I don’t recommend quitting your day job right away to work on your startup. It’s not that I’m against entrepreneurship, it’s just that people often think they have a great idea and then start working on it when in reality they don’t. Starting up isn’t as easy as you might think and having a steady paycheck can be very important for entrepreneurs. If you’re going to quit, make sure the business is sound and profitable enough before doing so because otherwise, you may find yourself without any income coming in at all.
I’ve seen a lot of people quit their day jobs to work on their startup full time. And the truth is that most people who try this strategy end up back in their day jobs within six months or less. One thing I have noticed is that this often leads to burnout too.
Here are 11 reasons why I don’t recommend you quit your day job right away to build a startup and some things to help you consider when the time is right.
1. Not ready to take the risk
Entrepreneurship as a lifestyle choice is a risky proposition, without any guarantees of success. While starting your own business is exciting and invigorating, you should have reasonable expectations that there will be setbacks along the way and it will not always be fun. Realise that you are taking on a lifestyle and career change and it will not be as glamorous as you imagine.
It may look like entrepreneurs spend their evenings poolside with models while sipping champagne, but the truth is that many of them are putting in long hours at the office — just like everyone else — to turn their idea into a reality. You should be prepared to work hard and not be afraid of failure.
2. Not willing to make sacrifices
There are many sacrifices that entrepreneurs have to make in order to pursue their dream — or what you might consider a necessity but is actually just a want. I don’t think I would have been able to produce the results I did if I hadn’t made the decision to live without some luxuries for a while; this does not mean being on total spartan mode, but rather only spending money on things that matter most right now (e.g., hiring talent instead of buying fancy cars). Oftentimes people want these non-essential things so badly that they convince themselves it’s their only option and when they don’t achieve them, they lose their hope and give up.
3. Not a good risk manager
Entrepreneurship is risky, you know this. You should be pretty familiar with the idea of calculating risk versus reward in all areas of your life, not just startups. I don’t think that being an entrepreneur has to mean taking huge risks all the time; it’s more about continually weighing risks against rewards when making major course corrections or decisions around hiring personnel, funding rounds and so on. If you are not able to do this effectively, it may be better for you to keep your day job while still working on your startup.
4. Need more expertise before leaving your job
Maybe you’ve built some initial traction or done some customer validation, but you think your idea is going to require some expertise that you don’t have yet. Maybe you are looking for funding from mentors or other experienced founders and need more time to convince them of the merits of your startup idea. There are many reasons why you might not be ready to quit your day job, but the important thing is that you are making room for things like networking and continuing education in the meantime.
5. Don’t want what it takes (yet)
If you know yourself well enough, this one is pretty straightforward: If it’s important to you to be successful at entrepreneurship, then make sure that’s something you actually want before quitting your day job unless of course there’s no other option (you lost yours through a layoff or some other circumstance). Working as an entrepreneur is a difficult and lonely endeavour, you will need to have the right personality type for it.
I think that someone who isn’t sure whether they want to commit full time should make a list of pros and cons on two different sheets of paper. On one sheet, write down why quitting your day job is important to you personally; you may be surprised at what comes out. On the second sheet, write down all the reasons why leaving would not work: It could be because you don’t know enough about entrepreneurship yet; there’s no market for your idea, or perhaps the size and scope of competition in your space makes it unrealistic.
6. You might need those steady paychecks
As a founder of a startup, you will most likely receive very little compensation in the beginning. So even though working your 9-5 job is frustrating sometimes, they do come with their fair share of benefits like health insurance, paid vacation time and a steady paycheck. If I was risking my family’s financial security, I would want to do everything in my power to protect them from harm. If you are married or have children, the best decision for your family may be to continue making steady money from your day job until you can be more certain of success as an entrepreneur.
7. You’re not ready if you don’t see yourself being successful
Be honest with yourself: Do you think this is going to work? Either you’re wildly optimistic and confident about your company’s chances at success (more than most people who will read this post) – or you just haven’t really thought about it much yet and need some time doing customer validation and idea testing before quitting. If it doesn’t seem likely that the startup will be hugely successful, then there is no point in quitting your day job just yet. If you think it’s realistic that the startup might not make it but decided to quit anyway, I’d strongly encourage you to rethink plans and keep saving money instead of burning through them at a fast rate.
8. You need time on each side of the transition
Exiting from your full-time job and starting up on your own can be stressful – especially when you feel like it’s not going to work out. You may find yourself waking up in the middle of the night wondering whether or not this was a mistake. Going back-and-forth between two incomes for an extended period will help with those inevitable “existential crises” where you second-guess yourself and consider giving up.
The result of having just one monthly income is that you sometimes think money isn’t a problem when, in fact, it still is. By continuing to get paychecks from your 9-5 job until your startup begins generating revenue will have the advantage of delaying the point where you are short on cash – which can be very difficult both emotionally and practically. Having an income stream over time also has the added benefit of helping you plan out expenses more accurately.
9. You need additional time to reinforce good habits
If quitting your day job means you’ll work less diligently at other things like saving money, staying fit (working out and eating healthy), finding mentors, practising or becoming better at vital skills (creativity, sales, coding, etc.) then this is a good sign that quitting your job could be premature. I don’t believe in going into entrepreneurship just because everyone says you should – but if what really matters to you is living the dream and working on something you love with all of your heart, it’s important to make sure your priorities align before making life-changing decisions.
10. You are not ready to go all-in
If there are still other things in your daily routine that keep pulling at you like: online games or watching shows on Netflix instead of working on your startup – then hold off until the last possible moment when it will still work out for you without having to give up too much. The more you integrate your startup into your daily routines, the better – but for some people, this comes more easily than others. Being prepared to do whatever it takes is a vital part of getting started as an entrepreneur – so if you think you need more time before being able to integrate startup work into your life then give yourself that time first instead of quitting now and regretting it later.
11. You haven’t built support networks
Working on a new company with no one supporting you will be incredibly difficult – if not impossible – to pull off without a critical mass of fellow entrepreneurs, mentors or friends who can help keep you afloat when things get rough. I’d strongly suggest joining meetups in your area right now if you haven’t already and working on building those relationships.
So when do you know it’s time to quit?
You should be addicted (in a good way) to uncertainty by now. If quitting your day job doesn’t scare the hell out of you at night – then this is a good sign that running a business and keeping yourself alive and healthy with it will probably be the most exciting thing you’ve ever done.
If quitting your day job means you’ll work less diligently at other things like saving money, staying fit (working out and eating healthy), finding mentors, practising or becoming better at vital skills (creativity, sales, coding etc.) then this is a good sign that quitting your job could be premature.
I don’t believe in going into entrepreneurship just because everyone says you should – but if what really matters to you is living the dream and working on something you love with all of your heart it’s important to make sure priorities align before making life-changing decisions
I recommend holding off until the last possible moment when it will still work out without having to give up too much. The more time spent integrating startup-work into a daily routine – the easier things will be – but this doesn’t come easily for everyone and some need more time before being able to integrate their startup into their life.
Quitting your day job to work on a startup is not for everyone. There are many factors that go into this decision, and it’s important to take the time you need before making life-changing decisions like these. Quitting your 9-5 may just be easier than you think with enough preparation so give yourself as much time as possible before jumping ship.
Let me know in the comments what has helped you decide that it was time to quit.
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