checking my smartphone. I’m constantly thinking about my customers and I’m constantly thinking about my employees as well. Of course this could just be my personality but I care more because I own it.

Sometimes I can’t go on vacation without being tempted to check up on my sales and to make sure that everything is running smoothly while I’m gone. (See This Post Where I’m Checking My Email On The Dumbo Ride At Disney World)

And here’s the truth. Because I run a public blog that directly discusses the growth of my online store, I often feel pressured to demonstrate consistent growth every single year. It’s almost like I’m running a public company without it actually being public:)

Sometimes when I go to sleep at night, I ask myself how much money is enough and whether I should continue to spend all of this effort trying to make more.

Should I just grow the business for the sake of growing it? Or should I just cut back and enjoy what I’ve got?

This is the trap that most unhappy entrepreneurs get caught up in. They grow their companies just for the sake of growing it. They grow it because of their pride. They grow it because of their thirst to create something huge.

And what ends up happening is that their business ends up consuming all of their time.

All of my businesses already make me more than enough money to cover my family’s living expenses and my kids’ college tuition. I don’t spend much money at all and I don’t have expensive tastes.

The hardest part about owning your own business is not letting it run your life. Growing any business past a certain point is extremely stressful and my main issue with self-employment is the struggle in attaining a good balance of lifestyle and profit.

The Status Quo

In my current situation, I have decided to work full time and run my businesses on the side because there are elements of both that make me happy. And thus far, I have managed to do both without impacting my lifestyle and family time.

Even though I’m forfeiting a certain amount of control by working for someone else, I don’t really need the money and getting laid off wouldn’t be that big of a deal.

These days, whenever someone asks me whether they should quit their job and start their own business cold turkey, I often tell them not to quit.

Start your business on the side while you are working and then make the decision later. For a lot of people, the ideal of running their own business often clouds the reality of doing so.

There are definitely pros and cons to both and despite what you read about online, you can live a happy life doing either.

photo credit: Stewf Michael Fleshman Ian Sane

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20 thoughts on “What Everyone Should Know About Starting A Business Vs Working A Day Job”

  1. Roger says:

    I must agree with the “quit later approach”. I had a public sector job that had turned toxic in the last 15 months of my employment. Moderate paying, but good benefits by todays standards.

    However, we were always behind the 8 ball everyday, and you could get get scolded for trying to advocate for someone. The department head at the time came from a major agency vendor!

    After dealing with job related health issues, I was able to retire a bit early, although with a reduced pension. I would have preferred a full pension, but that’s not provided for the deceased!:-)

    This helps provided a “cushion” for entrepreneurship, though any grand vacations will have to wait. Luckily I was still able to keep my health insurance paying at the same “employee rate”. I really do miss my co-workers, but not the workplace environment.

    I can take some time off during the day for some personal things, ride the motorcycle, exercise, visit the farmers’ market, etc. Orders are packed at night in the basement while I watch baseball at my work area. My workload is spread out all week, and vacations are short. But I’m stayin’ alive! And I consider every sale a little victory. Also, my local USPS really appreciates me!

    Good luck everyone!

    1. I really like this post because I’m in a situation where I was laid off from corporate America as a helpdesk technician. I also realized that the pay in Florida is about $8K lower than Md. where I moved from. Bottom line is I enjoyed the comrodery of the people at the company I worked for. so I’ll take a lower salaried job working for “The man”, Corporation that is but, this time I’m interviewing them. I’m not going to stay in a company where I’m micro managed and not appreciated. As Steve said the Benefits Health 401K match etc. are pretty cool also. I’ll take that 410K match for a few years then possibly quit or do something else in that same company that will stretch me in my learning. I’ll Use the Corporate structured world for their education opportunities obviously I’m talking about them reimbursing me for education I’d be receiving on their Dime :-)

      Ain’t life great when you have your head on straight and don’t let getting laid off as a sign of negativity but one of Forward thinking positivity.

      Oh, by the way I’m also pursuing online business and with Steve’s help I’m getting things done a lot quicker than if I ventured out all on my own. Keep up your great job so we can believe it’s possible

      Good Luck to everyone and remember “Don’t think about the past for very long – except to learn from a mistake but, rather focus on the Positive forward thinking ideas and possibilities that are about to come your way. A nd they will if you just believe it and repeat it over and over again :-) Surround yourself with Positive thinking individuals and completely remove yourself from anyone or anything that might be a negative influence to you. I’ve literally stopped talking to some closer family members because all they could ever talk about was Negative things. I’ll tell you there is No Good in thinking negatively.

      Wright DJSaxman
      http://www.djsaxman.com

      1. I think the key is establishing that nest egg with your day job before you make any rash decisions with your business. Thanks for sharing your story Wright!

    2. Awesome Roger! Glad to have you in the class

  2. Yea I can relate with this.

    I also work full time and run 2 businesses.

    But I’ve decided that next month will be my last.

    The reason is that working a full time job and a full time business has gotten out of control where I need to quit one in order to live a proper life. Currently sleep at 2-3am every day.

