“Don’t quit your day job.” Anyone who has ever had a creative inkling has heard this phrase at one time or several. If you’re like me, you’ve probably had the knee-jerk desire of wanting to punch the speaker right in the unconvinced face. This advice implies that an idea is silly, a dream impossible, or, for a variety of reasons, that a plan is doomed. At least, that’s all I heard in that phrase for a long time.
I’m not great with numbers. A lot of people who suggest holding on to steady employment probably belong to that group of naysayers that need to be proven wrong or knocked out of the way. However, I’ve matured enough to accept that some people who recommend keeping an income source to support labors of love are reasonable, well-meaning people trying earnestly to communicate sage advice.
But when inspiration strikes and you have THE BEST IDEA EVER, should you quit your job and start a business?
Reasons to hold on to a day job.
Let’s face facts. We all need to earn a living and feel the pressure to keep the paychecks coming. How many startups are profitable right out of the starting gate? Not many. It’s great if a young company creates a hunger in the belly metaphorically, as in inspiration, and not so great if it causes starvation. Expecting a startup to put food on the table too early in its life can lead to making hasty or impractical decisions, like bringing a company to market too early. An alternative job means you can afford to let a company grow at the rate it wants to and not fall apart because you’re trying to accelerate growth too quickly.
Everyone wants to have a minimal viable product together as soon as possible, but putting together the right product – a product that will endure – usually takes a long time. And entrepreneurs rarely need to prove that their self-motivated or determined. Being in the game is testament to drive. What they often have to demonstrate is flexibility and adaptability. This kind of maneuvering is more difficult if you can’t afford to be wrong ever. Pressure to make money can stifle creativity.
As Buyosphere founder and influential writer Tara Hunt said after accepting employment at a company other than her own,“It does take money to build stuff. And time. And those who have a large supply of both have more runway to make several mistakes on the road to übersuccess.”
The Money Game
Most companies welcome investors. Isn’t it ideal to have the freedom to choose which investors to work with, and decide when the time is right to seek funding, rather than clamp on desperately to the first offer that comes along? A day job just might allow a founder to focus on the company itself instead of pouring energy into the search for investors. Ultimately, the separate income means more freedom to control your own startup destiny.
Especially in the startup game, where 100% belief is required, it’s easy to become trapped in believing that holding down an outside job signals a lack of commitment or faith. Simply not true. On the contrary, the willingness to work multiple jobs reflects the energy, determination, and sacrifice one is capable of making to pursue a vision – no matter what effort, no matter how many jobs it takes.