Anyone reading my columns for any length of time knows that I encourage everyone to try starting their own business, even if it doesn’t work out as a career. There is so much good learning and experience that comes from being in business for yourself, even if it’s part-time and not something you plan on doing forever. All the same, there are good reasons for starting your own business — and not so good reasons.
If you’re going into business for the wrong reasons, failure is not a possibility, it’s a guarantee. Even if you succeed it won’t be satisfying, so what will you have gained? We know the good reasons for starting your own business, but here are the ones that should give you pause.
You Want To Work Fewer Hours
If that’s the case, you’re far better off finding an in-demand career that offers part-time employment. There are a few businesses you can work in your spare time, but they’re rare. Most often, being your own boss means putting in a lot more time — because you’re building a business, plus doing all the administrative, sales, and marketing tasks. The majority of work you do in your own business, especially at first, is going to be unpaid labor. My standard joke is I traded working eight hours a day for working all the time.
You Hate Your Day Job
There are usually a few reasons people hate their day job, most of which could be solved by either changing employers or by making changes to their current job. After you’ve been away from the hated day job for three or four weeks, you’ll feel better — and that motivation will fade. Motivation is everything to the success of a new small business; taking on an entrepreneurial pursuit has to be a labor of love, or you’ll never last. Another option with a day job you don’t like, especially if it’s a big company, is to scout around until you find the jobs you like better, and then start positioning yourself for one of those. If it takes you three years to work into a better position at your day job, that’s roughly the same amount of time it will take to really get a new business off the ground.
You Hate Your Boss
If your boss owns the company, then start positioning yourself for a new job. If it’s a big enterprise, start looking around for the up and comers in other departments. Building a network at your job can pay off big when there are job openings in other parts of the business or reorganizations. Getting your contacts to put your name forward when openings occur can get you away from the dreaded boss to one you like better. If you’re a hard worker with an excellent reputation, word will get around you want to make a change.
You Want to Take Time Off Whenever You Want
Some people look at those in business for themselves and think it would be great to take off whenever they wanted. Too bad it doesn’t work like that. More often your customers dictate your schedule, and the time your workload is lowest almost never lines up with the time you want to take off. A new business is a demanding thing and you can’t just leave whenever you want. Anyone in business for themselves has been called away to work just before a vacation, when they’re sick, or at other inconvenient times. When the work is there, you have to take it — or someone else will. That’s the reality of working for yourself, and you’ll never last giving your competitors a chance to shine.
You Want to Make More Money
If you make more money working for yourself, it’s probably because you were already in an underpaid job. For most people, launching out on their own comes with a serious pay cut. There are lots of ways to build a better career for yourself, one that pays more. The best is to position yourself for a high-paying career before starting college. If that ship has already sailed, there’s nothing stopping you from going back to night school. Over the years I worked with many people going to school part-time, working toward a better career. One person I worked with for years went from working a low-paying job at a state agency to being a staff attorney for a federal agency, by working his way through law school at night. I was in a welding class with a young man who was working his way through school at a fast food restaurant. He got hired literally the day he got his certificate, and went from flipping burgers to being a specialty welder at an Antarctic research station. If it’s money you crave, then positioning yourself for a high paying career and learning to invest well is your best play.
If you want to be your own boss, if you want the satisfaction of building something, if you have a vision for a better way of doing things, those are all good reasons to start your own business. If your passion for doing a thing won’t let you do anything else, that’s the best possible reason to go into business for yourself. Anything that’s wrong with your day job can be fixed with a lot less time and effort than putting yourself through the meat grinder of self-employment.