Recently, an entrepreneur colleague/friend (who I will admit that I idolized) decided to walk away from being an entrepreneur and take a job at someone else’s company. I was, frankly, heartbroken (because when the most hardcore entrepreneur you know packs it in, it makes you stop and think). It brought to mind a conversation he and I had a couple of years ago about people (often very well-meaning people) telling entrepreneurs, especially solopreneurs, to “get a ‘real’ job.”
Here’s what people tend to see as a “real” job:
- Employer makes the schedule – Employee has to work when the employer dictates.
- Employer supplies the office space.
- Employer buys the necessary supplies/equipment to do the work.
- Employer can decide, at any time, for any reason (or no reason) to terminate your position.
- In short, a job where you go to an office every day for a set length of time and do what someone else dictates.
There are other components, but those are some of the big ones. And most of them are also used as criteria by the IRS as to whether someone is an “employee”.
But, as an entrepreneur, you might see that ‘real’ job a little differently. Here’s what you might see:
- Employee gets a paycheck as long as they do a passable job.
- Employee gets to work during business hours and (generally speaking) doesn’t take work home.
- There’s a janitorial staff, an accounting staff, HR staff, administrative staff and they take care of the nitty gritty details behind the scenes.
- There’s very little risk for the employee. If the business fails, it’s not their fault as an individual.
Traditionally employed folks (defined here as people who work for someone else), especially those who have never had an entrepreneurial venture tend to see entrepreneurs as folks who have a “cushy” job. I’ve heard all of the following:
- No time clock – lucky you. You can work as little as you want and whatever hours you want.
- You get to work from home, or the coffee shop.
- You can work in your pajamas every day. (Well, maybe not at the coffee shop….)
- If you want to take off and go to the beach, no one can tell you no.
And, admittedly, there is truth to that. When you’re an entrepreneur, no one dictates your schedule or your dress code. But let me clue you in to some of the reality of being an entrepreneur:
- At least when you start out, there’s no one else to do any of the work. It’s ALL yours to do.
- If you’re not working, then you’re not logging billable hours and you have no income.
- Sick days? Vacation days? See the point above – you’re not getting paid if you’re not working.
- Computer crashes? Printer stops working? There’s no IT staff. You fix it yourself or have the expense of buying new equipment.
- If the business fails, it’s on your shoulders – the risk is all yours!
I do not, at all, want to make being an entrepreneur sound like a bad thing – there are tremendous perks:
- Do a fantastic job and your client loves you? That glory is yours to bask in!
- Need to go to an event across the country (or across the world?) If you have a laptop and an internet connection, you can work from pretty much anywhere.
- No dry cleaning bills, no high heels required, no expensive wardrobe needed.
- No sitting in traffic. No being at the mercy of a bus or train schedule.
- If you do something you are passionate about and that you love doing, it’s completely worth it!
Sure, I may not have a posh office and a guaranteed paycheck, but the work I do is VERY real. And my love for what I do is very real, as well. I’ve heard it said that “An entrepreneur is someone who will work 100 hours a week for herself to avoid working 40 hours a week for someone else”, and so many times I find that rings true. And if that sounds not only “ok”, but the thought exhilarates you, you might want to try being an entrepreneur!
I wish my friend, the former entrepreneur who has entered Corporate America, all the best and know that, in our own ways, we will both achieve ‘real’ success and happiness.