Suffering severe burnt out? Disillusioned by the career you enthusiastically started all those years ago? “I know!” You think. “I’ll start a business! I’ll get to be my own boss and work on my own terms, it will be perfect!”
Starting a business is all the rage, what with the internet and social media, it’s never been easier to build your own company and start working for yourself.
When you hate your job, feel ground down by the daily slog to the office and dread the thought of ‘same shit, different day’ for the next 30 years, starting a business can seem very tempting.
But, should you start a business? Or is there a different answer?
Should I start a business? 9 alternatives to entrepreneurship when you want to quit your job
Before we dive into the alternatives to starting a business. Let’s go through and identify why a business could be a good idea and the potential realities of it.
Why you think you want to start a business
No one telling me what to do! Yes!
No more pointless 1-2-1s and appraisals where I just get given more work! Woohoo!
No more ridiculous strategy changes to implement! Yippee!!!
When you don’t have a boss to answer to (who is at the mercy of the company owners or shareholders), you can decide on your own strategy which isn’t driving sales and profit straight into someone else’s pocket.
Decide your own hours and schedule
Late night last night? Think I’ll have a nice lie in.
Raining? I’ll work at home today rather than going to a cafe.
Morning person? I’ll get up at 5am to work. Night owl? I’ll work til 11pm.
People are productive at different times of the day. The traditional 9-5 won’t necessarily suit your most productive hours.
Working for yourself means you can plan your tasks according to your peak times of productivity. You can also fit your work hours around other commitments like picking your kids up from school.
Smash the salary ceiling
No more ‘sorry, there’s no money in the budget for a pay rise this year’.
An end to taking on extra projects to try and secure that promotion.
No more staying up late to prepare presentations to Senior Management to ‘get noticed’.
Running your own business means that you control the profits, and theoretically, the sky is the limit.
An end to soul-draining meetings
No more pointless meetings. Ever. Again.
No meetings for meeting’s sake. No pre-meeting before the actual meeting. No post-meeting after the actual meeting.
When you have your own business, even if you do need to have meetings, you can set the agenda and make sure they are productive.
Rather than sitting around with 10 other people and then leaving the meeting with no bleeding clue what the outcome was.
The realities of quitting your job to start a business
No money for a loooong time
Contrary to all the shouty ads on social media, you don’t make £100k in your first year when you start your business.
Some people might, but most don’t. There are so many things to learn when you start your business, and chances are you spend money before you make it.
There is no way I will hit £100k this year but I still wanted to invest in my business to set it up for success.
No idea what the hell you are doing
When you start your business, you go back to the beginning and embark on a very steep learning curve. Unlike being in an office, there is no one to turn to and ask how to do something.
You have to google it, go on forums or Facebook groups and generally try and figure it out. This takes a lot of time and can be VERY FRUSTRATING (WordPress, I am looking at you).
Having to wear ALL the hats
When you are in a corporate job, you are ususally in a role that plays to your strengths and training. When you start a business, you have to do everything. Including things you really don’t like or are terrible at.
Once you are making some money from your business you can outsource the stuff you don’t like, but until then you have to slog through it.
If you are bootstrapping your business (starting it with as little money as possible), you are probably working from home.
And, there is a world of distraction at home. Netflix to the left, a pile of dirty washing to the right, an empty fridge that needs filling.
You could spend all day sorting out the stuff that needs doing in your home, only to realise that you have done nothing for your business.
If you are fearful of starting your business, these distractions are wonderful procrastination aids!
It takes a lot of self-discipline to actually sit down and get on with whatever needs doing for your business that day. And the next day. And the next.
Never truly switching off
Even if you worked stupid hours in your corporate job, hopefully on the weekend or on holiday, you got to switch off.
When you have your own business, it is really, really hard to do this. Not only because you have a lot of tasks to do but also because your brain is constantly thinking and processing and creating.
You may be okay with this, but your family members may not be. Especially if they have office jobs themselves and want to use their vacation time to switch off and relax.
Okay, so now we have been through the realities of starting a business, what about good and bad reasons for starting one.
Just to let you know, I first started a different business for the wrong reasons and it fell flat on its face…..
Good reasons to start a business
- You have an idea you are excited about
- Your product or service solves a problem for people
- These customers have money
- You have an emergency fund to tide you over until you make money
- You’ve reviewed costs and margins and your business could be profitable
- You can start with an MVP (minimum viable product) to test your product
Terrible reasons to start a business
You’ve seen others make squillions from it.
I’m just going to step in here and have a little rant. Blogging is a very good example of this. Pinterest and social media are full of blogging success stories and income reports.
