I have been full-time freelance for years, so it's natural for my coaching clients to ask me the million-dollar question:

"Should I quit my day job to get serious about my independent business?"

The answer is almost always, "No." I even share that I was "this close" to taking a full-time opportunity or two, but the metrics, the contract or the culture didn't line up.

In short, if the shoe fit, I'd jump for a day job, too. Here's why.

Your job is your first investor

In the smart new business podcast Earn Your Leisure, financial entrepreneur Ash Cash broke down exactly why you shouldn't push away a day job:

"Your job is your first investor...  It removes you from worrying about the basics: Where you live, how you're going to eat. You gain that brain space back to be creative."

The lesson here is two fold. First, the saying "invest in yourself" means putting your resources behind the impact you wish to make. Your money, your network and other resources from your day job can actually lead to your success.

As I talk about in The Ultimate Bite-Sized Entrepreneur, my temp job as a broke grad student led to my first steady journalism gig. I was clear on my intention - to be a full-time freelance journalist - and shared that intention even with the people at the day job. That clarity with my network actually jumpstarted my independent success.

Cover the basics

Second, fighting to make it through another day doesn't keep you humble. If anything, it puts you into a scarcity mindset.

In our book The Passive Writer: 5 Ways to Earn Money in Your Sleep, fellow writer Jeanette Hurt and I debunk the starving artist myth. We'll be talking more about it at next month's Hippocamp Writers' Conference.

You don't become more creative when you're starving or you're broke. If anything, it pushes you into survival mode. You're more likely to make extreme and, in most cases, short-term decisions that have long-term consequences.

The Cosby Show actor Geoffrey Owens was shamed online for his Trader Joe's day job, but the long-time thespian was wiser than those determined to starve. Here's what I said at the time:

In fact, a day job can actually afford you the ability to build your company the right way:

  • You aren't making decisions based on profit
  • You can take your time naturally finding the audience you want to serve
  • You can pivot into (or out of!) the new business whenever you like

Most entrepreneurs I've talked with actually wish they stayed at their day job six-to-nine months longer than they did so they could have built a longer runway, not rushed their product or created more security. Once you leave, you usually can't go back.

So, take your time - and focus on managing the time you've got rather than romanticizing all the time you'd have if you left the day gig.

Published on: Jul 29, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.