Everyone who has been in this dilemma knows it is the typical doubt that will consume you internally.
“What the hell am I still doing this job?” or “Can I run a business on my spare times only?” are some of the central questions in the life of any wantrepreneur at a given moment in time.
Whether because you feel there’s much more, you can accomplish, or don’t feel completed with your current job or because you want to change lifestyle radically and get financial freedom.
In all the three scenarios, let me tell you:
I’ve been there, and I genuinely understand your doubts.
However, the dilemma of staying on the job and creating a business on the side versus quitting the day job and going all in is never an easy subject to address.
I believe no one will be able to tell you whether you should be sticking to your current job and work on the side or jump head immediately. There is no secret sauce here, guys, sorry.
Myself I’ve been wondering this same question for years already. I’ve read many articles and books, watched dozens of videos and, even though I nowadays have a biased opinion toward one side, this is undeniably no straightforward subject.
It will always depend on your life’s context, personality traits, and business characteristics, so you are the only person who can help yourself. You are the one who will eventually know when and if it’s time to leave and give a full-time shot in your business.
But of course, I’m here to help. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this.
After brainstorming and researching, I’ve arrived at a simple set of four dimensions that will quickly help you clarifying whether you should stay or quit your day job to run a business:
- Risk acceptance: tolerance and capacity to embrace some risk are crucial
- Self-confidence level: for you to take the plunge, being remarkably confident will help you always to overcome any challenge.
- Responsibilities: what are your current duties in life?
- Type of business: does this startup really demand your full time commitment?
The methodology is incredibly simple. All you need is to evaluate from 1 to 10 these four features, having in mind that one will always push toward staying at your current job, and ten will mean you should strongly consider leaving it.
Ultimately, when you reach a final average, the higher your grade, the surest you can be that quitting your job is a solid decision.
If your result is close to five, you might want to consider asking some more people for their assessment (if you trust their support will be not tendentious), so you can have some additional opinions.
On the other hand, if you’re grade is 7 or more, you have a baseline that strongly indicates that leaving isn’t probably a bad idea.
Which doesn’t necessarily mean you have the guts to do it. We – human beings – are emotional and many times an encouragement from someone who you look up to will be more impactful than any logical reasoning.
But I believe it is still better to have a reasonable explanation to support what we want to do, than just doing it according to our gut feeling.
Before we dive, please keep in mind that my end-goal is always to encourage you in pursuing your dreams. However, you want to make sure you’re increasing the odds of success and minimizing risks, so calculating your average result in these four dimensions can be of great value.
Also, at the end of this chapter, I will share one personal point of view and a unique message from Victor Cheng, who has a great influence on me.
For each dimension, we will now focus on the weakest scenario and provide recommendations on how to improve, because if you have a lower average that ultimately means you probably should stick to your day job, it doesn’t mean it will be that way forever.
#1 BEING RISK-AVERSE
Most of the people I know are risk-averse. It’s just the way we are, the society places some pressure on us and leads us to become more and more risk-averse. We tend to seek what’s comfortable and prioritize on being safe, first, and the rest is a “nice to have”.
When creating a side business, whether alone or in a team, the typical risk-averse guy will work on a “best-effort” approach.
He will undoubtedly do his best to create that business, but his best means working on the project only when every single else is secured
If you are risk-averse, you will always prefer to spend a whole day working twelve hours or more at your day job than leaving early to have time to work three or four hours in your side business.
Such phenomenon usually happens because you feel safe and comfortable by working, it gives you stability. Also, you don’t feel ready to commit to your ideal lifestyle: there’s still too much at stake for you, if anything goes wrong with your day job; you won’t be able to handle the lack of the pay-check at the end of the month.
Finally, if you are risk-adverse, experience tells me you will hardly launch a business. You will find numerous excuses and urgent matters that will eventually lead you to slow down and lose the momentum.
Moreover, if you’re working in a team with people who require your commitment, your lack of dedication might also represent a source of irritation to them.
What’s worst is that most risk-averse guys will not understand they are risk-averse. It’s easy to fall into this trap because the whole society thinks in the exact same way, so you don’t feel awkward by doing what everyone else is doing – more thoughts on The Sheep on Autopilot theory here.
Let me share with you the example I saw a couple of days ago in the TV show called “Billions.” I found it quite simple and fascinating, even though it is pretty much a cliché as well. But let’s give it a try:
(Read first and then apply)
- Close your eyes. Abstract yourself from everything around you, focus on your breathing, just like you were meditating.