    My business is a financial software business but my fear is that it can easily get replaced by another entrepreneur, so it’s time to be proactive and dedicate my full attention to it as opposed to spending 4-5 hours each night trying to grow it and deteriorating my health.

    At the moment, my business brings in more than my salary and if I dedicate the 10hours spent at working (I also have to work weekends too), working to improve and grow both businesses, I can see the potential.

    1. Congrats on quitting Jae. I know that I would not be able to go to sleep at 2-3 am every day. I need at least 7-8 hours a night:) Wow and working 4-5 hours a night is pretty intense after work.

      I think you are making the right decision.

  3. KC says:

    Good post. I have actually been back and forth a lot on this lately. I currently do not have a job, I stepped away from my day job over 10 years ago and have several online businesses and other investments that more than pay for me and my families way of life. I have a large enough net worth that I do not really need to worry about making more money right now and I am sure I could easily retire from it all, but I am only in my 30’s. I have received several lucrative job offers and turned them down in the past thinking I dont need to work anymore. But now I am questioning it more and more. I have been afraid lately of the example I have been setting for my 4 children. They are hitting the age where they see what Daddy is doing and I want to show the importance or working hard and not just vacationing and hanging out all the time. They did not see the hard work I put in early on before they were born and when they were young. Plus I am sure I would learn a lot more so why not learn and grow personally on someone elses dime doing something that you enjoy.

    On the flip side of that the only reason I quit my job to work full time on my online business was because I got to a point where my business was making a lot more than my job.

    1. What up KC. Looking forward to seeing you at Fincon this year.

      I think hanging out with your kids is valuable and I don’t think there’s anything bad about that. At some point, I think I’ll probably follow in your footsteps because I want to hang out with my kiddos while they still want to hang out with me.

      1. kc says:

        Fincon will be great, looking forward to meeting up for sure.

        I am not saying it is bad or anything like that to just hang out, that is really what I have been doing for a while now. But I was thinking it might be good to take a few years to in a job that I enjoy. Right now my oldest is 11, so when she is a teen I was thinking of taking another couple of years off to travel as a family. But for right now I am really contemplating taking on a job in the corporate world doing stuff that I like, but also getting paid well for what I would be doing.

  4. You’re definitely right about striking the right balance between profit and lifestyle. It requires one to know himself/herself and their goals. I applaud you for that.

  5. Jason Lee says:
  6. Awesome post! Especially the bit about not getting caught up on growing your business for the sake of growing it or for the money. I’m a lot happier when I do my freelance writing for the joy of it.

  7. Great post! Highlighting the pros/cons of both situations is very important when faced with the fantasy of quitting your day job. It may seem like a good idea, but sometimes staying at your day job may be better for you. It really depends on the person. For me, my goal isn’t really to quit my day job, it’s really to be less dependent on my day job’s income.

  8. Sorry about your friend getting fired. Hopefully he bounces back quickly – and perhaps learns the art of the side hustle! I could never imagine only having one stream of income!

    Right now I work a full-time job but I’ll be leaving soon. My own business is risky but as they say, without risk is without reward. :)

  9. I have a few neighbors that have started their own business. The up front costs were huge, but now a year in they are reaping the rewards. They love not having a boss, but they are constantly working because they really are the business. They may not work a 40 hour work week with a boss, but they are working 7 days, maybe not all day long, but they are constantly checking in and probably working 70 hours a week. There is a balance with going on your own vs. staying in the cubicle.

  10. Thank you for sharing the article. It’s very interesting. Hope to hear more from you.

  11. Donald Chan says:

    Great post, Steve! As someone who’s balancing both my own business and freelance work, I can really identify with what you wrote.

  12. ally says:

    You have a captivating blog. Congratulations!

    In my opinion, working a day job vs running your own business also depends a lot on:
    1. one’s financial situation (financially independent vs dependent on a job for a (comfortable) living)
    2. one’s personality (introvert vs extrovert; likes what a job has to offer / likes what entrepreneurship has to offer, etc.)

    I’ve experienced both situations and I personally prefer entrepreneurship. I’m more of an introvert. I am more productive when I work alone. Also, to me it was difficult to work on a fixed imposed schedule on a full time basis. I felt like I was not free or in control of my life and time. In fact, I sometimes felt like I was trapped. It was nobody’s fault (boss or colleagues), it was my personality. Hence, although entrepreneurship usually involves working more than at a job, I don’t mind it. It’s the ensuing mental state that makes a big difference for me.

    Surely, I would go back to a day job if I needed to. In this regard, I guess one can never say never… Or I could take a part-time job in case I got too bored with entrepreneurship alone, who knows? :-)

    To conclude, the only downside to entrepreneurship, as far as I’m concerned, is sometimes the solitary aspect, but broadly I got used to it. Often I don’t have the time or energy to cultivate friendships on a constant basis. I mostly spend my time working or with my family.

    Do you and your wife have time to cultivate friendships physically, not just online or professional relationships?

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