When people start a business, we call it “taking a leap of faith.” That phrase is significant, because it indicates that starting a business is risky. You’re stepping into the void, venturing into the unknown – all without a safety net.
When you work at a traditional job, you have a safety net, of sorts. You can take chances and try new things, but you have the safety of a larger organization with all the perks and benefits that go with that: paid time off, health insurance, retirement plan contributions, teams of colleagues supporting you, supervisors who direct your work and let you know if you’re on the right track, a widely recognized brand name, marketing and distribution networks to bring you leads and make the money that pays your salary.
Of course, the downside to having this “safety net” propping you up, is that most of the time, you also have a “ceiling” holding you down. Not necessarily the dreaded “glass ceiling” that so many women in business have struggled with for generations, but a ceiling nonetheless.
Traditional jobs, especially at larger corporations, tend to have thick ceilings of annual performance reviews, formal career paths, salary structures and pay raise formulas, org charts, and many layers of bureaucracy.
In theory, talented people are supposed to be able to get recognized, rise through the ranks and make as much money as they want, but many entrepreneurial types feel stifled by all this structure. There’s always someone structuring your work life, telling you how much you deserve to get paid this year, and showing you which hurdles you need to overcome. If you’re an entrepreneur at heart, a traditional job will never be as fulfilling as doing your own thing.
This is why starting a business is so great. As a small business owner, you have no safety net, but you also have no ceiling. You have no health insurance (unless you buy it for yourself), no paid time off (unless you earn enough money to afford to take a break), and no co-workers covering your back (unless you choose to hire small business employees or surround yourself with other people who you trust to help you). You have no employer to withhold taxes from your paycheck, so you have to stay disciplined in managing your small business taxes. The only basic safety net that most entrepreneurs can count on is forming an LLC or other corporate business structure to protect their personal assets in case of a business failure or lawsuit.
When you have a traditional job, you have structure imposed on you – you have a fixed schedule of hours, and you get paid what the job description calls for.
When you run your own business, you have to impose structure upon yourself. There is no arbitrary 40-hour work week anymore, and there is no limit to how much you can earn. When you run your own business, you can work as much or as little as you want. If you want to work 12 hours a day for 3 days a week, and then take a 4-day weekend every week, you can do it. (As long as your business is reaching your goals for income and profitability.)
Which is more important to you: the reassurance of the “safety net,” or the restrictions of the “ceiling?” How you answer that question says a lot about whether you’re suited to being an entrepreneur, or whether you’d be more comfortable at a traditional job.
Entrepreneurs are willing to live without a safety net of a traditional job, in exchange for freedom from the ceiling of a traditional job. Ultimately, running your own business gives you a chance to build a safety net of your own.