- Now, imagine yourself when you are 80 years old. Imagine you’re sitting at the entrance of your country house, staring at the horizon and green fields.
- Breathe calmly and think through your life. Imagine you followed the path of choosing your current job and your current life. Imagine you know all the consequent life decisions you made according to that status. How would you feel? Does it sound great or more like a “meh”? Do you feel empty or are you satisfied with that scenario?
- On the other hand, imagine once again you are 80 years old, you decided to take a leap of faith in yourself and to pursue your unique life path, perhaps building that business you’re now sub-prioritizing. How would you feel? Accomplished? Would it seem like your life was worthwhile?
I’ve also made this test, and I find amazing how often we positively know what we must do but opt to remain on the same page because it is easier and more comfortable.
I think somehow we expect to live forever; we forget how life is simply a brief passage.
#2 WEAK SELF-CONFIDENCE
The second psychological attribute we need to evaluate is the level of confidence as it is of primary importance to create a business of any type.
My guess is: if you’re building a business, your self-confidence level is already acceptable because no one with little confidence would dare to think he deserves more than what he gets in his current day job.
Given this fact, we need to increase the stakes and demand abnormal levels of self-confidence to decide to leave your current day job. I mean, if you consider yourself to have a 4 or a 5 in confidence, I would be slightly apprehensive about quitting your job.
You see, when in the entrepreneurial world, you will find people you didn’t yet know they existed: tough, bold and aggressive people.
For the ones who have already created a business, I’m sure you understand what I mean; the guys you have to deal with are not mild and formally gracious as in corporations.
I can tell you, for instance, that when I started my side business, I quickly found myself on a phone call with a supplier shouting at me and cursing me because we’ve decided we should negotiate his proposal.
Well, never in my life, I have been in such a situation in which someone was strictly yelling at me and putting tons of pressure for me to give up on the negotiation.
But as I faced this supplier, many other situations occurred as well in which I had to deal with vicious and hateful people, who deliberately wanted to screw our business.
I kid you not. This is one simple example of how self-confidence is crucial. But it doesn’t end here.
It is of great importance to have that in-depth believe you will always manage to overcome any challenge. Many people, when facing an obstacle, will think they aren’t capable of beating it, which leads them to an inevitable failure.
So you want to make sure you trust your capabilities above anything else, so no one and nobody can bring you down.
There are endless subjects all over the internet about self-confidence. What I find interesting is that I didn’t know one had so many great sources of knowledge to overcome this weakness. And let me brutally honest, it is a weakness. I have always lacked confidence and, I can assure you, after studying it for a while and working on my own, I can now understand how decisive it is to build anything in life.
So if you feel this is one of your weakest points, I would like to recommend you four essential authors and speakers on the subject. These guys are leading experts on the subject, and they have helped me a lot overcoming my lack of confidence and negative thoughts. Hopefully, they will do the same for you.
- VIDEO: Jim Rohn on Purpose, Self Confidence, Enthusiasm, Expertise, and Preparation – 24 mins
- VIDEO: Brian Tracy on The Unbreakable Laws of Self Confidence – 1 hour and 38 mins
- BOOK: Build Unbreakable, Unstoppable, Powerful Confidence by Justin Albert
Now, we all know that many people are skeptic about self-development authors. Most of us think they are just selling B.S. And, honestly, some of them are. But like anything in life, you can find excellent and awful authors and, at the end of the day, even if you do not like one author, try to focus on the best parts of what he’s saying and ignore all the rest.
#3 DEALING WITH MANY RESPONSIBILITIES
I usually say that no one can judge you for not deciding to follow your professional, entrepreneurial dreams namely if you feel you’re threatening your family’s balance.
The difference between someone who has no duties or burdens – isn’t married, has no children, no house, car or education fees to pay – and someone who has responsibilities is that the latter shouldn’t see himself anymore as a single person – he is now an ecosystem.
As you know, when you marry, for instance, your future decisions will not only impact your lifestyle, but they will also affect your partner’s. Or if you have children, it doesn’t matter if you’re extremely confident and a natural risk-seeker, my advice is that you think thoroughly about making any decision that can jeopardize your ecosystem balance.
I am the first person to encourage you on following your dreams, but I also know from my personal experience with my parents that when you don’t have in consideration your closest ones, you might shatter everything around you.
