Recently I’ve been rethinking how I feel about work and jobs. As you may or may not know, I help business owners solve technology and marketing problems, which gives me some freedom to choose who I work with and when. I don’t have fixed hours and if I work more, I can get paid more, but it’s not all roses and cherry blossoms.
When you run your own business, while you may earn more, much of your work is doubled or even tripled. Not only do you have to do the work, but you have to go earn it, and then process all the finances, documentation, and taxes on the back end. In a traditional job environment the work is handed to you and you just do it. When it’s done, someone else processes it. Your work is finite and so is your pay.
A Paradigm Shifts Again
For ten years I worked full time jobs in banking and technology, and I always would told myself I’d be happier running my own business until one day I did. I started off running it on the side in 2007 and in 2011 I finally went full time. I do web design with HTML, CSS, and WordPress, email support with web hosts and Google Apps, and computer and network support for Microsoft products like Windows and Server 2003/2008.
While I have been successful at running my own business, there are two reasons why I’ve recently began applying for jobs in the Indianapolis market. The first reason is because I realized that the ideas I had about working hard now in order to do much less later were not realistic. I didn’t even realize I had this mentality until after a couple of months had gone by and I discovered that there will never be a time when I’m doing ‘nothing’. I’ll always be doing something, so why not just spend some time figuring out what I want to do, not just what I can find a job doing.
The second reason I began looking for jobs in the Indianapolis area was because I realized that it didn’t matter who I was doing the work for, as long as I was enjoying what I was doing. Even as a business owner, I have a boss. I have clients, my wife, and my Lord to report to. It’s not just willy nilly around here. I have to meet or exceed all of their expectations just as I would have to in a traditional job scenario – only more so because while the rewards are higher, so are the risks. There are no written warnings with clients, just lost opportunities in the future.
You Are a Startup
A friend of mine, Jason Cobb, recently coined a term, “You are a startup,” meaning that whatever you’re doing, do it like a startup. But what is a startup? A startup is traditionally a software company that is rapidly trying to create a product that is useful and monetizeable as fast as they can. It normally involves a small team consisting of a leader, a technical co-founder, and a marketer. These roles could all be one person, or it could be five people, but the point is that it’s a small team pushing out useful iterations of a product with the hopes of expanding very fast once a market can’t live without it.
So how does a startup mentality apply to you? Whether you are working for a client or for a company as an employee, you must be producing stuff that matters, you must be a leader, and you must be marketing yourself. This means listening to your customers and getting feedback, getting to know your fellow employees, and continuing your education (via meetups, books, or traditional training).
As I wrote about in 13 More Books for Every Entrepreneur, Reid Hoffman, (co-founder of LinkedIn) together with Ben Casnocha (entrepreneur and author) have written a book about managing your career as if it were a start-up business: a living, breathing, growing start-up of you. The thesis is that the same skills startup entrepreneurs use, professionals need to get ahead today.
Now that I’ve experienced running my own business, I no longer look down on the traditional 9-to-5 job because I know that I can have impact either way and still accomplish my goals of learning, growing, and taking care of my family.
12 Month Goals (and Roadmap)
I recently subscribed to a blog I’ve been reading since 2008 called I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi. Today he sent out a link to a PDF with a 12 Month Goals Roadmap worksheet, very similar to Michael Hyatt’s Life Plan. I’d like to share my answers here.
1. What will you be doing for work? – Editing HTML, CSS, and PHP; Converting static HTML web pages into dynamic CMS blogs; converting clients from POP email access to Google Apps; training users on how to use WordPress; Affiliate Marketing; Computer Network Troubleshooting and Repair
2. What’s your boss (or the person to whom you’ll be accountable) like? – Gives me feedback; Challenges me; Considers me an expert in what I do; Trusts my decisions; Considers my feedback
3. Where will you be working? – The Greater Indianapolis area, preferably along US 31, Keystone Ave, or 465; In an office with time allocated to work in blocks without interruption, the ability to get up and walk around or go outside for a walk; And good Mexican, Chinese, and Thai food nearby.
4. How much time do you spend working? – 10 hours a day, 70 hours a week.
5. What does your Monday look like? – Reading and sharing emails until noon, viewing reports, and responding to client requests.