By Todd Belveal
There’s a lot to love about doing a startup.
I value freedom above all else in life, and startups are really freeing.
Your time is your own, its spent on inherently creative pursuits, and you don’t have to waste any of it listening to business-speak or jargon in endless meetings.
You can be yourself, be fearless, and get paid to do it.
I enjoyed working in the corporate world, met great people and had good experiences. But there’s a real feeling of flexibility and control with startups you don’t get with a traditional job.
Don’t be fooled—it’s work to run a company.
You still wake up on the wrong side of the bed and don’t want to go to work. But in the end, it’s easy to get motivated because you’re fundamentally inspired.
You’re probably thinking: Sounds great! Where do I sign up?
Well, before quitting your 9 to 5, let me tell you about what entrepreneurs don’t have. Because in exchange for the flexibility and the inspiration, there are a few things to give up.
1. Peace Of Mind
I’m inherently moody, but most days, I wake up excited.
I’m either inspired or deathly afraid. Sometimes, it’s a bit of both — and both can be exhilarating.
For example, I shut things down for a couple weeks over the holidays. But even if I’m not working that much, the venture is still in the back of my mind. I’m constantly thinking this pause is going to cost us $75,000 in burn to keep paying people for those two weeks.
That’s not something you can just forget about. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pointless to obsess over money.
But knowing the bank account is dwindling is stressful. It’s in the back of your mind, always.
And it’s not just capital. The ideas keep coming, and so do doubts and fears — like boats cruising by, inviting you to jump on.
So, don’t expect much peace of mind as an entrepreneur, but know it’s possible to find now and then. Wave and let the boats roll by. If you know your idea is good, the team is good, and the work being done is good, that’s peace of mind.
2. Safety and Security
There are some perks to working for a large organization, namely structure and security.
I know people that have been in their current job for 25 years.
Me? I wasn’t capable of that.
And there is nothing wrong with having a steady job. The people that make large businesses work are critical, and great careers are made in those organizations. I was happily pursuing one myself for many years.
But people often stay in their jobs because their priorities are in other places. They’re focused on their families or other personal aspects. Maybe they’re steadily paying into a 401k or a college fund, and they don’t want to mess with that.
They value stability and reliability more than freedom, their personal ambitions outweigh the professional.
Freedom comes at a price, both financial and emotional.
My Dad always says fear is a great motivator — and it is — but it’s not always fun to deal with. You don’t have safety or security when you’re running a startup. Things can end quickly. You don’t really know where you’ll be a year from now.
You find yourself working hard to overcome fear and denial, more so than your friends in corporate settings. It takes honesty and self-reflection — and the risk is real.
3. A Real Vacation
When I was working as a consultant, I’d take a two-week vacation every year, sometimes twice a year.
I could just forget about everything and check out for two weeks. I wouldn’t even bring my laptop. If you’ve never taken a two week vacation in your professional life, I highly recommend it. That extra week makes all the difference.
But these vacations go away when the startup path begins.
Entrepreneurs can (and should) take time off. Manage the calendar very carefully to make sure that happens. The “always clocked-in 24/7” founder is the oldest stereotype there is, and the best entrepreneurs insist on balance.
But it’s hard to check out for that long when you’re running a company. It’s not so much that things aren’t getting done, or that you can’t trust others to move things forward. You just miss it.
Even on vacation, the ideas keep coming. You’ll find the venture hanging out in your thoughts.
It’s the downside of inspiration. That’s something you have to come to terms with as an entrepreneur. For reasons more positive than negative, your company goes with you. Once you accept this inevitable fact, time off is more enjoyable.
4. A Stable Career Path
Let’s say everything works out well. You’ve successfully exited your startup with a nice chunk of money.
When you leave a stable job behind, you leave behind a definite trajectory.
At a startup, you’re working on the project as long as it lasts — and then it’s over. Are you going to go back to working full-time? Will you be lucky enough to have a second idea that turns into a startup? Are you going to spend your time investing?
There’s a certain amount of comfort in knowing what happens next, even if it isn’t very exciting. You lose that when you strike out on your own.
5. A Way Back
I know people that tried a startup, failed, and had to go back to work at in a corporate role.
That’s not necessarily an easy thing to do. For one thing, people are going to want to know what happened.
Heck, my first venture had a nice exit, and people still ask me why I’m not running it right now. It can be hard to explain to people unfamiliar with startup world — and that’s most people.
So, you’re likely going to have to explain what happened.
It might come off as unattractive to someone who’s hiring you. Did you blow up? Are you incapable of implementing things? Why are you in my office right now instead of running your business?
The good news is, if you do succeed, it becomes a little bit addicting.
It’s fun, freeing, and exciting. If you do get a successful exit or two under your belt, you’ll have all sorts of opportunities coming your way. Your eye for opportunity gets sharper.
And not everyone needs stability or a defined career path. Some people thrive in uncertainty. Just make sure you’ve thought about whether or not you do before deciding to become an entrepreneur, because that’s what you sign up for.