Do not worry; evidently I think it’s important not to be careless when other people’s lives are at stake, but there are still plenty of ways to build your dream business, even if it doesn’t seem obvious initially.
I would urge you to set a backup plan or a side steady flow of income before you leap to your business in full time.
We all wish this was so easy to implement, I know. Everyone would prefer to have an income flow before risking everything in a new venture. But it is of particular importance to mention it in this part of the essay.
A backup plan is much easier to implement. You can work with multiple ideas such as:
- Asking your current company to provide you an unpaid leave authorization;
- Negotiating with your employer to benefit from an exit financial package;
- Networking to build genuine relationships with people that might be willing to hire you in the future, should you need.
The second option – a steady income flow in parallel – means earning passive income, which, let’s face it, requires a lot of work to develop.
Let me share with you several ideas to build this revenue flow but be aware that we will need to dive into this subject in greater depth in the future, as these are some very basic ideas:
- Invest part of your savings in real estate and rent it to earn monthly payments;
- Create an online course and sell it through platforms such as Udemy or Teachable;
- Build an e-commerce business.
Pat Flynn is a worldwide famous entrepreneur, writer, and podcaster who helps people creating passive income businesses.
We will also develop a passive income category in Build Your Dream Company, but because I want to provide you with as much value as possible, right away, I encourage you to learn with Pat Flynn.
#4 TYPE OF BUSINESS
The fourth dimension is related to the kind of business you’re creating.
There are companies that you can easily set up and run in your spare time, at the end of the day, while other businesses will never see the daylight unless you work on them 24/7.
Eventually, all businesses will require you to commit entirely. Some will require it sooner than others, but at a certain point for the business to become sustainable and, especially, to grow, you will need to work on it 24/7 and hire a team to help you.
An example of a set of businesses you can create in parallel to your day job is everything related with online.
From a blog to an online store, none of these activities requires you to commit all your time to it. You can work a little bit on your website each day after work or, if you have the money, you can even outsource all the work of building a website to an agency.
To give you an idea, you could, for instance, build a business around mobile apps that would require barely zero effort from your side. You have the ideas, and you hire someone to develop the app. Simple.
Now, other businesses require your full-time dedication. Everything that has a physical infrastructure, like any local store such as a coffee shop, a restaurant, a hostel, a clothing shop, pretty much any franchising point of sale, among many others. You can still hire someone to do your job – that’s perfectly viable – but you must not only have the necessary capital to invest and begin a business with regular fixed costs (salaries, rents, etc.) as you also have to trust the people you’re hiring. As we know, in local shop’s businesses some employees are often tempted to put their “hand in the cookie jar.”
If you are creating a business with no need for physical infrastructure and dependency, you should be able to start your business on the side before you take the plunge.
I understand this might be hard to read for someone who is anxious to work solely on his business since you might feel it’s time to focus entirely on your project or simply can’t stand what you’re doing anymore.
Once again, I’ve been here there, in both scenarios. I am aware of how much it hurts to build a fascinating business on the side and still spending ten or more hours per day doing something you don’t like.
But if you’re creating your business in the “correct way”, and this happens to be a remote business such as any online platform, you really should be able to see some money before quitting your day job.
To do so, here are the steps I recommend you take to minimize risk and see money as soon as possible:
- Take the time to write your business plan carefully and set up the business model: think through how you’re going to make money, design the product, take your time to develop it, have coffee with advisors, select your target market, etc.
- Create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with the lowest possible budget. Make sure you do not waste money on anything else rather than the core product features.
- Test your MVP in your target market, which requires you to have already a defined target, which is part of your business plan, as we’ve seen.
- Be ruthless when evaluating the results and pay close attention to the facts. Do not be fooled by your warm circle kind feedback. Many times people will just tell you what they believe you want to hear, they think that way they’re supporting you. But it is precisely the opposite! You must always seek the truth. You can follow this tip to evaluate better if someone is willing to pay for your product, in spite of how brilliant they think the idea is – just ask them forthrightly: “Would you like to buy NOW?”
Deciding to quit a safe job and it’s attached monthly pay-check is no easy task. I still remember that when I said to my supervisor, some years ago, that it was time to leave the company to create my own business, I didn’t sleep at night for a couple of days.
I guess nowadays it seems a simpler decision to make, but I admit a lot of intensive thinking was necessary for me to go against everything the society forces me to be.
