When an Entrepreneur Quits and Has to Find a Job

Being a entrepreneur is hard.

Even though I wrote a book about alternatives to a job (51 Alternatives to a Real Job), and I talk about multiple streams of income, and I regularly present to youth and adults about starting their own business, and I think that being creators trumps being consumers any day, I know that being an entrepreneur is hard.

It’s not for everyone.

And at times, it’s not for anyone.

In a recent email from a JibberJobber user, I read: “One of the discoveries I made is that I am an entrepreneur at heart, but not at the moment.”

Not at the moment.  Sometimes the timing is right, but that doesn’t mean the timing is always right.

A few months ago a close friend who has owned a software business for years closed shop and got a “real job.”  The emotions in this type of transition has to include:

Elation beyond measure, to get a regular paycheck (no more high ups and low downs).

Sadness, because of having  to move on from having built something that is just not buildable anymore.

Embarrassment and shame to quit on your dreams of so many years, and admit that you simply weren’t good enough to make it work.

But circumstances shift, needs change, support from family changes, markets evolve. At the intersection where dreams meets reality, you learn just how hard it is to get something close to break even, much less highly profitable.

Your respect for those who founded and created businesses from yesteryear skyrockets as you realize that to get to what looks like an easy, privileged and exotic lifestyle, founders had to sacrifice health, relationships, and sanity.

I’ve seen this over and over.

I’ve seen entrepreneurs-at-heart pull the plug on their dreams and get a job.

And here’s what I think: THAT IS OKAY.

I read Seth Godin’s book, The Dip, and what I got out of it was you have to learn when to quit or change course.  He’s not talking about quitting in a depression and giving up on life.  He’s talking about figuring out when to change what you are doing, either in a big way (close your business) or a small way (change your strategy, offering, packaging, etc.).  Change, re-evaluating, and some-might-call-it-failure, is OKAY.  It’s necessary. It’s expected.  It’s important.

You’ve heard that you should fail quickly, learn from it, and move on, right?

This is a really, really hard pill to swallow when it’s your idea, your business, your attempt.  It’s your ego, and eventually, your identity.

Quitting means you don’t believe in yourself.  You slip into a depression where you have validated, once again, that you weren’t as competent and qualified as you thought you were.  Perhaps you will only amount to being a cog in someone else’s wheel.  This is not the career you envisioned.

But in reality, you shouldn’t think that way.  Whether you are a cog in someone else’s wheel, or you create the next Facebook, you have value.  And as I mentioned earlier, circumstances change.  Maybe your role as cog today will lead you to successful entrepreneur in the future.  Or maybe you’ll be a great cog, with a great career, with financial stability and all the joys that can come from having a fulfilled life.

I admit that I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I couldn’t figure it out until the idea for JibberJobber came.  There were a few false starts with other businesses, but my heart wasn’t in it, and they weren’t the right path.  I eventually pulled the plug on them.  But when JibberJobber came, it was like a calling from God.  And for parts of the last nine years, that calling has been hard to fulfill.  I’ve done the stuff I’d heard about from other entrepreneurs: lived off of credit cards, borrowed ridiculous amounts of money from family, burned through my 401k, payed my employees for months without taking any salary, etc.

Glamorous?  Only in the movies.

Hard?  Indescribably hard.

Did I think about giving up?  Many times.

Did I have any way out?  I’ve had job offers and buyout offers over the years, but none of them were right.

For now, this is my calling.  I’m blessed to have a wife who is all-in, and gets the vision of what I’m doing. Not to say that there haven’t been times when she wanted something different (like a paycheck every other week), but she gets it.  She supports it.  And that’s the reason why I can still be here, as an entrepreneur, fighting the fight, while I might otherwise get a high-paying job with benefits and vacation, and some facade of security.

Luckily we figured out the money part of this business, which is something that my ex-competitors can’t say.

I choose to fight this bloody, messy fight.

Getting a job?  Pulling the plug on entrepreneurship?  If it’s right, right now, then do it.

I think that’s only a step in the big journey of being an entrepreneur.  After all, with the state of job security being what it is now, aren’t’ we all taking entrepreneurial risks?

3 thoughts on “When an Entrepreneur Quits and Has to Find a Job”

  1. I’m currently working on finding a job after a year of working on my first business idea. This article is so spot on. It IS elating and depressing at the same time. But I know that I have more ideas in me. I actually think that my company is still doable. I just ran out of funds. Thank you for this article!

  2. Excellent blog. When my daughter was struggling with a career change and worried about ‘failing’, I said to her “Failure is only a state of mind!” She’s now successfully pursuing a new career and life and ploughing her own road. Now I have to practice what I preached as I face the same situation. Being entrepreneurial in thought is easy when someone else is paying the bills. Being an entrepreneur is entirely different. Thanks for the insights.

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