Life can only be understood backwards but must be read forwards.
July 24, 2008 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Watershed moment or wishful thinking? : 26 year old father considers future life. Looking to the hive mind for direction.

I work in the Square Mile for a large multinational and whilst it once fufilled at least most of my requirements in respect of a career it is quickly becoming a noose around my neck. My father was self-employed and advised me the good and bad sides of that. Good - you can really see the benefits of your own initiative. Bad - you are always switched on, can never holiday or truely let go. The inherrent insecurity. Anyhow, I am getting more and more frustrated with the work that I do and keep dreaming of setting up my own business. I have creative ideas but my minds flits from one to the other. I know that I can work extremely hard under sometimes quite ridiculous amounts of pressure (the square mile seems to sort out the wheat from the chaff v.well).

When I was younger I travelled all over the world and I know there is a world of opportunities out there. That said, I have a wife and 1 and a bit year old daughter to consider. It is not a case of there not been significant consequences if this goes wrong. I really want to change the way I live my life for the better and believe both my wife and I would feel much better if we could use our creative sides to effect.

It feels like I am at a pivotal moment or is this just some other sucker day-dreaming whilst sat at their desks at work? I now I have a lot more to give that I am able to in my current role and I know that changing job and staying in this industry is not enough.
posted by numberstation to Work & Money (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
No, you're not just some sucker. People get and do all kinds of things all the time. Does your wife work? Have you discussed this stuff with her?
posted by Penelope at 8:35 AM on July 24, 2008

It feels like I am at a pivotal moment or is this just some other sucker day-dreaming whilst sat at their desks at work?

It could go either way depending on your involvement and effort, couldn't it?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:38 AM on July 24, 2008

I can certainly recommend being self-employed (though my own first child on the way soon I'm a little nervous and taking on more work than there are hours to accommodate!). It's also still possible to have holidays, though I get very antsy about taking more than a week at a time really. What's made it work for me (in the publishing field) is to have a core of trusted, regular clients who punt work my way, and I then speculate beyond that. It's a bit like having several part-time jobs, I guess - but varied enough to keep me stimulated.

But I'm sure you don't need me to tell you this: if you want to do something 'more creative', you've got to be hard-headed about how that translates into a business that can earn you enough to live off. You can't just sit in a garret and cough up blood - you need some sort of plan. If there's a way to use contacts you already have to kick start it, even if it means you have to evolve rather than plunge completely into your dream activity at the start.

Of course, if your City job pays well you could put yourself on a budget, work your arse off and save up enough to bugger off around the world/work for someone like VSO!
posted by hatmandu at 8:41 AM on July 24, 2008

Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right. Do you think you can?
posted by Daddy-O at 8:45 AM on July 24, 2008

Write a business plan, or several. Have friends review them and give you their opinions.
posted by electroboy at 8:51 AM on July 24, 2008

Make sure to keep in mind the looming recession. It might be worth sitting out as long as you can.

In any case, bootstrapping a new business is always a good idea. Just do it on the side. Almost anyone business can be proven to work at a part-time level before you need to take it full-time. If you can't make something work part-time, it's probably not a goer anyway, so you'll get time to test out ideas while still collecting a paycheck.
posted by wackybrit at 8:56 AM on July 24, 2008

I am assuming that this change will involve very long hours on your part. Your family needs you too. How does your wife feel about this? Would this leave to be a single parent? Are you willing to miss the chance to be part of your little one's life?

Having been on the wife side, my one requirement was that I really needed my husband home and work free from 6-9 pm - dinner and bedtime for the kids. If he went back to work at 9, that was fine but we all really needed him to be there for some quality family time.
posted by metahawk at 9:03 AM on July 24, 2008

Do it. I enjoyed my old job but had a nagging desire to start my own business for years. Finally, one day my father-in-law took me to lunch, and asked me if I wanted to run the company I was working for. I said, "Hell no." He told me point blank, "Then quit your job." He followed with, "If you can't quit outright, at least quit the job in your head, today, and move on what you want." So I quit (in my head) that day and actually quit and started my own business three months later.

I had no clients, no backup plan, nothing. But it's amazing what you can do when you have all day to work on building a business. Believe it or not, I knew by the end of the second week that I was going to make it.

Some important things to know:

1. Running your own business is the ULTIMATE job security. Think about it.

2. If you pick the right business, you won't have to work AT ALL. The standard 40-hour work week falls apart to a large degree. I love working Saturday and Sunday mornings, but I don't consider it work because I'm doing my own thing. If I want to go golfing on a Monday morning, nobody can stop me.

3. Debt kills. Bootstrapping it is the ONLY way to build a business. If you don't owe anybody any money, they can never shut you down.

4. Only about 20% of friends, family, etc. will truly believe in you right away. The rest will make off-hand comments that bring you down. Ignore them. They actually DO want you to fail because it will justify their own fears and inaction. They are jealous of your courage, but they will eventually come around to accept what you're doing and truly support you.

5. Help your wife to understand that while "not making money" is a possibility over the very short-term, it's quite counterbalanced by the fact that you may be making millions in five years. Chances are you know exactly what you'll have in 5 years if you stay at your current job. Is that the life she wants?

6. Do it for your kids. It's quite possibly the only way you can guarantee you will never miss one of their birthdays, sporting events, etc. That's why I started my business. For my kids.

7. Think positive. Just because your father had one experience with self-employment is no reason you can't have an entirely different one with all the upside and none of the downside. Just believe in it.

