Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Usually, the term "Don't Quit Your Day Job" is used to let somebody know that they're not particularly talented at something.  Since you'll never make money doing X, you should keep doing Y.  While it might be true that some people should just stick to their day jobs "just because" -- I'd argue that it is especially true that those with true talents and great ideas for the next great product/service/app should really keep their day jobs.

Before you get all bent out of shape, let me be clear:  I'm not suggesting that these people discontinue their pursuits for startup glory.  Just the opposite.  In fact, keeping your day job for as long as you can will ultimately put you in the best position to succeed.  Here's why:

1.  It buys you time.

Idea validation is probably the most overlooked aspect of starting a business.  If you think you have a great idea and you're ready to jump right in full-time, consider these questions:  Do you know the market inside and out?  Do you know your potential competitors inside and out?  Have you spoken to potential customers?  The time you have while working a "day job" should be used to find these answers.

I know, I know.  You're busy.  And I don't care.  If you normally begin work at 8am -- start at 6am.  If you normally work until 6pm -- work until 10pm.  Or midnight.  Find the time...and use it to validate your idea.

2.  It buys you food and shelter.

You gotta pay the bills -- and a day job lets you do that.  Don't underestimate this fact.  Without taking care of your basic needs/responsibilities, you won't have the sanity to even try to think about your idea for the next greatest thing.  Even when you take this leap, you have to make sure these needs are covered somehow.  Hopefully, it will be through the revenue you're generating from customers.

3.  It sharpens your focus.

The busier you are, the more productive you are.  It's just true.  Getting used to a schedule that forces you to wake up at 5am, please your boss from 9-5, and then go back to the grind will mentally prepare you for what life will be like as a true entrepreneur.  Believe me when I say, things don't get any less busy when you do ultimately quit your day job.

Now, all of that said -- there are definitely a couple of "Don'ts" to keep in mind:

  • Don't work on your idea while at work.  You want to ultimately leave on your own terms.  Getting canned for not doing what you're being paid to do will hurt you in the short and long term.
  • Don't use company equipment.  You don't want to give your company any reason to claim that awesome IP that's floating around in that brain of yours.  Using your company laptop could give them legal grounds to do just that.
  • Don't overlook those pesky legal documents you signed.  If you have a non-compete with your company and your potential startup is in the same field, it could get dicey.  You probably want to consult with your attorney to make sure you're in the clear.
  • Don't stay too long.  That steady paycheck is nice -- I get it.  But ultimately, the goal is to get to a point where you're ready to take that leap.

But let's not go there just yet.  Because the reality is -- you're probably STILL not ready.  You need to do your homework, first.  We'll be talking about what that means in my next post.