What Entrepreneurs "Get" That Employees Don't- and How to Hack it for the 9-5
Is it just me, or is "just start a business" the new "just learn to code"? It's frustrating, and it's everywhere. At this point I feel that you could ask someone for their blueberry scone recipe and they could include the startup process for a scone factory in the directions.
As someone who grew up inundated by posts and pins pushing me to DIY everything- including my career and income- believe me, I know it's tiring to hear. I've worked in retail and food service, clocking in at 4am one day and out at 11pm the next day, as well as the standard 9-5, and at the end of a long day the last thing I ever wanted to hear was, "just start your own business." Hell, even now that I HAVE started my own business it's the last thing I want to hear! The reality is that starting your own business isn't about drinking coffee from cute mugs, getting to walk your dog whenever you want, and going out to nice restaurants as an excuse to "network." It's difficult, time-consuming, and usually takes a long, long time to become materially rewarding ($$$).
In other words, this post is not about singing the praises of starting your own business.
But there's still something that feels so alluring about the "just start a business" crowd.
Maybe it's the excitement of owning something just for yourself.
Maybe it's the possibility of making more money to live a better lifestyle.
Maybe it's the promise that- ultimately- you can be a little more in charge of your purpose in life.
Whatever the particular allure is for you, there's one thread that keeps all of these dreams going. Entrepreneurs get something that shift workers, 9-5er's, and even "coders" and remote workers usually miss.
That is: the power of building your own equity and letting it make money FOR you.
When you start your own business, you're essentially forced to start building your own equity and assets. You have to front-load as much of the work as possible and then scale it as best you can. You need tangible things to work with: physical products, digital products, online presence, startup supplies, etc. For most businesses, you simply aren't in business unless you have at least one of these things, so acquiring them in some way is naturally first on the list.
"When you start your own business, you're essentially forced to start building your own equity and assets"
As you continue to build your business, you grow all kinds of different assets and equities: digital/physical content, brand reputation, physical assets necessary for production, property, funds and lines of credit, valuable skills, and much more. If you're running your business correctly, then the more your business matures the more time and resources you'll be in command of.
It's funny: everyone acknowledges the downside to this. The downside is that you can work for hours and hours before seeing a single penny in profit. But the upside is equally true: after frontloading the work, you can STOP working for hours and hours and still see profits!
This is because you've already built the assets and equity to sustain that level of income.
This is the power of building assets for yourself instead of only for your company.
Compare this to how most people work when they're an employee. If you're an hourly worker, then you clock in at 9am, clock out and back in for your lunch break around 1pm, and then clock out by 5 or 6pm. There's a clear trade-off here, and it doesn't involve equity or assets at all- it's your time. Time and skill are the only commodities you have at your disposal to negotiate with. You're trading the time in your life for a fixed number- usually accurate to the second. If you're a salaried worker the idea is the same- you're just negotiating bigger chunks of time and possibly adding in more skill to negotiate with.
There's a clear trade-off here, and it doesn't involve equity or assets at all- it's your time.
In other words, entrepreneurs are forced to build a business model that thrives off of their assets, whereas employees are forced to live in a model that thrives off of their time.
Let's look at an example.
Kayla and Julie went to school together and both landed jobs after college at the same marketing firm. After their first year, Julie felt restless and wanted to pivot into a marketing coaching role for online retailers, which wasn't available at her company. On a whim, she quit her job at the firm and built a single coaching course, which she targeted for online, owner-led boutiques. By a stroke of good luck, she made 30k in her first year, equivalent to what she was making at her old firm.
From here on out, if Kayla were to stop working altogether, she would immediately lose her income. Julie, on the other hand, would still make some income until her product becomes obsolete.
If you just thought, "But Julie probably won't make 30k in her first year!" You may be right. All I'm asking is that if you so easily accept the downsides of entrepreneurship then you also entertain the potential upsides.
Without equity or assets of some sort, you're simply not in business.
Here's an example from my own life:
Growing up, I was taught that skills were the most valuable thing you had in your career.
"Learn to be great at customer service and anyone will hire you."
"Do well in school so you can get a good job after college."
"Get that degree/certification."
And, of course, "Learn to code!"
I always dreamed of starting my own business, and I thought that skills alone would get me there. I was always chasing after some new skill that I thought would help me build my business, and- to be fair- I still am! But the real turning point in my life didn't come after I learned how to manage my own website or use Adobe InDesign. It came from my bank account balance. I had finally saved up enough cash to leave my job and strike out on my own. I realized in that moment that everything else- my work history, my skills, and my references- were really only theoretical safety nets. I didn't really know if they'd come in handy until I absolutely had to rely on them. But the cash in my account (the only tangible equity I had) was a real safety net.
In the last few months, I've been able to leverage my one asset (cash) for other real assets: more time away from my job, a hosting service for my website, startup costs for merchandise, and more. I've built more skills that I ever have in the last few months, but unfortunately no number of new skills can make up for those initial costs.
There's a reason that the most "successful" people aren't necessarily the smartest, but are often the wealthiest growing up. They have assets and equity to fall back on if they ever need to. They can literally afford to fail. Their time and effort are no longer directly linked to their income. And this is what entrepreneurs get- what they're actually forced to get. Without equity or assets of some sort, you're simply not in business. And the more you have, the more business you get.
I know what you're thinking (...maybe). This is depressing! Not everyone is an entrepreneur!
And I get it.
"Hustle-culture" drives me a little crazy, too.
Again, I'm not here to say that "building your own business" is the new "learn to code." We need hourly workers, too!
But if you're interested in making your 9-5 life a little bit more like that of an entrepreneur, you can do it.
Here's how: treat your self, your time, and your skills like a business.
It's entirely possible for any other kind of worker to build their own equity. It's just not automatically built into their workday the same way it is for entrepreneurs. All employees have to do to build their own equity is contribute more to their retirement plans and savings accounts. Really. That's it. By contributing more to retirement plans and savings accounts, you're buying a piece of equity for your future self, just like an entrepreneur who's buying their first startup piece.
As you save more and more (yes, even if it's in a retirement account!), you'll find that more and more opportunities open up to you- even ones you had never thought of before.
And if you're an employee, you have one MAJOR advantage over entrepreneurs:
You can start right now!
You don't have to wait until you've "turned a profit," or are "in the black." You can start building your own assets with your very next paycheck.
If you want to take the reigns of your financial future, think of it this way. The next time you hear the advice to "only contribute your employer match" to your 401k or "only save for a rainy day fund," ask yourself- would an entrepreneur only put 3.5% (the average employer 401k match) of their time, effort, and money, into building their own assets? Hell no.
Entrepreneurs hustle- and so can you. Start building your assets and equity now and you too can experience the effects of "frontloading" your work life- all while keeping your day job.
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