8. Finally, as my father-in-law told me, "There are normal people in this world, and there are those who are not normal. We (as he said) are not 'normal' people."

It IS a watershed moment, but you have to let it be. Best of luck!
posted by BirdD0g at 10:20 AM on July 24, 2008 [7 favorites]

Write a business plan, or several. Have friends review them and give you their opinions.

Have someone other than your friends review them.
posted by sageleaf at 10:25 AM on July 24, 2008

Yikes, that sounds like a sad little gig you had there wife would murder me if I was going to work at 9 pm! Thats bananas!

Anyway, numberstation, I am a 27 year old father of 4 and husband to a wonderful wife who does not work. I feel you (even more so) as I am currently in the Navy with about 9 years in as an Intelligence Specalist and I have NO clue what I am going to do.
I say all that for just 2 reasons, one, my situation is worse than yours so maybe you'll feel better
and two, I am getting out ONLY because my 7 year old son one day looks at me and goes "dad, I am tired when you go away..."
I am forfeiting a decent pay and retirements and benifits because when you and I are on our deathbeds, i promise neither one of us will be saying:
"Gee....I wish I had spent more time at work..."
instead we're going to say:
"Damnit, I wish I had spent just a little more time getting to know my kids/wife..."

Think about it....
posted by TeachTheDead at 10:31 AM on July 24, 2008

The thing is you can work toward your dream without quitting your day job or giving up the security of a steady pay check right away:

- Think about what type of work you'd like to do.
- Draw up a detailed business plan.
- Devote time to studying any economical factors which may affect your business.
- Make lifestyle changes and build a nest egg from which you can fund your new work.
- Secure financing.

You can do all of these things without quitting your current job.

Further, if you can't seem to make time for these types of exercises, or the detailed planning involved in switching careers successfully, then you should take that as an indication that you should stick with your current job.

Good luck!
posted by wfrgms at 11:14 AM on July 24, 2008

I had no clients, no backup plan, nothing.

Running your own business is the ULTIMATE job security

They actually DO want you to fail because it will justify their own fears and inaction.

while "not making money" is a possibility over the very short-term, it's quite counterbalanced by the fact that you may be making millions in five years

Seriously, this sounds like terrible advice, like it was cribbed from some MLM pamphlet or Rich Dad, Poor Dad or somesuch nonsense. I'm not saying it's not possible to be successful, but the reality is that about a third of small businesses fail in the first couple years. Write your business plan, commit to it, but have a backup plan and know when to get out if things go south.
posted by electroboy at 11:29 AM on July 24, 2008

Advise you start taking steps toward this, one at a time, until you either achieve it or realize you're better off not achieving it.
posted by davejay at 11:32 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I hate to be the wet blanket, but as I have my own 9 month old, and a mortgage, I am scared to death of instability. I work in a very unstable business and I am looking to find one of those corporate noose scenarios.

I think if you have some money in the bank and can risk not making much in the short term, by all means, but ultimately the kid comes first!
posted by Ponderance at 11:53 AM on July 24, 2008


It's cribbed from my life which is absolutely filled with that nonsense.


There's such a thing as analysis paralysis. I think writing a comprehensive business plan, studying economic factors, and saving up enough money that you'll never go broke is a great idea. The only problem is too few of those people end up actually starting the business.

As long as you can survive for 6 months or so without any income, I'd say jump. I also have very loving friends and family, who I would never ask for money, but knowing they were there to prevent me from going homeless helped generate a "why the hell not?" type of attitude in my head.

Start a list. Put everything you need to do to succeed on it, i.e...

1. Name the company
2. Get business cards
3. Find 5 networking groups to attend
4. Send email to all friends and family
5. Get advice from 3 experts in the field

etc. etc. etc. My list was nearly 400 items long. I broke them all down into a timeline and finished about 70% in the three months before I quit. It was enough.

Then quit your job. Eat spaghetti and cut expenses (this happens naturally). Tell everyone you know and everyone you meet who you are and what you do. You've got a 0% chance of failure, my friend.
posted by BirdD0g at 12:30 PM on July 24, 2008

And this is the truest statement I've ever read. From The Scottish Himalayan Expedition by W.H. Murray. Very applicable to starting a business. Found it in some nonsense book.

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. The whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets: 'Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."
posted by BirdD0g at 12:42 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Actually, I looked into the stats about small businesses before, when I was writing a post for my site. It's not that so many businesses fail or go bankrupt. It's that X% of businesses close. Closing up isn't the same as failing. Many, many people go into self employment because an opportunity falls into their lap, they want to see what it's like, they're on mat leave, they have small kids, they are looking for something to do in early retirement and so on. Businesses ceasing operations do not necessarily translate to failures. I closed my business once to take on an amazing role at a software company -- a position I couldn't have got without my self employment experience. 18 months later, I went back to my business -- and I am probably counted as a start-up for that year, even though I wasn't really.

Anyway, that being said, you need to look at your family's financial picture, your wife's career and the possibility of starting part-time. I've been self-employed for most of my career and I wouldn't have it any other way. I do like that my husband has a stable full-time job, but I always remember that there have been times that his work hasn't been stable.
posted by acoutu at 12:59 PM on July 24, 2008

You've got a 0% chance of failure, my friend.

Clearly statistics aren't your strong suit.
posted by electroboy at 8:34 AM on July 28, 2008

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