5 Ways Entrepreneurship is Overrated (and What to Do Instead)
This article was originally published on Medium.
Money. Freedom. Respect. Fame.
These are some of the many promises of the all-holy entrepreneurship.
In recent years, there has been a flood of blog posts, eBooks and video courses on why and how to become an entrepreneur. “How to Make Money Online.” “How to Make $5k Per Month in Passive Income.” “How to Tell Your Boss to Go F*ck Himself and Live Your Dreams.” “…in 3 Easy Steps!”
And I get why.
The economy is changing. Technology is automating jobs. Regulations incentivize companies to hire part-time staff instead of full-time employees.Meanwhile, inflation in education, healthcare and consumer goods means we need to make more to live the same lifestyle of generations past. And who doesn’t want to live on the beach?
Look — I’ve been both an entrepreneur and an employee. So don’t get me wrong, being an entrepreneur is great — especially if you’re successful at it. And you’ve probably heard all the stories about that. The WhatsApp founder who went from getting rejected by Twitter and Facebook to a multi-billionaire in months. The digital nomad who travels the world working on his laptop at the most beautiful beaches. (I’m friends with many and their Instagram photos are awe inspiring!)
However, the dark tales of entrepreneurship are not often told. A combination of survivorship bias and a lack marketability for such harsh truths make for a far less ample supply.
The reality is, entrepreneurship is not all money, fame and IPOs. And not all jobs are soul sucking failure centers. Here’s why entrepreneurship is not always all it’s hyped up to be followed by five alternatives for the entrepreneurially inclined.
1. You spend money instead of making it.
As an employee, you have guaranteed income from day one. In addition, you get budgets and expense accounts to spend on what you need.
When you become an entrepreneur, not only is your salary gone, your expense accounts are too. Now, not only do you eat what you kill, you have to spend time and money to get started.
You have to spend your money on everything from websites to employees to transportation to meetings. And the time you spend on these activities is not compensated.
2. You are the CEO and the janitor.
Being CEO sounds great. Making big decisions. Setting the strategy. Doing deals. Leading. Making sh*t happen.
At a Fortune 500 company, yes, the CEO barely touches the keyboard and just strategizes, hires and manages.
But at a startup, being CEO really just means you do everything — at least until you have a decent amount of funding. Finding office space, scheduling meetings, sales calls, client work, you name it — it’s all on you.
3. There’s no paid vacation.
As an employee you get this crazy thing called paid time off (PTO). You set an out of office email autoresponder and you’re gone. You can go wherever in the world you want and you don’t need to respond to emails.
As an entrepreneur, my vacations have really just been “workations.” I work full-time, just in a different location.
In theory, you can eventually hire to replace yourself…if you’re one of the 1% of entrepreneurs who doesn’t fail before getting there.
4. You work harder and longer.
As an employee, your work day starts and ends. As an entrepreneur, there’s always something you could be doing.
The gurus tell you to work less in order to get more done. But the constant feeling of impending doom makes you feel guilty for not doing anything and everything you can.
Work all day, network all night, then do some creative work on the weekends.
5. You’re probably going to fail.
On top of all the hard work, long hours and downsides discussed above, you still only have a small chance of actually succeeding.
Sure, if you’re smart, talented, hardworking and have the right connections, you can make it happen. But there are many risks that are completely outside of your control. Market risks. Hiring risks. Macroeconomic risks.
Aside from being more stable — and potentially even more profitable — the right alternative to entrepreneurship can actually be more fun and fulfilling. If you’re not ready to take the plunge into entrepreneurship — or you already have but are ready to go back to comfort land — here are a few things to look for.
Here Are 5 Great Alternatives to Entrepreneurship:
1. Work for people more talented than you.
It’s taboo to talk about abilities. No one wants to hurt feelings. In addition, it’s hard to admit we’re not the best.
But the reality is, not all bosses are incompetent assholes. There are many people out there doing incredible things — Starting world changing companies and treating their employees well.
Joining a fast growing company lead by talented people can help you achieve more than you would be able to achieve on your own.
2. Take a role where you can focus on your strengths and passions.
Not all jobs are soul sucking cubicle hell holes. If you have a specialized skillset, take a job where you can focus on that without having to worry about your janitorial duties.
And there are plenty of roles where you can still be entrepreneurial:
- Product management
- Innovation at a large company
3. Work in an environment that works for you.
Companies are increasingly seeking entrepreneurial employees. To recruit such personalities, they’re offering more modern work environments and perks. If you look, you can probably find a startup or a large company where your work environment will include:
- Good people
- Flexible work hours
- Flexible work locations
- A flat management structure where you can work autonomously
You don’t need to be an entrepreneur to travel the world. In fact, becoming an entrepreneur might make it take longer or be less likely to ever happen.Some employers will let you do it — while paying you a salary!
4. Hustle on the side.
If you take a job that doesn’t have crazy work hours, you should have plenty of time to explore your entrepreneurial inclinations on the side. The reality is, almost all businesses take time and money to get started. Yeah, it’s hard to wake up a little earlier, or take time out from your weekend to work, but it can be done.
With a side hustle, you can earn some extra money (on top of a salary it can add up to a lot!), and over time, it could become a full-time job, after you’ve eliminated most of the risk. And you get to use the money you’re making at your full-time job to fund it!
5. Gain happiness from within.
Reading entrepreneurship gurus and self-help books, I had my identity tied to being an entrepreneur. I thought anything else made me a slave and a failure. I thought I needed to be an entrepreneur to prove my worth.
But I realized I didn’t need to be an entrepreneur to earn respect from the people I actually cared about — or from myself.
In addition, it’s unclear if entrepreneurs actually make more money on average given so many fail. Thus, having self-worth tied to a specific status or financial outcome is a risky proposition.
Now, I’m sure to set meaningful goals and priorities and earn self-worth from within.