Literally, if I see one more, ‘start your blog easily in 5 minutes and make £100k in a year’ I’m going to scream blue murder.
Actually, as I’m British, I probably won’t. I’ll just seethe quietly muttering phrases such as ‘bloody ridiculous’.
These claims do not tell the whole story, and it gives people the idea that blogging is the easy way out of a job they hate. It isn’t. It is hard work and takes a lot of time to make money. Just like any other business.
You think it’s the answer to your career burnout
If you’ve been working flat out in your career for over a decade, you could well be exhausted and burnt out.
You may think that throwing it all up in the air and starting a business could be the answer. I tried to do this a year before I started IWMLBproject and it didn’t work. At all.
I needed to have a long break and get over the burn out first before I even thought about starting a business.
You aren’t self-motivated and need structure to your day
If you struggle with planning and organising then you may want to think carefully about starting a business.
It takes an enormous amount of self-discipline and planning to make sure you get things done.
You think it will be less work
You know what, in the long run, it might be. If you get everything set up with systems in place and outsource whatever you can, eventually maybe you can step back a bit.
But that could be after years of failing, testing, and grafting to get your business to a place where you can take a step back.
You are running away from something rather than towards your business
This is absolutely the most important one.
Never start a business because you are running away from a toxic job, an unhappy situation or anything else. Start your business because you want to run towards it, not use it as an escape from something else.
Time for the million dollar question!
What do you really want?
Before you start a business, it is best to sit down and think about what you are really trying to achieve.
- Are you totally burnt out and need a break?
- Do you want less responsibility as you are tired of the pressure and long hours?
- Do you want more time with your family rather than spending your life at the office?
- Do you want to make more money than you can in your current job?
- Do you want a career you can fit around other parts of your life?
Once you have these answers, you can think about what else you could do instead of your job and without starting a business.
Here are 9 alternatives for you to get started.
What are the alternatives to quitting and starting a business?
Ask to go part-time
Maybe you still like your career but just feel you are missing out on time with your family.
Could you drop down to 3 days a week or job share with someone? If this would be a stretch money-wise, are there any adjustments you can make to your budget that would allow you to do this?
If your industry allows it, what about working from home, either part of the week or working remotely?
This would allow you to avoid the commute and work more flexibly rather than being stuck in an office all day.
Do compressed hours
What about keeping your current salary and working hours but compressing them into 4 days? Some businesses allow employees to work extended hours 4 days a week, allowing them to have the 5th day off.
Become a consultant
If you have reached a senior level in your career then you could leave your job to become a consultant.
This typically pays a higher day rate if you are self-employed (due to not getting benefits) but can be a great way to work shorter projects and then take time off in between.
I still pick up the odd retail consultancy project to boost my savings if the role is interesting.
If you don’t feel comfortable going it alone, there are companies that you can work for as a permanent consultant. You won’t get as much time off but you will get a regular salary.
Take a sabbatical
If you are seriously stressed and exhausted, what about asking your boss for a sabbatical (extended unpaid leave).
You could take a few months to take that world travel trip you never went on and return to your job refreshed and ready to start again.
Perhaps it isn’t your career that’s the problem, maybe it’s your company.
If you were happy at previous companies but have only started to question your career choice at this current one, perhaps you should move to another one.
It could be worth it to give yourself another year in a different company, and if you still want to start a business then you’ve lost nothing.
Or perhaps it is your career that needs changing…..
If you think you have come to the end of the line with your current career, what about embarking on a new one rather than starting a business?
Some universities allow you to work there and get a free degree (in the US), or you could do some unpaid work experience during your holidays to test out some other career choices.
Take your holiday
So, if you are stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted and are sitting on a load of accrued holiday, will you just bloody take it!
The company will not crumble to the ground if you take 2 weeks off (which incidentally you are paid for).
Start a side-hustle
If you still think a business is the answer, you could start your business while you are still working to see whether you actually enjoy it.
Just be careful with this one as you could really burn out if you don’t ever have any downtime.
Starting a business isn’t always the answer. There are plenty of alternatives if you just ‘aren’t feeling’ your job anymore.
Just because there are people out there proclaiming that starting a business is the best thing they have ever done, it doesn’t necessarily make it the right move for you.
If you do decide that you want to start a business, just make sure you reduce the risk by starting with as little money as possible and having an escape fund to tide you over.
Here are some other blog posts that might help you to decide:
- How to start a business while working full-time
- 7 myths about starting a business in your 30s
- What does starting a business really look like?
- 44 free tools to start an online business with no money
- How to boost your confidence when your toxic job is destroying it
- 18 glaring signs you are ready to quit your job
- How to come up with a business idea when you have no clue
What do you think? Is starting a business is the right move for you?