When your dream of self-employment is threatened, when should you suck it up and work for someone else?
What do you do when your pipeline runs dry, savings exhausted and credit maxed? Many entrepreneurs start their dream business while continuing a regular job until the new business thrives. Many of us start a business while unemployed or otherwise in transition, as I did when I left medical school. We are the group with less startup equity and are more likely to run out of funds sooner than our employed counterparts.
When I left medical school I couldn’t find a job, let alone one in my field, so I did what any entrepreneur would do and started a business. I taught social-media marketing and consulted with my former schoolmates to help them grow their practices.
Two years into my marketing consultancy, things started falling apart. Cash slowed to a trickle until there was nothing receivable. Self-confidence beaten and pressured from creditors, I kicked into survival mode and got a job as fast as I could with little planning.
Over the next two years, I learned the hard way that having a job and a business can be detrimental. The income wasn’t as good as it seemed, considering how little time or energy was left to operate my own business. My boundaries were blurry. When I was honest with myself answering these five questions, I began to rebuild a healthier, more satisfying business.
1. Can I make money in my business faster than on a job?
Jobs are not readily available to be chosen from the market. It takes time and effort to find, apply, interview and be invited to a new job that will meet your needs. This is time away from revenue-generating activity within your business. Once employed, it will take another two to six weeks before you receive your first paycheck.
2. Which is my priority, getting and holding a new job, or growing my business?
Invariably, you will have to make sacrifices while concurrently employed and running your business. Decide in advance and periodically review which of the two is your higher priority.
3. Is what I’m doing in my business really what I want to do?
Like most entrepreneurs in transition, I quickly started my business out of financial necessity. It revolved around harvesting low-hanging fruit, not around my passion and long-term goals.
If the current version of your business is not really what you want to do , revise your business plan. Likely, the business you truly desire has some relationship to the original idea. With a little more planning you’ll be able to transition to it.
4. How long do I anticipate working the new job?
If you’ve decided you do want or need to get a job, have a clear plan to help you stay on track with your business. It will also come in handy when answering related questions in a job interview: Why should they invest in hiring you if only for the short term? Your plan should also include an exit strategy and timetable for leaving the job.
5. Will this job get me closer to or farther from my business goals?
Be sure employment elsewhere does not interfere with essential business operations. Block time on your schedule to reach people and businesses with fixed hours. Consider what time of the day you have your highest energy and productivity. Block this time for your business.
There are opportunity costs in every decision made. Carefully consider what you could be doing with your business if you were not spending time on the job. We trade time for money in most jobs, seldom with opportunities for residual income or equity. If you take on a job, be sure the total compensation package and social benefits far outweigh the opportunity costs your business will incur.
Growing a business is hard enough, let alone while also working a job. If you are financially frustrated, be honest about answering these five questions before you take on employment. They are key to avoiding the major negative consequences I experienced, and will help you move toward a happier, more fulfilling life.
This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur
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