You can read my manifesto on Why are we Sheep on Autopilot here if you are curious about how I found my entrepreneurial drive and reason for choosing a unique life path.
Now, when it comes to deciding to go full blast or staying in your current job, this is my simple theory: it will always be better to dedicate your time entirely to your business rather than working in your spare time.
You may wonder why.
It is because of self-synergies.
You see, synergies do not apply only to external factors, they also apply internally to focus or time, for instance. We usually think that if I have 20% of my daily time available for my business, and I produce X, with 100%, I will be able to produce five times more!
In my opinion, this is not entirely accurate.
I believe that when you have 100% of your time available, you will not only do five times more but maybe ten or twenty times more. It is exponential, like a mathematical formula. Do you know what I mean?
Just think about it: when you work 20% of your time in a side business, the vast majority of the time you are exhausted with your day job. Or perhaps there’s always something interrupting what you’re doing, or you can only perform certain tasks that are compatible with the little time you have.
Even if you’re using your day job’s time to work on your side business, you don’t want to draw attention, right? If you aren’t wholly dedicated to growing your business, you won’t feel comfortable doing things like calling people, networking or doing brain intensive work, on a daily basis.
Yes, the use of your time is not linear, it is, in fact, exponential.
The more time you have to focus uniquely on one single issue, the better results you will get. It is a matter of focus and strategy.
It absolutely pays off.
Finally, I’d like to take a word for those who are eager to dedicate themselves to their business and that:
- Have a lousy job that brings them no joy;
- But for some reason, still didn’t quit, either because of family responsibilities, the pressure their warm circle puts on them or simply because they are scared.
If you used the above methodology and the result was 7 or more, and you deeply know you should be leaving or day job, I’d like to tell you what so many people have shared with me before:
Do not worry. Your time will come.
In the end, if that’s the right decision, you will come to a point in which enough is enough. Even though there are no certainties about the future, all you know is that the current present isn’t sufficient. All you know is that you won’t be happy with that job or type of career, and you must choose a different life path.
I would like to finish this chapter by sharing with you an outstanding email I received from Victor Cheng called “The Horizon Problem” that directly addresses this issue.
More than a reviewed version of what he presents, I thought you would benefit more from accessing the original message.
I initially found Victor Cheng when I was applying to McKinsey and BCG in Portugal. Victor Cheng is the guy everyone mentions when you’re looking for resources to practice to top tier consulting firms’ recruitment.
However, for the last years, Victor has proven to be a huge source of inspiration, even though I’m not interested in consulting anymore.
He seems a great guy, humble and amazingly structured in everything he says, who taught me a lot.
It’s already been a long chapter, and I’m afraid I’ve lost you along the way, but if you are still with me (thanks a lot for that, by the way!), give a check on this Victor Cheng’s post, it is superb.
I’ve always been fascinated by the ocean. This was especially the case when I was at Stanford.
At the end of every school year, I would drive to my parents’ home in San Diego.
One year I decided to take the Pacific Coast Highway, a small two-lane road that hugs the California coastline — with mountains on the left and the Pacific Ocean on my right.
I remember looking out at the horizon thinking of an entire world that was just beyond the visible horizon.
The problem with looking at the horizon is that you can only see so far.
The average adult standing at sea level looking at the ocean horizon can only see 3 miles (5 km) before the curvature of the earth interferes with seeing further.
I think this is true in many matters of life.
In an ideal world, we want to be able to predict and see our entire future before we take the first step.
Life doesn’t work that way.
Sometimes you only get to see the next 3 miles at a time.
This is The Horizon Problem.
It doesn’t mean good (or bad) things aren’t over the horizon.
It just means you can’t see them.
The “safest” (and by “safest,” I mean “most predictable”) decision is to go nowhere.
If you stand still in life, take no risks, never go on a journey, you will rarely get surprised.
The second “safest” decision is to take a path discovered, charted and “paved” by someone else.
This is climbing a career ladder designed by someone else, rather than forging your own path.
This is taking a tour bus when visiting another country, rather than exploring on your own.
The least predictable path is to forge your own path. It is heading towards the horizon that interests you most, knowing full well you can’t see beyond it just yet.
Will it be better or worse than what you are doing now?
In nearly all cases, the answer is “yes.”
The path less traveled is usually both better and worse.
However, the one thing that is always true of the path less traveled is that it is never boring.